Proposal: American History Month

Introduction

Various months have been officially designated Ethnic Group History Month, times set aside for the group’s members to express reverence for their ancestors and their people, and those outside the group are expected use the occasion to acknowledge virtue in another people.

As conservatives, we recognize that all people ought to cultivate reverence for their ancestors and their group. Therefore there ought to be an American History Month.

The value of such a celebration becomes clear upon reflection. Although there is a great deal of interest in and discussion of American history in the public square, the systematic instruction of the young in American history is seriously lacking:

  • In school textbooks, many worthy persons and events from our history have been removed to make room for minority Americans and their achievements. Regardless of the merits of those individuals now presented, much vital American history is in the process of being forgotten.
  • The formal academic study of history is usually carried out as if it were a science, with detached, skeptical scholarly analysis as the ideal. There is a place for this type of scholarship, but a people ought to regard their own history with reverence, not suspicion.
  • Nowadays, references to American history generally portray it as a process of slowly realizing abstract principles, such as freedom and equality, which were articulated in the Founding Documents. But this is to define America as perpetual revolutionary struggle rather than to celebrate and honor the real, concrete nation; a nation that is still mostly white and Christian.
  • Finally, there is the successful leftist campaign officially to portray America of the past as a place of intolerable racism, sexism, homophobia and other ills. We say “successful” because the belief that the conservative aspects of America are bad is generally taken to be the default position. This is being carried out, of course, in order to prepare the way for the leftist program of radical deconstruction in the name of atheism, socialism and multiculturalism.

This will not do.  A people’s history ought to be a source of pride and reverence while, of course, not ignoring the sins. We ought not examine our history skeptically to determine whether we will give America our provisional approval. Neither ought we to present our history as a means of supporting a specific sociopolitical program, least of all an impious, revolutionary program such as one of radical freedom and radical equality. Since we are connected with our ancestors and our nation, and not with other nations, we ought to regard our nation as being essentially good, and we ought therefore to revel in telling its stories.

For this purpose, we offer the following draft. We encourage conservative everywhere to publicize the proclamation of March as American History Month.

Proclamation: American History Month

Whereas the knowledge of and reverence for its history is crucial for the survival and flourishing of any people;

Whereas the knowledge of and reverence for our American history is under widespread and effective assault, in large measure to assist leftists in achieving their goal of the radical transformation of America;

Whereas this assault consists of two primary parts, one of which is the deliberate removal from school curricula of many important people and their achievements, simply because of the “politically correct” desire for room to be made for instruction about American minorities and their achievements;

Whereas the second part of the assault on American history consists of spreading the idea that the America of the past is not worthy of being honored on account of her alleged great injustice to women, minorities, homosexuals, non-Christians and the like, and that the real America is therefore said to be a perpetual struggle to implement revolutionary values such as radical freedom and radical equality;

Whereas one manifestation of this assault is the unseemly practice of our government designating certain months to honor only the achievements of Americans from minority groups when such designations ought to be carried out, as private initiatives, by the minority peoples themselves;

Whereas America was built primarily, but not exclusively, by European-Americans, in which case a proper American History Month would give priority to their achievements while acknowledging the achievements of Americans of other ethnicities;

Whereas America is not an abstract revolutionary agenda, but instead a concrete nation to which we belong, a nation of mostly European and Christian peoples who seek to honor the God of the Bible;

Whereas we Americans have good reasons to be proud of the achievements of our ancestors and to celebrate and honor such persons, objects and events as: Plymouth Rock, Jamestown, Lexington and Yorktown. Antietam and Gettysburg. Belleau Wood, Guadalcanal, D-Day. Inchon. Jonathan Edwards, Billy Graham, Robert Fulton, Samuel Morse. Alexander Graham Bell. The Wright Brothers. Robert Oppenheimer. Richard Feynman. Herman Melville. Mark Twain. Emily Dickinson. Thomas Hart Benton. Georgia O’Keefe. Stephen Foster. John Phillip Sousa. George Gershwin. Benny Goodman. Louis Armstrong. Bill Robinson. Lewis and Clark. John C. Fremont. Kit Carson. John Glenn. Neil Armstrong. The Transcontinental Railroad. The Panama Canal. The Space Program. The personal computer. George Washington. Thomas Jefferson. Abraham Lincoln. Ulysses S. Grant. Robert E. Lee. Stonewall Jackson. Dwight Eisenhower. Henry Ford. Henry Kaiser. John D. Rockefeller. Etc.

