History is like a box of chocolates…

My reaction to the “They Have Blood on Their Hands” article is mixed. While the author’s assertion that there are racist overtones to the Sons of the Confederacy secession celebrations seems well founded, subjugating the tea party movement under the same banner is overly simplifying a very complex phenomenon. It seems to promulgate the myth of the importance cultural constructions of race, class and gender to people’s actions and political commitments, while ignoring religious and political value systems which may be as, or even more important. The article about the 4th grade textbook seems to illuminate a dilemma historians have yet to deal with adequately. What is the role of truth in history (if truth is a part of history)? Post-modern influenced might reject the assertion that historians can find truth. Even if we can, however, how and why is historical truth important and is this because truth itself has some inherent moral significance or is it due to its pragmatic value in influencing decision making and furthering positive policy outcomes? The pragmatic role of historical truth seems to be most in tune with a democratic society. The third article brings up the important question of whether–and if so, how–public history should be policed. While academic historians have largely pragmatic reason’s for policing themselves, I don’t think this is as prevalent among public historians and institutions. I’m not sure what should or can be done about this. The last article was possibly my favorite due to my own historical interest. The tendency to canonize the founding fathers is far from a recent invention of the tea party. Methodist in the 1840s baptized republicanism and the founders by asserting that the Reformation was the source of American freedom. This was not completely a naive acceptance of America’s political system since the separation of church and state did allow for the phenomenal increase of both the Methodist and Baptist denominations.

2 thoughts on “History is like a box of chocolates…”

  1. You know, it is interesting because my dad is all about the Tea Party. But he’s not racist. After taking Dr. Gill’s class on race, I can tell you he does not understand the roots of his belief systems. I can see how they have their roots in racism, terms like “states rights” do indeed have their symbolic meaning. And for those in the know, the language has a history. So I tell my dad what the implications are, and then he has to be more specific with me when he talks about the size of our government and taxes, as opposed to “states rights”.
    He also agrees with the version of religiosity purported by the tea party. But he has always had this view about the founding of the Constitution (I don’t think he was a hard sell), and I realize that his feelings are widely shared. I suppose that everyone interprets history in their own way, I think that talking about history openly and with accurate information, and telling it like it is, is the only way to move forward.

    It is an interesting point you make, that academics have a different standard than public historians. I guess it depends on 1. oversight (who is looking?) and 2. money (who is funding?). So for me, the federal funding of a-historical functions and products don’t sit well with me at all. What can we do about that knowing that these views are reflected in a large segment of society (you could argue it is a Democracy after all)?

  2. One point that blew my mind with the textbook was that the author was not a historian. How can public historians create great history if everyone is allowed to do pulic history? If we get upset about this, than how are we different from academic historians that want to keep everyone out except the academics?

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