[Given my overall 2021 goal of better remembering all of American history, for this year’s post-Valentine’s non-favorites series I wanted to highlight some of the historical myths of which I’m decidedly not a fan. Leading up to this crowd-sourced airing of non-favorites and other grievances—get it off your chest in comments, please!]
In response to Monday’s post, my childhood friend (and one of the best musicians and composers out there) Charles Sammons shares this great piece from the Zinn Ed Project.
Following up Thursday’s post, other non-favorite mythic narratives:
Jenny Fielding highlights, “The bootstrap myth. Through much of American history if you belonged to any group other than white, straight, male it didn't matter how hard you worked. The rare exception is held up as the rule, which has greatly damaged community investment, both economically and sociologically. It also pits the lower socioeconomic classes against one another when the field is nowhere near level by design.”
Charles Grimm tweets: “Socialism means only a few work while the rest glom off of them; Unions are greedy organizations exploiting workers and hurting employers (hello from someone raised in Alabama).”
Jeff Renye critiques, “The myth that ‘we're all in this together.’ Total bs.”
Lara Schwartz bemoans, “The myth that ‘revisionist history’ means rewriting history to meet your ideology, and implies that there was once a ‘real’ history that people (usually POC, women, and allies) are re-writing to suit them. NO! Whatever version of ‘history’ we read was created by someone, and looking critically at those texts as artifacts informed by the values, context, and agenda of their creators is important to understanding the past. We must always write and re-write history, and not treat whatever history was in our textbook as a law of physics or universal truth.”
Matthew Goguen writes, “It took me a long time to forgo the ‘history is a steady drumbeat towards progress’ which is absolutely not true once you get knee-deep in any substantial history. That doesn’t discount the efforts or actual progress made but the narrative that we are always headed towards that horizon is bunk.”
Carol tweets, “The myth of virgin land! Which tries to completely eliminate indigenous peoples when attempted genocide failed! It is the myth the others are built on, including the myth of exceptionalism.”
James Golden writes, “The biggest for me is that the Pilgrims came to America for religious freedom. That's crap. They left the Church of England because they didn't agree with it--yes--but a large part of what they hated was that it allowed a spectrum of belief and practice (and bishops). They wanted religious exclusivity: they wanted the right to persecute. The puritan migrations of the 1630s echoed this. We've built a large narrative about freedom of religion which has warped into freedom for religion (very different), and it's founded on a myth of fleeing persecution rather than eschewing a comprehensive national church in favor of religious narrowness.”
Lori Steckervetz laments, “The mythology that Native Americans were found living ‘at one with nature’ implying a complete lack of the intentional and sophisticated land management systems developed by many indigenous peoples across the continent to manipulate nature from irrigation to forest management, using fire to create grazing lands, etc.”
Anne Stanton adds, “These myths explain so much of why we are who we are today (especially in comparison with western Europe) with regard to access to medical care, etc.”
Joanne Catherine writes, “James K. Polk and James Buchanan were the worst presidents ever (before 2017). Polk was just a weaker, less effective Jackson who fulfilled his promise to use his one term to further Manifest Destiny and harm native populations. Buchanan was the most ineffective president who used his niece’s free labor as a stand-in First Lady while not taking care of day to day matters so badly that a civil war started as soon as someone else took office. I cannot decide which one is my most non-favorite, so I propose both.” Rob Velella agrees, “I recently listened to an audiobook on Buchanan and he really was terrible.”
Craig Reid asks, "Did anyone nominate Reagan this year? That Showtime documentary on him exposed his legacy. Nothing more than a puppet for the super rich!" He adds, "If you haven’t seen the documentary yet you should. It explores the power that his father-in-law had over him in ultimately turning him away from being pro-union and left leaning into a hardcore conservative. It also explores how his failures of being a movie star helped turn him against Hollywood and the unions. And once he failed as an actor, he used his former fame to gain the support of the super rich and they pretty much groomed him into being president. The worst thing that it showed was how he campaigned in the Deep South to gain the support of bigots not even 15 years after the dismantling of Jim Crow laws in the South."