Now, therefore we, the patriotic Americans, by virtue of our debt to our ancestors and love of our people, do hereby proclaim every March to be American History Month. We call on patriotic Americans everywhere to observe this month by remembering and increasing their knowledge of American history, especially the once-widely-known but now increasingly unknown contributions of Christian and European Americans. We also call on Americans to honor American History Month by passing on this knowledge to the young  and encouraging them to honor the achievements of their people and feel reverence for their ancestors and their nation.

Let us also acknowledge America’s failures and sins, but let us not exaggerate them. And most of all let us not draw from them the false and monstrous conclusion that America is bad and therefore not deserving of honor. On the contrary, America is good because she is our nation.

Postscript

We know what some readers are thinking. Today’s America, for most practical purposes, stands for the enthusiastic approval of agnosticism, homosexuality, abortion, socialism, multicultural Balkanization, and other ills. How then can conservatives celebrate America?

Because it is good for a man to have reverence for his ancestors and his people. The ills of the present day will not last. To celebrate American history is not to approve of all things American. It is to honor our people, as is fitting.

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32 thoughts on “Proposal: American History Month

  1. Right, Louis Armstrong has no connection to America’s non-existent racist past. The presence of Oppenheimer and the personal computer on your list of mom-and-apple-pie items are also kind of amusing.

    Neither ought we to present our history as a means of supporting a specific sociopolitical program, least of all an impious, revolutionary program such as one of radical freedom and radical equality.

    You’ll have a tough time presenting American history without the Declaration of Independence, which explicitly endorses both equality and the freedom to pursue one’s own happiness. And revolution.

    Honestly, you folks are the most un-American people I know.

    • The items listed are examples, not “mom and apple pie.” And America was never revolutionary in the sense you leftists mean until recent decades.

      Nobody forces you to read our blog. Since you neither understand nor approve of us, your time would be better spent elsewhere.

      • I rather like having a.morphous around. Responding to him, we both sharpen our polemic and rehearse the arguments of Traditionalism from first principles. It’s good for us, and edifying for those who have never before heard the arguments. If we were talking only amongst ourselves, we’d end up using lots of jargon – lots more than we already do, anyway – and that would make the discourse here somewhat less penetrable to the newcomer.

        Nothing is more useful to us than an incorrigible interlocutor.

        It would be nice if a.morphous wasn’t generally so snarky, right out of the box. But then, that makes us look good by comparison, too.

        Finally, a.morphous might not be perfectly incorrigible. He strikes me as a reasonable soul, at bottom. Bright, too.

      • To be sure. I for one don’t quite understand why a.morphous punishes himself by hanging around at the Orthosphere, but I have to say that I admire his evident mental toughness in doing so.

      • Combination of curiosity, boredom, and masochism, I guess. Thanks for the words of praise. I like the more substantive arguments we sometimes have, but when I see something as ridiculous as this I can’t help but call it out.

        The subject of this post is America, not “the holy”. In fact, it reeks of sanctifying the state, which perhaps we might agree is sacrilegious, if quite common.

      • Are Black History Month, Women’s History Month, etc also ridiculous in your sight? Or is it only ridiculous to honor Americans?

      • Certainly America was revolutionary. It has not always been the vanguard, but it has had revolution as part of its essential character since Plymouth. Of course, only the devil can be a complete revolutionary. America was always comprised of one or many real, concrete peoples with traditions worth conserving, but which have unfortunately always defined themselves, at least in part, by revolutionary dogmas.

    • Honestly, you folks are the most un-American people I know.

      A favorite irony is that when the epithet “un-American” gets thrown in contemporary America, it is a leftist doing the throwing 100% of the time, whereas leftists all think that the House Un-American Activities Committee was the evilest thing ever.

      • Like “racism”, “sexism”, and “homophobia”, “Un-American” is a childish name-call that mindless overuse has rendered meaningless. If the content of this blog is un-American, then un-American isn’t a serious offense.

