Expunging Our Past

Progressive historians like Charles Beard… went to great lengths to discredit the work of America’s first published historian, George Bancroft.  The Nationalist school of American history revered our Founders and proclaimed American exceptionalism.  Beard argued that America’s founding ideals were nothing more than a clever disguise for our true inspiration, greed.  The New Left revisionism that pervades historiography today is a mere continuation of Beard’s fundamentally flawed concept- America really isn’t that great….

TJMem

Neo-Nationalism is a historical school of thought… that strives to reconcile two wildly opposed views of America’s past.  Common ground is sought within the discipline- social, political, military historical study working in concert to preserve the common threads that bind all Americans together…

The overriding message should be that historical figures are human and not infallible. We can honor their great deeds and learn from their most human mistakes. 

Needlessly provocative works like the NY Times’s 1619 Project blur the lines between political activism and historical discourse.

Sadly, our fears of the slippery slope of iconoclasm have been realized as monuments to our Founding generation are being destroyed by mobs of ignorant people more concerned with political convenience than history.

We must stop this current craze of tearing down and erasing our history because the historical figures did not possess our modern sensibilities. 

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  • America’s founding ideals are exceptional- and are standards that are difficult to attain- our history is comprised of the struggle to uphold these ideals.
  • The Founders were extraordinary men- but not infallible… we have to learn from their example- good and bad.
  • The history of America is not the story of class struggle- the silent masses played a vital role in our history and their stories should be told- but not through Marxist constructs.
  • History should be popular.  Our past must be understood by the citizenry- historical studies targeted only at academics cannot be how we measure the discipline.  There is a way to make history insightful and enjoyable.

TV Review- History Channel’s “Washington”

Historical documentaries have changed forever. Reduced attention spans have spelled the end of the wistful images and genteel music of the Ken Burns style of documentary making. Now, actors and live action fill the time between the insight provided by “experts.” The word of historians apparently ring hollow, so the new style also interjects opinions from biographers, celebrities, and even former Presidents.

Doris Kearns-Goodwin’s production of “Washington” exemplifies this new breed of historical documentary. British stage actor, Nicholas Rowe, has the unenviable task of humanizing the marble face of George Washington. The purpose of this production is to present the Father of our country, “warts and all.” The production values are commendable and most of the actors do justice to their historical characters. All of the historic vignettes are competently staged, though do not rise to the level of a Hollywood production. It is not too hard to imagine what an extra episode could have contributed, as large segments of Washington’s career are passed over. Too often, the depictions rely on the performances, which are acceptable, but not necessarily moving.

A diverse collection of scholars is assembled by Kearns-Goodwin. Joe Ellis, Jon Meacham, Joanne Freeman, and Alan Taylor provide valuable insights into 18th century American life, as well as Washington’s complicated character. Ellis stands out as the authoritative voice among the academic contributors. Colin Powell’s insights into military logistics, strategy, and leadership are especially valuable. Bill Clinton’s contributions are surprisingly pedestrian, his presence must be seen as promotional. To emphasize Washington’s slave-owning, Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Annette Gordon-Reed are called upon to explain these experiences, though both offer plenty of digression. The most interesting contributor is “biographer,” Alexis Coe. She’s recently written an irreverent biography of Washington and served here as a co-producer. The producers must have seen her value in appealing to millennials.

It is most satisfying to see the History Channel producing content about history again. Despite the cinematic limitations and inconsistent insights, “Washington” does make for three nights of enjoyable viewing.

Bring Back Washington’s Birthday Celebration

There is something absurd in our generic observances of “Presidents Day.” Do we truly wish to venerate Warren Harding, Zachary Taylor, and Franklin Pierce? Should Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump really be exalted in our collective memory?

President’s Day is a workplace convenience contrived by the government to limit available vacation days in February. Lincoln’s assassination necessitated observance of his birthday, yet it also caused the government to view Washington’s birthday as expendable.

The limited observance of Washington’s birthday has diluted his resonance in our national consciousness. Our understanding of his historic contribution to the national story cannot be told by “woke” children regurgitating foolish drivel from Howard Zinn.

George Washington is the essential man in our history. Without him, there would be no United States. His birthday should be celebrated and his legacy should be taught to our future generations. It is time to do away with President’s day.