Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Compromising Truths

With all the unexpected controversy surrounding the development of a Presidential House Memorial on Independence Mall, it will be interesting to see how its history has been enhanced, or compromised. The thing about history is it's rarely black and white. There are many truths surrounding George Washington and the Founding Fathers. Some historical truths uphold these men as nation building inventors of freedoms, while other truths reveal them as slave owning aristocrats. The truth is they are both.

Good or bad, icons of history never live up to the legends that their reputations create. In the case of George Washington, some want to preserve an ideology while others want to demonize an extinct culture based on modern day morality. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, and that goes for the good and the bad. History is already subjective enough on its own, and whatever the angle, history becomes distorted when the modern prejudices of political correctness are applied to a different place and time.

Part of understanding history is understanding another world. Slavery is an ugly part of American history, but it is part of our history nonetheless. Bending historical fact to service modern day activism does nothing for anyone.

History has passed. Understand it, learn it, and teach it for what it is. Let's not neglect the fact that George Washington owned slaves simply because he helped found our country, but at the same time don't ignore the great man that led the Colonies from tyranny and helped build the nation that allows us the freedom to demonize him for his mistakes.

Above all, George Washington was human. There is not one American today who honestly knows what they would do in the face of history if they were raised as a part of it. No one can truly subjectify the cultures of our past. You can't take something that happened 234 years ago personally. The only way to truly understand history is to let it be what it is: History.

Reopening a House That's Still Divided

No comments:

Post a Comment