I have always found American history interesting, perhaps more colourful than British History. The heroes were always more heroic; the causes more clear. This was particularly true with regard to the period during which the American colonists broke free from Britain.
To this day, I consider them thoroughly justified, as they had become a highly productive people who were regarded simply as a cash cow for the Crown. I have commented frequently on the clear vision of the American founding fathers and the exceptional common sense that they utilized in creating their founding documents: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
I maintain this admiration in spite of the fact that, somewhere along the line, American historians rewrote quite a few of the details. At about age ten, I remember asking my father (who was an historian) what Paul Revere meant when he shouted, “The British are coming!” on his ride to Lexington and Concord. My father responded that he didn’t mean anything, since it was unlikely that he ever said it. And that was the reason for the question.
After all, Revere’s ride took place in 1775, more than a year before the Declaration of Independence. Revere was a citizen of the British colony of Massachusetts and was, of course….British, as were nearly all the people he was warning on that night. My father suggested that, since there were many Loyalists in every community, Revere would have been very unlikely to have been shouting at all. Instead, he would have gone to houses of known dissidents, spoken to them privately, and asked them to spread the word.
And, of course, it wouldn’t have looked very good in the American history books to have him shouting, “Those who are British but commonly reside in England are coming!”
British textbooks tend to make mention of other historical facts that managed to elude the American textbooks, such as Ben Franklin’s notorious sexual dalliances. (Best not to mention it – it will only confuse the children.) Historical documentaries in America have recently let that particular cat out of the bag, as well as others. (Sex sells.) And Americans are quite comfortable with the more modern sexual “collectors” that have seen high office – Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton.
But, even today in America, no one seems to be aware that, say, John Hancock was regarded in his time to be a smuggler, but we don’t talk of that today. It’s a bit too…”gangsterish.” Joe Kennedy, patriarch of that presidential family, got his start smuggling whiskey from Canada during prohibition and was notorious at the time as a dangerous guy.
So, some truths are better left unspoken. (And of course, British history books are loaded with misinformation as well.) In the post-sixties world, we tend to accept (and even enjoy) our heroes as more three-dimensional beings, with flaws. Still, some types of flaws are colourful, while others are unacceptable. Congressmen are commonly found to be involved in sex scandals, and some are forgiven to the point that they remain in office to rail against the morals of their opponents. Others go on to become television celebrities.
If there has been any change in recent years, it is this: modern communications have made it much more difficult to suppress information of wrongdoing. The internet, in particular, has been an enormous thorn in the side of politicians worldwide. Before a suitable cover-up can be provided, the word is already on the street. And this has led us to the Era of the Spin Doctors. Are your actions unseemly? Give them a twist – call them something else.
Possibly Bill Clinton can be credited with ushering in this era. “I did not have sex with that woman.” And later on, when it was rather obvious to all that he did, in fact have sex with that woman, he did not recant his previous statement and admit his guilt. He merely amended it by employing an old lawyer’s trick – saying that he did not regard oral sex as sex. Therefore he hadn’t lied. Amazingly, this seemed to (pardon the pun) go down pretty well with the majority of the public, and the Teflon Don of Washington was given a free pass.
The concern, to my mind, is that the average voter (both in America and in Europe) has become accustomed to the concept that Truth is not really all that important. Deception is acceptable, as long as it is well-played. I consider this to be of great importance, because, once Truth goes out the window, anything is possible. This is the point at which the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm gained the ability for complete control of the other animals.
This one fact was of primary importance to Lenin in controlling the Russian people. His vision was Rule by Oppression, but that couldn’t be admitted. So he simply called it something else. Josef Goebbels was a bit of a wizard at this as well.
More and more, particularly through the internet, people are discovering that the Norm in Europe and America has become the assumption that whatever goes out to the public must be reshaped, generally by a Press Officer. When Lenin first began his programme of deceit, it should have been a warning to the more enlightened Russian people that it was time to get out of Russia.
When Hitler began his campaign of propaganda, it was a warning that it was time to exit Germany. Today, the leaders of the countries that make up the “Free” World are up to their eyes in deceit, subterfuge and control tactics. If history can teach us anything, it is when to know that a long period of oppression has begun. For those who live in a First World country, it would be wise to consider whether the time has come to make a quiet exit.