      • Not un-American, so much, but unworldly. That’s the ticket.
        I know I don’t speak for everyone here only myself.

        The Multiculturalist establishment of “pride months” and “ethnic pride days” seems to be yet another “migration of the Holy” from the Church to the modern state to draw on the thesis of William Cavanaugh. Perhaps Catholics could try to inculcate Catholic culture among their own with more Holy days, public processions and the like. Perhaps it might be a better way of “evangelizing the culture” than marching in Washington DC for one day a year in January.

      • Well, but I didn’t quite mean that I disagreed with you about being un-American. We ought to be for what’s good and holy, not for what’s American, simpliciter. We are to be orthogonal to *any* this-worldly politics: in the world but not of it, salt of the Earth, render unto Caesar, and so forth. If we are for the good and holy, and something about America is good and holy, why then we’ll be all for that bit of America. But not, just, because it is American, or just because we are Americans, but because it is good and holy.

        I used to think America was mostly on the side of the angels. Perhaps she once was. No more. It’s their country now. I still love her, but only in the way that Hosea loved his dissolute wife.

      • Perhaps Catholics could try to inculcate Catholic culture among their own with more Holy days, public processions and the like.

        I love this video. And this one. It would be great if these were to become the rule rather than remarkable exceptions. I’d like to go to one (or many) rather than watching them on youtube.

      • Dr. Bill,

        You might also like this:

        Devout Catholics also do not necessarily have to go around the world either:

  2. In the early days of American historiography, it was the fashion to blend volksgeschichte and Hegelianism. The best example is George Bancroft, who represented the United States as the embodiment of an unfolding principle of freedom, but traced the principle back to the forests of ancient Germany and made the Anglo Saxon people the bearers of this gift to mankind. Bancroft was, needless to say, a Transcendentalist, and his history is obviously modeled on the Old Testament, with Anglo Saxons playing the part of the ancient Israelites and America a new Promised Land. Given that this was the prototype, it is hardly surprising that, in this historiographic tradition, the principle of freedom would eventually transcend the original volk, just as the Jewish nation is transcended in the New Testament. In fact, in this historiographic tradition the Anglo Saxons are today represented in much the same way as the Jews are represented in John’s Gospel. The people that originally bore the message are now blind to its fulfillment and enemies to its progress.

    That, I suggest, is the mythic structure of American historiography, as it is a structure in which George Bancroft and Howard Zinn are telling the same story. What Alan needs for his American history month is a different story, or, better yet, no story at all. We should stop trying to discover the transcendental “meaning” of America–by which we mean the world-historical mission–and seriously consider the possibility that America has no transcendental meaning or world-historical mission. What has meaning are the lives of men and women, because how these lives are lived determines their eternal destiny. This is why we should teach biographies, not histories.

    Alan points in this direction with his list of great Americans, but I personally dislike these secular hagiographies celebrating the “benefactors of mankind.” This sort of thing comes directly from Positivism and was first proposed by Auguste Comte as a substitute for the Catholic calendar of saints. The truth is, many “benefactors of mankind” were in all other respects atrocious human beings, and when we celebrate them we often end up telling our children: “this fellow was a bigamist, a sodomite and a satanist, but he once wrote a clever poem, so you should look up to him.”

    So what I propose as a friendly amendment to Alan’s proposal is that we establish American Ancestors Month, during which every American family will tell its youngest members the biographies of their more admirable forebears. Families with no memories should invent some. Obviously this will be a sort of volksgeschichte, but it is a volksgeschichte made up of flesh-and-blood families, not transcendentalist flapdoodle.

    • What Alan needs for his American history month is a different story, or, better yet, no story at all.

      Yes. Note that the Ethnic History Months do not (as far as I can discern) put forward Grand Metanarratives. They just honor individuals and their achievements. That is my idea for American History Month. America may need a Grand Principle in order to be great, but that is not my purpose here.

      …I personally dislike these secular hagiographies celebrating the “benefactors of mankind.”

      In my list I was not thinking of benefactors of mankind, but only persons and things American of whom/which Americans can be proud. Obviously the persons have flaws, often deep, and the things are often mixed blessings. But they are all to be proud of, for a healthy people is proud of its ancestors and their accomplishments. (Obviously, we are to be proud of their greatness, not their flaws.) America is wallowing in self-hate, and this should be opposed.

