Perspectives: Discovering American history reinvented, guilty

OPINION – A family traveling about America looking to discover its majesty in fact has discovered something else: a disturbing and visible trend at this nation’s historical landmarks to revise our history and even inspire guilt over our past.

I first met Todd and Tammy Smith a few years ago when I had a couple of speaking engagements in Alaska. They picked me up at the airport and showed me a number of the wonders of the Kenai Peninsula.

As I visited with them, I realized that it takes a certain type of rugged individualism to live and thrive in Alaska. The Smiths certainly fit that description. Todd Smith is a defensive handgun instructor and Tammy Smith is a professional photographer.

They are a homeschooling family with 10 children and an unshakable sense of adventure. So I wasn’t terribly surprised when I learned that the Smiths have been taking their kids on the trip of a lifetime.

With seven of their 10 children, the Smith family drove down to the lower 48 states and have been traveling coast to coast in a 15-passenger van pulling a 31-foot travel trailer. Their goal is to grow closer as a family while discovering the majesty of America and visiting the places where history was made.

They’ve experienced many wonders including the Grand Canyon, the Smithsonian, and the battlefields most of us have only read about. They’ve also encountered something that was unexpected and more than a little disturbing.

At many of the historical sites and monuments they visited, our nation’s story is being told in a deliberately distorted manner. Tammy Smith is concerned about the politically correct revisionism; she said:

The story has been changed to emphasize how we are a nation embroiled in a fight for freedom for minorities, a nation built on the backs of Indians, blacks, and women. A nation still trying to overcome this horrible history.

There is no talk about the amazing things our Founding Fathers did to overcome and create this country and government. Instead the story is about how they failed to do away with slavery, how they failed to recognize blacks and women as voters. All about what they didn’t do.

Tammy Smith wrote to me how in the six years since she last visited the Liberty Bell, it has been transformed from a symbol of American freedom to a rallying point for repressed minorities.

Like most propaganda, the stories being told at these national sites are a misleading mixture of lies and truth calculated to deceive the masses.

One of her concerns, she said, is how to counter the politically-correct history being taught without being accused of racism, or worse.

Tammy Smith has a point here. It is becoming more difficult to speak up in the face of official falsehoods without appearing insensitive.

Political correctness has resulted in a subtle molding of our everyday language that seeks to shape our thinking at an unconscious level. When we hear phrases like “gender,” “gun violence,” “entitlement,” or “hate crime,” few people recognize them as politically biased terms.

Charley Reese wrote of this sad tendency many years ago:

Our culture, if you can call it that, is in sad shape today because so many people seem to think they must conform to the prevailing prejudices. So many of them run around sticking labels on people and things, they miss life altogether.

When we are unsure what today’s “acceptable” terms are, we become reluctant to speak up — even in the face of politically fashionable duplicity.

One reason that the Smith family recognizes this dilemma is that they are no longer part of the uninformed masses. They long ago made a commitment to turning off the television and studying the kinds of books that withstand the test of time.

Tammy and Todd Smith understand the value of original sources in creating personal depth as well as breadth in their understanding of the world around them. This is what they are teaching their children.

They understand that we can learn from the past, but we cannot change it. We are not responsible for what was done or not done in the past and therefore we should feel no guilt whatsoever for mistakes made by those who came before.

But guilt and fear are powerful leverage over those who are uncertain about their own understanding of history. Our nation’s past is currently being reinvented to better fit the ideologies of certain opinion leaders.

The court historians have been busily rewriting history as only the winners can. But we can inoculate ourselves against their propaganda by seeing it for what is and speaking up when necessary.

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Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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15 Comments

  • Becca May 26, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Where can I find a reading list for quality history?

    • Roy J May 26, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      If you are looking for quality, I recommend the following:
      ‘What I Saw in America’, by Charles Dickens
      ‘Democracy in America’ and ‘Essay on Pauperism’ by Alexis de Tocqueville
      ‘What I saw in America’ by G.K. Chesterton
      I also recommend reading Dr. Samuel Johnson, one of the great fathers of English journalism, on the American Revolution. This side of American history is largely ignored. Below is the link to Dr. Johnson’s brilliant reply to the Declaration of Independence:
      “Taxation is no Tyranny”
      http://www.samueljohnson.com/tnt.html

      • Roy J May 26, 2014 at 5:30 pm

        Excuse me, that should be ‘American Notes for General Circulation’ by Charles Dickens. Hem.

    • Shoal Creek May 26, 2014 at 10:59 pm

      Anything that has a lot of primary source documents as its main sources is usually decent quality. Also reading as many primary source documents as possible helps.

