The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history ~ George Orwell
Today is like any other day… not much new under the sun.
The typical 21st century morning consists of taking in our daily dose of whatever social media outlet feeds our constant need for updates. I’m still “old school” enough (and I use that term very lightly) to prefer Facebook. I can actually hear the snickers of my teenager and millennial’s everywhere.
But in the age of the “status”, the “post”, the “snap”, and the “tweet” I have discovered a horrifying fact. Well, I guess it’s horrifying to me, it might not be to you. So many Americans know very little about American history.
People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for. ~ “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Harper Lee
I am not one to engage in political bantering or rhetoric on social media…it’s just not my style. In a world inundated with opinions, agendas, and false or grossly fabricated news I just don’t see the point. People screaming their opinions, acting like two-year olds as they hurl insults at one another, just seems rather meaningless. I know very few people who have said “Wow…I saw the light after someone on Facebook called me a moron for what I believed.” Opinions fired off like weapons are not a highly effective way to open the lines of communication with people who think differently than you. The reality is that many people simply tune into the news outlets that say what they want to hear, gravitate toward people who think like them, and have a disdain for those who do not. And as sad as that makes me, it’s not really the point of this blog post.
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless temptest-tost to me. I left my lamp beside the golden door.” ~ Emma Lazarus
Over the last few weeks I have seen theses infamous words, which are etched on the Statue of Liberty, plastered all over social media. Outraged Americans who feel we have forgotten our identity as a country of immigrants. Enraged people who have implored us all to remember the “golden age” of immigration. When we gladly opened the arms of opportunity to all those who sought after a better life on our shores. Time Magazine even went to Instagram with the following post…
“For the first 240 years of U.S. History, at least, our most revered chief executives reliably articulated a set of high-minded, humanist values that bound together a diverse nation naming what we aspired to: democracy, humanity, and equality…”
This is not a political post. This is a “stop rewriting history to fit the narrative you want to project” post. History is history. Like it or not, you cannot change it to fit your agenda.
Time Magazine, are you kidding me?!?! You mean the same 240 years where our country’s history houses slavery, the Trail of Tears (remember the Indians), when immigrants coming into our country were treated less than human and parents were often separated from their children (the Ellis Island museum actually has a display dedicated to this very thing), segregation, Japanese Americans placed in camps during WWII, etc. So as long as our “most revered chief executives” articulate the values of democracy, humanity, and equality through the spoken word we can forgive them for not actually practicing them?!?!
To all of these men, women, and children, the Statue of Liberty sang her paean of welcome. And lying low in the water next to her, Ellis Island carried the harmony. “Give me your tired, your poor, your oppressed,” sang the Statue. And those who were not too tired or too poor, and who were in good health, heard Ellis Island echo that song. But to those from the poorest places, to those who were ill, to those without sponsors, Ellis Island growled a discordant counterpoint: “Keep out. Begone from whence you came. Sully not these pure shores with your ignorance, poverty, and need. The gate is closed to you. ~ Island of Hope, Island of Tears.
I am so sorry my fellow Americans, you are being lied to. I am sorry that you are being led to believe that there was a “golden age” of immigration in this country. That there was a time when the immigrants that came over as colonists welcomed new immigrants with open arms. That it was all sunshine and roses on Ellis Island as people easily entered the United States. That bias against certain people and nationalities wasn’t commonplace. That children weren’t separated from their parents and even sometimes sent back to their country of origin…alone. I am sorry you are being led to believe that men who articulated principles but didn’t live by them are what we should be longing for.
You cannot rewrite history to tell the narrative you want it to tell. History, can be retold with bias, but the facts of its truth are inescapable.
We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage. ~ President Theodore Roosevelt
Unless you a pure Native American, you are an immigrant. You come from a people who had the courage to step beyond what was known. Souls who longed for something better. Lured to the land of opportunity. A place where even the lowliest of beggars and paupers could rise in station and status to live like kings. Quite simply, the greatest democracy experiment ever tested.
I actually think its amazing how many second, third, fourth, etc. generations of Americans, historically and currently, have hardened their hearts to those simply trying to do what their own ancestors did. This is not the cue for the legal vs. illegal entry arguments. This also has nothing to do immigration legislation. I think laws and processes are a very good thing…they bring order to chaos. What I am simply stating is that, in my own observations, I think many people have forgotten that the vast majority of us are not ancestrally native to the land known as the United States…we are all immigrants. And an opportunity given and taken should always pay it forward through embracing and supporting that same opportunity for others.
I often think about the courage it took for my grandparents to leave their native Italy for the shores of America. I guess when you have nothing to lose…risks seem less risky. To the day they died my grandparents had a heart for the country of their birth but they loved America…passionately. There were fiercely loyal to country that had adopted them. America was their home.