Derek Tang argues, “I'm prepping for upcoming lessons on slavery dividing the nation. After not just his majority opinion in the well-documented Dred Scott case but in his concurrence in Prigg v. Pennsylvania as well, how is it that Roger Taney is still somehow considered as having a ‘mixed record’???????”
Emily Hamilton-Honey critiques, “Gone with the Wind (book and film), and also the idea that women didn't do anything in WW1. Women did a LOT in the Great War, and it is their WWII descendants who get the most recognition. As they should! But give the Great War women their credit and props, please! Oh, also, for 19C - the idea that Frances Willard and the WCTU were somehow not important, just because we don't like their politics now. The WCTU was a political FORCE, for many good reasons worth examining.”
Anne Holub shares, “I can't stand that the new not-literal use of "literally" is now accepted. (As in, ‘I literally died.’)”
Tim McCaffrey gripes, “I think I’ve complained about this before, but I’ll be reading a perfectly good piece of writing and then the author will use the phrase ‘in my heart of hearts’ and I will audibly groan. I don’t even know why I hate it, but I do.” He adds, “Also, Don Denkinger calling Jorge Orta safe in the 1985 World Series was total bullshit. And the Red Sox trading Mookie Betts is largely responsible for my current disinterest in the team—a situation I would not have thought possible just a few years back.”
Rob Bartolome writes, “It really bothers me that the phrase ‘toxic positivity’ has become a thing recently. That just sounds some negative-ass thinking to me.”
Melissa Kujala grieves, “When someone types ‘lmfao’...did you really though? Did you really laugh your ass off? I doubt it. When anyone eats cereal and I have to hear them eat it. Mosquitos.”
Matthew Goguen laments, “They no longer make Maple Life cereal and I am reminded of this fact every time I am in the cereal aisle.”
Anna Wilkins exclaims, “Mylar balloons. Really people?!? REALLY?!?”
Olivia Lucier critiques, “Binge watching. I don’t understand the concept of just sitting all day watching a show and doing nothing else! However, my children can watch multiple episodes of Paw Patrol over and over again, even the same episode and have no problem with it....maybe I need to adopt their mentality of ‘binge watching.’”
Lori Steckervetz writes, “There are so so so many serious and rational grievances from people refusing to use a person’s pronouns to fat-shaming doctors to abled bodied people using disabled people for inspiration porn, to living in a city that seems to be unable manage winter despite it being in IN New England! (the lack of sidewalk snow removal enforcement is just shameful). BUT what I really need to get off my chest is my utter frustration with people’s misuse of the term daylight saving time (saving not savings). We enter in the spring and leave in the fall but SO many people do not seem to understand this concept. And who cares? I do for some irrational reason! It’s so silly that I care but there you have it.”
Indigo Eriksen goes short and not at all sweet: “Columbus.”
Diane Hotten-Somers attacks, “Joni Mitchell (I think she's totally overrated, sorry if that offends), closed-mindedness, the fact that there are people—people across this nation and close to me in my life/family—who do not believe in the existence of systemic racism nor that democracy was interrupted on Jan. 6, 2021, and white chocolate (not worth the calories).”
Robin Field goes with Jonathan Franzen.
Paige Wallace writes, “Shakespeare. Everyone thinks that since I have two degrees in English Lit means I must LOOOOooOoOove Shakespeare.” She adds, “Actually, let me amend. I like Shakespeare live, since his work was meant to be experienced that way. I do not like reading it.”
To end on a very 2021 and very serious note, Nikolai S bemoans, “The utter deficit in attention span that we're all grappling with in this day & age. I find my own brain timing out if it doesn't get its dopamine fix within 5 seconds from whatever stimuli is popping up that second. Social media, relentless news cycles, constant interruptions from texts, Slacks, social media notifications, etc. It's gotten to the point with me where if someone doesn't get to the point of what they're trying to say within a few seconds I feel physical pain.”
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Non-favorites (historical or otherwise) you’d add to the mix?
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