I’ve come to love reading history, but you have to admit that it’s gotten to be pretty bleak territory these days. Today I decided that maybe we’ve gone too far when I saw the following headline in the USA Today Travel section, “10 Great places to absorb the reality of slavery.” Wow.
Are they just giving us some info or are they really suggesting fun vacation ideas? Who ever thought the travel section would sound just like the Sex Pistol’s Johnny Rotten when he sang “I don’t wanna holiday in the sun/ I wanna go to new Belsen/I wanna see some history/’Cause now I got a reasonable economy?”
Kids, your choices for the family’s summer trip are Auswitch, Checkpoint Charlie, or the Trail of Tears reenactment. What a drag.
Alex Haley wrote Roots hoping to change the fact “that history has been written and stored predominantly by the winners.” Maybe it was Ben Vereen as Chicken George, but now over 30 years later it’s almost like the winners can’t buy a break, which is after all the way they usually wound up becoming the winners.
It’s why Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh are so red in the face when it comes to education. The historical view of the European white male has taken a shellacking since the days of the big time mini-series. I for one am happier for it, but I understand what these guys are going through. Even if you are rich and powerful, you’ve got to hate having your grandkids taught that you and your heroes were basically thieves, rapists, and killers even if they were, in fact, thieves, rapists and murderers.
In Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon asks Robin Williams whether he has read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present, suggesting that it would blow Robin’s mind more than his early ’80s coke sprees did. Zinn’s book would essentially be the prosecution’s case if the United States had its own Nuremberg trials.
Columbus – mass murderer, Jefferson – slaveholder and interracial rapist, Jackson – Indian Killer, Lincoln – a man who didn’t really care that much about slavery. It goes on and on. He basically compares just about every major white male figure in U.S. history to Hitler except during World War II. After all, you can’t really compare the people who fought Hitler to Hitler, but let’s just say Zinn isn’t nearly as found of “Our Greatest Generation” as Tom Brokaw is.
Again, I think this trend is fantastic, but I feel sort of bad for our high school kids. Everything is such a downer now. Back in the ’80s we had Ray Walston as Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High screaming “Three weeks we’ve been talking about the Platt Amendment!” Now we have Hilary Swank bringing her kids to the Holocaust Museum in Freedom Writers. These days Ray Walston would be screaming “Three weeks we’ve been talking about the Mai Lai Massacre!”
Our kids deserve some fun, which is why I propose we change Columbus Day to Boston Tea Party Day. Now there was a fun moment in U.S. History. It had drunks. It had costumes. People were tossing tea into the harbor. No one died or got hurt. If you think about it, it was the Woodstock of the Revolution Generation. C’mon Martin Scorcese call Leonardo DiCaprio up and give our kids a Roots for the Noughts. You’ll love longshoremen as much as Elia Kazan did and the tie-in possibilities with Samuel Adams Beer alone are endless.