There's no gods, and there's precious few heroes,
but there's plenty on the dole in the Land o' the Leal,
and it's time now to sweep the future clear
of the lies of a past that we know was never real...
Today the Alien Hairpiece was demanding to know where it would end, which icon of American history would be next. But of course the answer is all of them. We're way overdue for a reevaluation of our political mythologies as a whole, from the beginning, wherever that might be, and to whatever end. And, it should be needless to say, South and North.
Last week at the Borg Cube, Mouthy Liberal Supervisor and Kneejerk Conservative Minion were discussing whether or not the arrival of European colonists was really that bad for Native Americans. [Spoiler: Yes, yes it was.] The discussion was punctuated with a lot of questions ending in "I don't know". But they never got to the real question: Why don't we know? And we're seeing the results of not knowing, the results of a void in historical literacy that somehow binge-watching shows on the History Channel doesn't address.
It was true at one time that Ken Burns' multi-part documentary The Civil War was by far the highest-rated show in PBS history. It's probably still true. It's probably also responsible for what 99% of the non-history nerd American populace knows about the American Civil War (plus bulking out Jay Ungar's bank account, we hope). As much as it may have helped rehab the documentary genre, the down side was perhaps it lent a little too much of a white schoolboy Civil War buff's romanticism to the proceedings. Which is where the above song comes in, and the line about "sweeping the future clear". What we need to ask ourselves out of all this is how these narratives make or break us... or perhaps how they do the one while seeming to do the other.