“There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know ” – President Harry S. Truman
In comparison to many countries around the world, America is still a young nation. Our history dates back several centuries which is far shorter than the thousands of years of history claimed by countries such as Greece and China. However, in the short time the United States has been in existence, the world has witnessed its development and transformation into a world superpower. The image that is projected is of the land of the free and the home of the brave. The battle for independence against Great Britain and the Declaration of Independence are considered to be hallmark moments that defined the future course of the United States. But if we take time to examine our history here, we will find that much of what we have learned is not only wrong but has also caused many of us to live in ignorance, unaware of how our country became what it is today.
In two days, Columbus Day is upon us yet again. In New York City, the Columbus Day Parade will march down 5th Avenue. On October 4, the city of Denver, Colorado did something no other state has ever done before when the city council voted 12-0 to remove Columbus Day as an official holiday. The city has renamed the day Indigenous People’s Day. Denver joins several other cities that have taken similar measures to pay homage to the plight of America’s Native American ancestors. As a kid, I was taught that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America and without him, America would not exist. I continued to believe that as I grew up until several years ago when I came across an article that revealed the truth surrounding the arrival of Columbus, his brother Diego and their entourage in the Caribbean. As the truth became clearer and the veil of deceit was lifted, I was forced to think not only about the myth of Columbus but about hundreds of other things I learned in history classes throughout the years. My brother, aware of my love of history, picked up this book for me by James W. Loewen. The cover alone is enough to provoke interest and suspicion but what’s inside the book is truly invaluable.
The idea that a teacher has lied about a historical event sounds preposterous to some. But as I made my way through this book, I began to see that the failure of teachers to teach the truth about America’s past is a small part of a larger problem, a system wide defect that has plagued classrooms for decades. The poor vetting of information contained within history books and the desire to show our history in the best light possible has resulted in generation after generation being misinformed. In fact, there are times at which our knowledge of our own history is so inferior that foreigners have a deeper wealth of knowledge as to how America was founded. Our patriotism and sensitivity to criticism has caused many of us to automatically reject any notion that what we have been taught in school could possibly be completely wrong. But if we are to learn the truth, then the first step is admit that we have been wrong. And with this book, James W. Loewen leads the way.
I cannot imagine that a book of this nature was easy to write for a number of reasons. But I have always felt that true patriots love their country but never excuse its wrongdoings. Just as we take to task our siblings and friends for their transgressions, we bear the responsibility to ourselves and our fellow citizens to acknowledge that our past has not always been glamorous and has a very dark side. The demographics of America continue to change and we truly are a nation of immigrants. However class division, racial discrimination, genocide and domineering foreign policy became staples of the foundation of the United States. Acknowledging this does not make any of us less patriotic but it helps us to understand how are we have come and how far we still have to go. All Americans should read this book and I belive it would be highly beneficial to make this book mandatory reading in all schools. And even for those who are not American, it might confirm what you already knew or enlighten you to other things you do not yet know