Friday, February 18, 2005

"Patriot's History of the United States "

Larry Schweikart, co-author of A Patriot's History of the United States, was interviewed by Kathryn J. Lopez at National Review Online. In it, he offered he and co-athor Michael Allen's philosophy of history
We assume that people usually mean what they say; that they don't always have hidden motivations; and that ideas are more important than "class" or "race" or "gender." Under more normal times, our book would simply be entitled, A History of the United States, because it is accurate. . . . we reject "My Country, Right or Wrong," but we equally reject "My Country, Always Wrong." I think you'll find us quite critical of such aspects of our past-such as the Founders' unwillingness to actually act on slavery on at least three separate occasions; or about Teddy Roosevelt's paternalistic regulations and his anti-business policies. On the other hand, as conservatives, we nevertheless destroy the myth that FDR "knew" about the Pearl Harbor attack in advance. Instead, we try to always put the past in the context of the time — why did people act then as they did, and was that typical?
It sounds like they have approached the topic responsibly and, hopefully, can join Paul Johnson in showing that conservatives can also right good, respectable academic history. (Unlike some others). In that vein, Schweikart offers what is probably a summation of what most conservative historians believe
regardless of America's faults, it has always aspired to be a "city on a hill" and, more often than not, has attained that goal. It remains a beacon of liberty throughout the world, so much so that people still risk their lives just to come here and, despite threats to do so by the Hollywood elites after every election, they do not leave. I only need ask these students, "Can you think of any other country, really, where you'd rather live today?"
In other words, America isn't perfect, it screws up, but it has basically trended to the good. Empire, Hegemony, or whatever you may call it, America clings to an ideal and believes that it can attain. Impossible? Yes, but the effort produced, and continues to produce, benefits that the world can share.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I saw the book. Can a "responsible" history absolve Nixon from Watergate blame and not mention Iran-Contra??

Anonymous said...

In fact, "A Patriot's History of the United States" has numerous errors that are difficult to explain. For example, in just two paragraphs about the Reagan tax cuts, the book puts forward three numbers and gets all three of them wrong. You can see a description of these errors at http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1338034/posts?q=1&&page=51#59, along with a response from Larry Schweikart, one of the authors.

piglet said...

"regardless of America's faults, it has always aspired to be a "city on a hill" and, more often than not, has attained that goal. It remains a beacon of liberty throughout the world"

"In other words, America isn't perfect, it screws up, but it has basically trended to the good."

Please. Is America a "beacon of liberty", or is it an imperfect entity that often screws up but "basically trends to the good" (what a wish-wash!)? You can't have it both ways.

The problem is that conservatives wish to discuss away the flaws in American history along the lines of "others have flaws too", which is true of course (although it would seem to matter that Britain abolished slavery throughout the empire fully 30 years before emancipation in the US). But then, after having explained away slavery, genocide, and imperialism, they come back declaring that America is nevertheless the greatest nation in the universe, and all the others (like who? Canada? France? Switzerland? Sweden?) ought to be looking up to that oh so biblical "city on the hill". It is this mendacity that serious historians must not tolerate.