      Primary source documents are non-fictional documents written by people who were living in the time and observed what happened. The list by Roy J qualify as primary sources.

      There are a lot of things that we need to teach in our history, but they need to be taught in a factual way. Often the facts are glossed over and the bad things are exaggerated almost to the point of hyperbole. Other times, the bad events are not taught at all. Both extremes serve no legitimately good purpose.

  • Ron May 26, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Thank you, Roy J. These should certainly be read along with the books Bryan would recommend. Truth is always worth pursuing.

  • Matthew Sevald May 26, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Alexis de Tocqueville should be required reading for all high school students. He traveled these United States in the 1830’s, sent by the French government to study the American penal system, but used his official orders to satisfy his own passions and studied American society instead. As a foreigner he had unique insights and a removed viewpoint on our culture. Having lived through the French Revolution and Napoleon, he hoped to learn from us to better France.
    .
    I would also suggest Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States”, http://www.historyisaweapon.com/zinnapeopleshistory.html

    • Matthew Sevald May 26, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      Ahh, I submitted before I was finished! I suggest Zinn as something to get both sides of the story, not as any sort of American history “gospel”. No, it does have some revisionism in it, but it can serve as a contrast to the old fashioned jingoistic tales because more often than not the truth lies between two sides of the story.

  • Chris May 26, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    So, you prefer the “whitewashed” version of history we received in traditional history books at school–everything about America is and has always been wonderful and virtuous. There is no such thing as historical truth. History has always been a subjective exercise slanted in one way or another by the personal biases of the author.

  • JAR May 26, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    Thanks for the reminder Brian.

  • Red Rocker May 26, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    Too bad the intrepid home schooled children were exposed to a non-sterile learning experience. Hope their careful indoctrination wasn’t threatened.
    History is best viewed at a distance. And the rosy picture painted generations ago is being reevaluated.
    Keep reading.

  • Karen May 27, 2014 at 5:52 am

    In reality, the so-called “revisionist” history that the couple from Alaska complain about is the real history of this nation. A perfect example concerns the famous photograph of Golden Spike National Historic Site taken on May 10, 1869 when the Union and Central Pacific Railroads joined their rails at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory. The photograph taken that day does not contain a single Chinese worker even though thousands of built the railroad line. At the time, one newspaper noted that “In all the railroad celebrations, here or elsewhere, there was no honor done to the great labor army of that war without whose aid the road would not have been completed this day. The Chinese had no place assigned them.” It is only recently that schools have begun teaching about the incredible contribution that the Chinese made in building the West. I certainly never learned about it in school.

    I suggest that the couple from Alaska should accept the fact that the history of this great country should embrace everyone who worked hard to create the freedoms we have. The fact that we are finally acknowledging long-forgotten contributions to our past just adds to the richness of our heritage.

  • McMurphy May 27, 2014 at 6:08 am

    The rewriting of history is partly the result of decades of developing an entitlement country. If you have been told you are entitled to something, and you don’t believe you are getting all you are entitled to, then who is to blame? The founding fathers offer a pretty good target.

    • Red Rocker May 27, 2014 at 10:08 am

      Knees are jerking.
      All the problems are complex and all the answers simple….
      Fewer entitlements, lower taxes, and a return to traditional values will take us back to the America of our well edited memories?
      I grew up in the Fifties. All the images were of the perfect society. Too bad if you were female, black, or gay.

  • Rob Harward May 27, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Thanks, Bryan for stirring the pot again.

    All of these comments here on this page are right because in the Unites States, we believe in freedom of speech, that is, the right to speak your mind.

    And it is a beautiful thing to see heartfelt opinions respectfully expressed about real issues online and everywhere.

    Thank you, Founding Fathers of the United States, for making it possible for us to do this. Thanks for giving your lives and fortunes for millions of us you have never met, so we could enjoy the life you wished to have.

    We could only do half as well if we could follow in your footsteps and build on the freedoms you gave to us.

    Someday, if we dare to be so philanthropic, we too might claim to further expand the freedoms we have inherited.

    The least we can do is honor what you have given us by erecting monuments to your names and repeating your stories so that others may, perhaps, catch the spark of liberty and do as you have done.

  • Fairy Tales May 27, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    About all you hear around St George is how the mormon pioneers did this and how the mormon pioneers did that. Is that the only history taught in St George schools, how mormon pioneers did everything? Is ‘mormon pioneer’ the only aspect of American and world history that area historians focus on?

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