However, I do not wear rose-colored glasses and neither did my grandparents. Arriving in America, there were no welcome parades waiting for ships full of immigrants coming into New York harbor. No, what actually awaited most immigrants were invasive examines, grueling tests to gauge mental and cognitive capabilities, and a whole line of questions that if answered wrong would land you back on the ship you just disembarked to return to your homeland. Truth be told there were periods when certain nationalities or people groups were simply not let into our country…period!!! And the ones who did get in weren’t exactly given the red carpet treatment as they began their new life in America.
Those early years in America were not easy for my grandparents. They were ridiculed, mocked, unwelcome, and were given very few, if any, allowances for their lack of proficiency in the English language. Yet, I can confidently say that both of my grandparents, if alive today, would tell the world that it was all worth it. The hard work, the scrutiny, the difficulities…all paled in comparison to the abundant blessing it was to be an American.
America is, and always will be a shining city on a hill. ~ President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan was infamous for referring to America this way. Yet, I wonder how many Americans even know that John Winthrop was the very first person to describe America this way. As he sailed away from England in the 1600’s he longed for a land of opportunity. A beacon of hope in the midst of oppression. A place where freedom could actually be realized. From the pages of the Bible he pulled out the idea of the city on a hill and claimed that ideal for the New World.
The United States of American became the greatest nation the world has ever known because many people came together to become one. It is our diversity that makes us so culturally rich. It is the melding of the great minds, principles rooted in equality and freedom, and the favor of God that has formulated a democracy that has lasted more than any other in human history. Sure our history has blots and black marks upon it. We have made mistakes, many of them. We have even failed in epic ways but we must always remember that every great success story has failure in its DNA.
This post is not about policy, or law, or our current administration’s tactics. It is simply a post from an American who loves her country and has a reverence for its history. A history that I think we all too often overlook or never bother to learn, which is extraordinarily dangerous. Because history not learned is history that is most vulnerable to edits, revisions, and is ultimately doomed to repeat itself.
In this time of such political divisiveness, I implore people to not be so quick to believe a fabricated version of history because it suits a narrative we want to believe. We must also not dismiss the facts of where we have come from or where we are at because the truth might make us uncomfortable. The myth of history cannot change the future, only the truth of it can.
One final note, I encourage any one who might stumble across these ramblings of mine to shut off Fox News, tune out CNN, stop looking at your Twitter feed and simply open up a history book. Examine for yourself what truly happened in our past so that we might improve our future. The immigration posts of the last several weeks have prompted me to do just that. My current read is Island of Hope, Island of Tears by David Brownstone, Irene Franck, and Douglas Brownstone. I highly recommend it.
4 thoughts on “The Myth of Truth”
Bravo!! Have you ever considered teaching history? In your spare time of course. 🙂
The United States is very unique in human history because it was a country founded on an idea not race or location or religion. To add to your point, any efforts to force those constraints onto the country generally fail the fact test.
NIKKI,I just made time to read your article, it was outstanding! I, like you, am tired of the harsh words exchanged over today’s politics. I remember well my mother going long and hard over opposite opinions with my little Italian grandpa, then everyone would eat pasta, hug with tears and go on. The tragedy is we have lost sight of the fact people are more important than opinions… Our Lord calls us to put on peace, kindness, gentleness, like a piece of clothing. I for one refuse to lay those garments down, hard to put on and keep them on, but neccessary to follow nail scared feet…In His service,Colleen Monette🌼
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I’m amazed at how little people know about US history. How can understand who we are as a nation without knowing what it took to get us to this point. Telling you is preaching to the choir I know. Like you Nikki, I love history and I enjoy good books and documentaries. I’m a geek, I love the Smithsonian and History Channels and I record lots of specials. I listen to audio books everyday while I work and currently I’m listening to a very lengthy book by Ron Chernow titled, “Grant”. Its a detailed portrait of General/President Grant. He was a two term president that doesn’t get a lot of attention. The reconstruction period after the civil war was a troubling time for our country and President Grant was instrumental at steering us through it. Republicans or Democrates saying “we stand for this” or “we stand for that” is deceiving. The party roots and history don’t always support what they say (as I’m finding out as I go through this book). Using politics to spread an agenda isn’t new. Covering hate and bigotry with a “righteous plateform” also isn’t new. Sometimes I wear rose colored glasses and I want to believe in and trust our leaders…..but history teaches me I need to be in touch with what is going on and do my part to keep them accountable. Okay, now I’m rambling 🙂 thanks for your blog and encouragement to know our history! Ignorance is not bliss