Dangers of Revising History in an Imperfect World
There is a story in the Bible and a verse John 8:7
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
The last part of that sentence is powerful. Very powerful. BUT as we are seeing recently, easily forgotten.
People by nature are full of faults. We make lots of mistakes and poor choices. Choices that most likely at the time when we made them we judge as being the best choice.
Later we might process that event and conclude that we were wrong and express remorse for our actions. At times we might never realize that our actions were hurtful or wrong.
The drive to change the past is very confusing to me. It is confusing to me and I can see the drive for revisionist history as a mistaken path.
People in the past lived during times when the norms of the past period were accepted. I am sure that we are very blind to the norms today. They are so embedded in our minds that we fail to even recognize them.
As an example consider, if you ask anyone if they white and were born during slavery would they have been abolitionists, all would say yes. BUT the reality is that the social norms of that time made that choice impossible and most people were not abolitionists.
We are judging people in the past with the lens of today. That lens instead of providing clarity is making us righteous. Righteous that we now know better and are perfectly suited to judge the past. We are throwing stones at the people in the past without considering our own sins. Just like we were not perfect 100 years ago we are not perfect today. We still do stupid evil things today.
So should we still celebrate people in the past that we now know to be faulty? Well, yes and no.
I never understood why there were civil war statues to confederate soldiers and generals. The south lost the war. Interestingly the statues were not constructed right after the civil war but in the early 1900s. It was in a sense the south giving the finger to the side that won. Those should be taken down and destroyed. They serve no purpose except to feed a false narrative.
Well, my opinion on the founding fathers is the opposite. They were imperfect men that built this country. We should not worship them BUT acknowledge their importance. I would leave their statues alone. They are what we have become today.
Was Jefferson a racist? Did he rape Sally Hemmings or did he rape her? He lost his wife and for reasons, he only knew turned to Sally. Without being there between them, I can see how someone can view it as an abuse of power BUT it could also be interpreted as a love story. Remember that interracial marriage only became legal in 1969 after the Loving case.
How about the messiness of slavery and race history, black and native Americans, in this country? That history needs to be studied and “as accurately as possible” presented. It needs to be understood how our predecessors made evil choices that brought suffering to groups for centuries.
Do we today own reparations? We are imperfect people living in an ever-evolving republic. Our focus should be to improve the future of all of our citizens. Rewarding descendants that did not experience the wrong directly is hard to justify. However, in my opinion, future generations should be provided with additional resources but not necessarily advantages.
As you can tell history is complex. We need to study both sides to truly understand the motives of the winner AND losers. Most history contains the white-washed version of the winner. Including both sides accurately is important AND prevents people from concluding that one side was completely wrong and another side purely ideologically correct. History is too messy for such a simplistic formula.
I believe that majority of Americans are very ignorant of our history. BUT we are also too ignorant of current figures and their effect on our nation. If you don’t believe me, ask your co-workers who are the president, vice-president, secretary of state, secretary of defense, attorney general, supreme court justices, speaker of the house, leaders of the senate, their governor, state senators, etc.
I have seen this exercise done with pictures and even with that crutch people still have no clue. You will find that most people, outside of knowing the president and vice president, will struggle to identify most key people that directly influence the nation’s laws and the future of this nation.
Why is that important?
Over the next few years, we will see a ton of laws about voting being argued because losing parties are trying to game the system. It is also why district redrawing in states should be illegal. Take each state and cut it up in 100 equal spaced areas and never touch it again. As populations within those areas move around, the representative will have to adjust their stance to truly represent the people or get voted out.
We will see a serious challenge to abortion laws. Laws that granted women rights in 1970s that now a group has decided are no longer rights. That issue will split the country more than even the voting manipulation.
There is a reason why the founding fathers chose for us to be a republic and not a pure democracy. They did not trust that majority of people would educate themselves to make informed opinions. They wanted well-informed people to go to Washington to “serve” the people NOT to create a political class that stays there for generations. Our lack of interest has created this political class that controls our future.
As we have seen, in the overthrow attempt on January 6, the founding fathers were correct but even those representatives could be misled. One evil person with influence can try to modify history by misinforming people that feel they have been wronged. In terms of time, our republic is still fairly young and in danger of becoming complacent and non-existent 100 years from now.
Why did Rome fail? From inside or outside?
So in the end, we must be very wise about changing history. Without a true history, we stop existing. Revising history should be left to historians to guide us, NOT politicians, and NOT ordinary people that could be misinformed and misled.
My four cents…