March 30, 2005

"The Big Box Store"

YESTERDAY I WROTE ABOUT "The Big Pinata "Today in the Wall Street Journal Peggy Noonan writes about the big box store in "Patriots, Then and Now -- With nations as with people, love them or lose them."


Because we do not communicate to our immigrants, legal and illegal, that they have joined something special, some of them, understandably, get the impression they've joined not a great enterprise but a big box store. A big box store on the highway where you can get anything cheap. It's a good place. But it has no legends, no meaning, and it imparts no spirit.

Who is at fault? Those of us who let the myth die, or let it change, or refused to let it be told. The politically correct nitwit teaching the seventh-grade history class who decides the impressionable young minds before him need to be informed, as their first serious history lesson, that the Founders were hypocrites, the Bill of Rights nothing new and imperfect in any case, that the Indians were victims of genocide, that Lincoln was a clinically depressed homosexual who compensated for the storms within by creating storms without . . .

You can turn any history into mud. You can turn great men and women into mud too, if you want to.

And it's not just the nitwits, wherever they are, in the schools, the academy, the media, though they're all harmful enough. It's also the people who mean to be honestly and legitimately critical, to provide a new look at the old text. They're not noticing that the old text--the legend, the myth--isn't being taught anymore. Only the commentary is. But if all the commentary is doubting and critical, how will our kids know what to love and revere? How will they know how to balance criticism if they've never heard the positive side of the argument?

Those who teach, and who think for a living about American history, need to be told: Keep the text, teach the text, and only then, if you must, deconstruct the text.

When you don't love something you lose it. If we do not teach new Americans to love their country, and not for braying or nationalistic reasons but for reasons of honest and thoughtful appreciation, and gratitude, for a history that is something new in the long story of man, then we will begin to lose it.

Posted by Vanderleun at March 30, 2005 5:16 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I fear that once turned into mud, greatness of American history can never be restored to what it once was. Those who do so exhibit psychotic need to invalidate all other world views than their own. Want to be seen as uncompromising revisionists who finally revealed TRUTH: that all the once-great and formerly-admirable names and events of America's brief history are no more than painted turds.

Posted by: Rorschach at March 30, 2006 12:51 PM

I've been ruminating, lately on the fact that American citizenship is modeled on Congregational Church membership. The seventeenth century Puritans, when you wanted to join their church, they voted you in. They were looking for true believers, yes, but voting a member in was how the church entered into a covenant with the new member, as he or she entered into the same covenant with the congregation. Those of us raised in Baptist churches, and even a few in old Congregational and Unitarian churches, recognize this template, every time we see a naturalization ceremony. People without that background in their personal history have nevertheless absorbed the idea through a kind of osmosis. The Left is trying very hard to erase that, with easier citizenship exams, to cite one tiny excample, or by letting aliens register and vote. (I remember the breathless excitement of the reader on NPR when that little nugget was reported.)Our understanding of citizenship is bourgeois, and must be extirpated, if the Rousseauvian ideal is ever to be achieved. Your Big-Box metaphor is very apt. Thanks for writing it.

Posted by: at March 30, 2006 2:19 PM

Rorschach:

Want to be seen as uncompromising revisionists who finally revealed TRUTH: that all the once-great and formerly-admirable names and events of America's brief history are no more than painted turds.

My boss has always urged me to read classical Greek and Roman writers, since, he says, human nature doesn't change and those ancient writers had a lot to say about it.

So I bought a copy of "The Histories" by the Roman historian Tacitus. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found the following passage on the very first page:

"My choice of starting-point is determined by the fact that the preceding period of 820 years dating from the foundation of Rome has found many historians. So long as republican history was their theme, they wrote with equal eloquence of style and independence of outlook. But when the Battle of Actium had been fought and the interests of peace demanded the concentration of power in the hands of one man, this great line of classical historians came to an end. Truth, too, suffered in more ways than one. To an understandable ignorance of policy, which now lay outside public control, was in due course added a passion for flattery, or else a hatred of autocrats. Thus neither school bothered about posterity, for the one was bitterly alienated and the other deeply committed. But whereas the reader can easily discount the bias of the time-serving historian, detraction and spite find a ready audience. Adulation bears the ugly taint of subservience, but malice gives the false impression of being independent."

Posted by: rickl at March 30, 2006 6:45 PM