Why I Will Teach...To Know Who We Are

"...man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots, whose flower and fruitage is the world." 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet

I often wonder how our hearts would change towards our notion of the stories and histories of our nations past if we could only hear those long, forgotten voices of those that lived it?

It is so very important to me to learn and grow in knowledge that presents the good with the bad, especially when it comes to the history of the United States. All too often, we wrap ourselves in patriotism that refuses to bend or cower to the traitorous idea that we are anything but great and free and powerful--the best county in the entire world. Look how prosperous we are! Look how big our military is! Look at our schools and universities; our science and exploration; our inventions and success in business! We did this! We conquered! We won the wars!

Those, sadly, are only the highlight reels of half truths we use to hide the knowledge of who we actually are...

Who would I be if I lived my 35 years and only accepted and remembered the good things in my life? Who would I be if I never acknowledged the hard times, the bad times, the times I screwed a lot of things up? I wouldn't truly be strong if I lived walking with the fond and glossy memories of what I had lived in 35 years. I would not truly be me.

Yet, that is how American citizens, or a least a good deal of us, walk as Americans. We have only absorbed and acknowledged a small portion of our identity--projecting a falsehood to ourselves, our neighbors, and the rest of the world.

When did we mess up?

When did we commit crimes of war and shrugged it off because we won?

When did we steal, kill, and destroy the futures of other humans in our quest for "greatness?"

When did we cover up our wrongdoings and erase the truths from our public school textbooks?

Who are we? Really?

Canadian historian and professor, Margaret MacMillan, said, "We can learn from history, but we can also deceive ourselves when we selectively take evidence from the past to justify what we already made up our minds to do."

So how best do we teach these truths of history cloaked in darkness and light? Can we bring the voices of dead slaves back to life? Find a way to let their words begin to soften our hearts and open our eyes? Can we paint the picture of the truth of war crimes unleashed by our own government in such a way as not to sow seeds of distrust, but enlighten us on the dangers of power unchecked? Can we truly learn, even a little, from the bones and dust of the men and women that brought us to where we are now?

I think we can, and we should.

"History is for human self-knowledge...the only clue to what men can do is what men have done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is." ~R.G. Collingwood, English philosopher,  historian, and archeologist

Let's stand together, learn together, discover who we have been, and help make sure who we will become is something full of the hope and freedom that so many gave their lives for. Let's spread education like wildfire--magic--life-giving energy that will transform.


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