Patriotism, Ingredient Two
April 24, 2007 1 Comment
We continue with CS Lewis’ exposition of “Patriotism”:
The second ingredient is a particular attitude to our country’s past. I mean to that past as it lives in popular imagination; the great deeds of our ancestors.
This is a sensitive issue in these United States mainly because some are ashamed of “the great deeds of our ancestors.” Especially when these are thought to consist mainly of oppression and hypocrisy.
Lewis admits that “the actual history of every country is full of shabby and even shameful things” and the USA is of course, no exception (the treatment of Native Americans and blacks being the most notable examples, the murder of millions of unborn children in the name of “choice” being another).
I think it is possible to be strengthened by the image of the past without being either deceived or puffed up. The image becomes dangerous in the precise degree to which it is mistaken, or substituted, for serious and systematic historical study.
Thomas Jefferson drafted a document stating “all men are created equal” yet he owned slaves to the day of his death.
We like to think that Abe Lincoln fought to put an end to slavery because he was chiefly concerned with the plight of blacks, at least that’s what is told to us in grade school. Yet “systematic historical study” reveals that this was not Lincoln’s primary concern, keeping the country together was. Which leads me to the last of Lewis’ points discussed here,
What does seem to me poisonous, what breeds a type of patriotism that is pernicious if it lasts but not likely to last long in an educated adult, is the perfectly serious indoctrination of the young in knowably false or biased history–the heroic legend drably disguised as text-book fact