      • “Yes. Note that the Ethnic History Months do not (as far as I can discern) put forward Grand Metanarratives.”

        Black history month doesn’t put forward a grand meta-narrative? Have you taken your Eyes Off the Prize?

    • I personally dislike these secular hagiographies celebrating the “benefactors of mankind.” This sort of thing comes directly from Positivism and was first proposed by Auguste Comte as a substitute for the Catholic calendar of saints.

      I think there is something about celebrating “inventors” and “innovators” that just sort assumes the progressive narrative. By praising such figures we are in a way asserting that material progress is an important societal goal. While I am not against technological innovation per se too often it seems that the technological drive for efficiency and innovation bleeds into the social realm with significant consequences. A good example of this was the the widespread use of the automobile starting in post-WW2 America. That technical progress had significant, and I would argue on the whole bad consequences for the social life of the nation.

      I know that wasn’t Mr. Roebuck’s intention, I enjoy learning about pagan or secular heroes from time to time. But I was also wondering whether some of the thinkers on his list might be in themselves too abstract?

      • I hear you.

        What if we dedicated certain days to honoring, I don’t know, I’m just spit-balling here, but individual Saints?

    • I like the friendly amendment, but propose the following modification: Families with no memories should “discover” rather than “invent” some. There are now vast resources that make this possible for almost everyone.

  3. Sigh, read some history, please. Black History Week (yeah, it started as a week) was, like the original Black Studies programs, started in the hope that *it would go away and not be needed*. That black Americans (yes, we’re actual Americans too and have been here since the 16th century ourselves) would be incorporated into American history and not need any special carve-out.

    I know you all love to embrace the narrative that American-born, American-descended blacks hate America, aren’t really American and have no share in American patrimony, but this involves ignoring both source historical documents and American history texts from the 19th century onward.

    There is a world between multikulti and ignoring 15-20% of your population historically speaking out of some delusional notion that they contributed zero to the sum of America in both liberal and traditional senses of the term.

    • “I know you all love to embrace the narrative….” To be fair I have made several posts defending blacks, some of which argued on the basis of their noble service to the British Empire both in America and Africa. Also, many commenters above have noted their distaste for glorifying secular history at all.

    • How could you possibly “know” that we all “love to embrace the narrative that American-born, American blacks hate America . . . “? I haven’t read everything posted at the Orthosphere, but I don’t recall anyone making this claim, much less everyone. If you would point me to the post that stated, to resounding acclamation in the comment thread, that blacks have “contributed zero to the sum of America,” I’ll be glad to go there and post a dissenting comment and call them all blockheads.

    • Sigh, read some history, please. Black History Week (yeah, it started as a week) was, like the original Black Studies programs, started in the hope that *it would go away and not be needed*.

      It’s no longer needed. Why has it not gone away? The idea that blacks’ contributions to American history are currently undervalued in American history books or in popular culture (if you are indeed selling this claim) is up-is-downism.

      There is a world between multikulti and ignoring 15-20% of your population historically speaking out of some delusional notion that they contributed zero to the sum of America in both liberal and traditional senses of the term.

      Blacks are much less affected by hookworm and malaria than are whites. This was an enormous deal in the lowland American South where hookworm was endemic and malaria present before the 20th C. Hookworm was eradicated in the 1920s, pretty much.

      These diseases made whites bad at manual labor in the lowland South. Hookworm robs its victims of energy, so the legendary laziness of Southern whites has a biological explanation—it’s not just lack of air conditioning. Blacks’ unique economic contribution to America was as unskilled labor in the lowland South prior to WWII. That contribution was very important—tobacco and cotton were hugely important US exports for a long time. Those exports in combination with the tariff subsidized the industrialization of the North.

      I have no problem in admitting those contributions and in admitting that white Americans have an obligation to black Americans due to this contribution and to our shared heritage. To tell the truth, the latter is enough—the fact that they have been our neighbors for 400 years is enough to create obligation. In fact, I’d say that evading these obligations would be akin to a man, having consumed his first wife’s youth, dumping her in favor of a young second wife. Ugly and immoral.

