10 August 2015

Lest We Forget

As I read the ongoing nonsense taking place on so many so-called "Civil War blogs", I keep coming back to recent comments (and some not so recent) regarding the current, faddish (and rather juvenile) trends in academia and historiography. I know I've posted these quotes a number of times, but they are worth repeating a number of times.

These "Civil War" blogs have become so obsessed and pop-culture-like that I refer to them as the Jerry Springers and Al Sharptons of the CW blogosphere. They've become quite ridiculous. Anyway, back to those comments which I find so timely and appropriate and, thankfully, remind me that there are still a few adults left in the room:
. . . academics have given up trying to recover an honest picture of the past and have decided that their history-writing should become simply an instrument of moral hand-wringing. . . . this obsession has seriously affected the writing of American history. The inequalities of race and gender now permeate much of academic history-writing, so much so that the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by nonacademics who have no Ph.D.s and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars. These historians see themselves as moral critics obligated to denounce the values of the past in order to somehow reform our present. ~ Professor Gordon S. Wood
And more from Wood:
All of this, of course, should be obvious to any student of the subject, and the consequences of politicizing history are evident for all to see: a growing ignorance about American origins, hostility to learning about them, and the reflexive habit of judging the behavior of people in the distant past by contemporary standards. This has had the effect not only of distorting our understanding of American history, but of alienating students from an appreciation of their country’s rich heritage.
And one more:
The belief in these certain things—life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, equality. All of the great notions that are part of the American Dream or American ideology come out of the Revolution. These are our highest aspirations, our noblest ideals. That’s why the Revolution is the most important event in our history. It’s too bad it’s not being taught everywhere. The people who came out of the ‘60s are currently in control of the profession and it’s has become essentially race-class-gender issues.
And the recent piece by Professor Victor Davis Hanson affirms the points Wood has now made on several recent occasions:
There are lots of strange paradoxes in the current frenzied liberal dissection of past sins. One, a historic figure must be near perfect in all dimensions of his or her complex life to now pass progressive muster. That Jefferson is responsible for helping to establish many of the cherished human rights now enshrined in American life apparently cannot offset the transgression of having owned slaves. Two, today’s moral standards are always considered superior to those of the past. Ethical sense supposedly always improves with time. 
And then this quote by Professor Eugene Genovese:
We are witnessing a cultural and political atrocity--an increasingly successful campaign the media and academic elite to strip white southerners, and arguably black southerners as well, of their heritage, and, therefore, their identity. They are being taught to forget their forebears or to remember them with shame.
And, finally, I would include Professor Forrest McDonald's quote:
I believe that somewhere, deep in the innermost recesses of their atrophied souls, *Yankees know that they truly have botched things, and truly are plagued with guilt. That, I think, is the bottom line: the Yankee hates himself, and he hates his heritage. And why does he hate us? Because we do not hate ourselves and we treasure ours. ~ Forrest McDonald
*I don't think this is unique to "yankees." I know a good number of folks from the north who detest what is going on. I think Genovese better identifies these folks as the "media and academic elite."

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