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VDH: Forces of Division

“The forces of division have started to raise their ugly heads again."
The Corner, March 16, 2008 by Victor Davis Hanson

Today a news item reported on Sen. Obama’s recent take on the current status of education:

"He said schools should do a better job of teaching all students African-American history 'because that's part of American history,' as well as women's struggle for equality, the history of unions, the role of Hispanics in U.S. and other matters that he suggested aren't given enough attention.”

"I want us to have a broad-based history" taught in schools, he said, even including more on "the Holocaust as well as other issues of oppression" around the world.”

But anyone familiar with the historical illiteracy of today’s college student understands that more of the “oppression” history that Sen. Obama is advocating is precisely the problem, not the solution. Our high school students already know who Harriet Tubman is, but not U.S. Grant or Shiloh. They have been introduced to Crispus Attucks, but not Alexander Hamilton. They know World War II largely as the Japanese internment and Hiroshima (cf. Reverend Wright on that), but have not a clue about the Bulge or Okinawa or the Munich travesty.

In other words, it is precisely this pick-and-choose therapeutic curriculum of "oppression" history presented as a melodrama of winners (white male Christian capitalists) and losers (women, people of color, the working classes) that has ensured an entire generation of historical illiterates, who can’t distinguish between the profound and trivial, or identify basic names, dates, and places to ground even their politically-correct views. They are told to remember and repeat that Hiroshima is bad, but not why or how it occurred, what were the alternatives, and what were the consequences in a war of bad and worse choices.

Instead the sins innate to mankind—war, oppression, slavery, bias, etc.—are nearly always presented as sins unique to the West in general, or to America in particular. We hear always of commission, never of the remediation, always of our terrible past, never of the pretty awful present that goes on outside the United States.

What we need from a healer at this late date is not advocacy for more gripe-history that tries to portion out equal victim status to various competing constituencies under the guise of multicultural brotherhood, but rather tries, in holistic and inclusive fashion, to explain both the noble and tragic history of the United States, an experiment that was and is not perfect, but still very good and preferable to all the alternatives.

What continues to be so disturbing about the Obama rhetoric is that in the abstract he always talks of utopian brotherhood and idealism, but whenever he devolves into the concrete, we learn that he promotes victimhood, identity politics, and subsidizes both by his presence and his purse racial intolerance and invective.

More disturbing still is that even to mention this disturbing contradiction is to incur the charge of being racist, or—in Obama’s own self-serving formulation—to confess that “the forces of division have started to raise their ugly heads again.”

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