      But what does this have to do with Black History Month? The actual contributions of blacks are not what we hear about in Black History Month. What we hear about, instead, are stories involving blacks as intellectual giants, moral exemplars, innovators, and formidable warriors. Which they ain’t.

      The US is not a country run by extreme white nationalists anxious to evade their obligations to blacks. The US is a country run by venomous, anti-white, anti-Christian vandals using blacks as a weapon against whites.

    • Blacks clearly identify as a separate people, and all peoples have a history. The problem with black history and black studies is that it has very little to do with studying, understanding, or even glorifying the black-American people. Instead its just another sad example of blacks being used by whites.

  4. Black history in America is not celebrated just in February. I am African America and can appreciate the time and acknowledgment of contributions made by black-Americans to build and establish this democracy. Many of the accomplishments they will never receive credit for. It is arrogant, pompous and down right ignorant to imply that America was built by white Europeans. America was built on the back of slaves and slave labor. If black history is one month what are the other month’s dedicated too? History (Black, White, Indian’s’ who we call American Indians… they were here before this was called America but they are re-labled? Manifest destiny is an ugly part of our history! Celebrate it if you will, it was in my opinion part of God’s plan. All history is valuable. American history has some amazing people with amazing stories and it also has some very dark corners many of which have not see the light of justice. If you want more history to be taught to your children than you teach them. Black people didn’t get there start when they landed on the shores of America in chains. We were unjustly violated in a way no people should ever be violated, We were victimized but we are victors! Black history is everyday in my home. We are still writing that history. American history is everyday in my home, because my ancestors have equal claim to the establishment of this great democracy!

    • America was built on the back of labor, some of it black, some of it white, some of it enslaved, some of it free. It was also built by brains. We properly honor both. I don’t follow your comment on Manifest Destiny, which you call “ugly” and “part of God’s plan.” Can God plan ugliness? In any event, the phrase “manifest destiny” is strictly synonymous with the word “inevitable.” For instance, I could say, “When I fell out of the tree, breaking my arm was my ‘manifest destiny’.” It was going to happen and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. That’s what Senator Bell meant when he coined the phrase during the debate over Oregon.

      Is it really possible for men to bring the “light of justice” to the “dark corners” of history? The victims and the perpetrators are dead, so material restitution and physical retribution are impossible, at least in this world. The only way that I can see this making any sense is in the case of restoring a dead man’s reputation, when he has been libeled by history, or in indicting him for his heretofore hidden crimes. This is justice in the good, Aristotelian sense of giving each man what he is due. Justice towards historical figures means doing our best not to glorify villains or vilify good men.

      This is, ultimately, a color-blind question, since a good man doesn’t become less (or more) good for being black, and a bad man does’t become less (or more) bad for being white. This is where I think you go wrong in your comment on the slave trade. This was not an injustice visited by whites upon blacks, but an injustice visited upon some blacks by some other blacks and some whites. Now there is a dark corner of history that would benefit from the “light of justice.”

      I am happy to hear that you teach your children history, and I am altogether in favor of your teaching them a history that puts their kin at the center of the story. That is their story. It’s part of a bigger story, but each of us properly relates to that bigger story by understanding the sub-plot our kin have been party to.

    • Pace Mr. Clay, it is not “arrogant, pompous and down right ignorant to imply that America was built by white Europeans”; rather, it is the simple truth that America was built by whites. I hate to point out the obvious, but America could have been built and established entirely without blacks. There were no black Founding Fathers, and while we remember Crispus Attucks and others, no black man was instrumental in securing our independence. This is not a reason to ignore black contributions, but neither is it license to overstate them, nor to ignore the centrality of whites in the formation, foundation, and growth of America.

      It is certainly false to say that “America was built on the back of slaves and slave labor.” Slave labor was important in the marshy South for reasons adumbrated above, but to raise black labor, slave or otherwise, to central importance as you do is to ignore the much more numerous whites throughout the colonies, and later the states, and all their efforts. While ignoring the black contribution to the economy of the South is wrong, so is ignoring the white contribution to the economies of all the colonies/states.

      This is of course orthogonal to the real point of Black/Hispanic/LGBT/Irish-American/South Asian/Haitian/Asian American/Caribbean American/American Indian/etc. history/heritage months: to celebrate the Other at the expense of the white majority.

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