Sunday, May 9, 2010


Happy Mother's Day and all that.

Now back to war.

Who pays attention, in Joe American's typical Memorial Day and Veteran's Day celebrations, to the atrocities of the past? Are we not as guilty of selective memory - or worse, seeing as there is no part of the history on which we focus? The Fourth of July is fireworks and nothing but. Veteran's Day is a day off work and nothing but.

The Holocaust is the figure of "6 million" that we can rattle off since third grade.

That last actually upsets me the most. What is the point in drilling into little children's minds that atrocious event? I knew extensive details about the Holocaust long before I learned about the Soviet Union, and far longer before I learned about Japanese-American internment camps. (Lady Brett has a much better memory that I do; she would know exactly when we learned all those historical events...)

What makes the Holocaust the only "real" genocide? What about the Armenian genocide? The Khmer Rouge? The Rwandan? (Just to name some of the "popularized" genocides of the 20th century. Consider the Wikipedia list of how disgusting humankind is.)

I remember learning the term "Manifest Destiny" in fifth grade, but not fully comprehending how it went hand in hand with events like the Trail of Tears until at least eighth.

Does anyone remember the protests back in the 1990s when the Smithsonian was planning a historical retrospective on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Heaven forbid that we remember our victims' suffering. I can't be the only one who was told that if I was displeased with military colonialism in the Middle East I could always emigrate to a different country. How angry we get when someone questions our historical actions, those steps we've taken along the road of Manifest Destiny.

I disagree with the cliche that it's "easy to be a critic." Sometimes it can be very hard to be critical, particularly of sensitive issues or of phenomena that have been coded as "non-issues." The logic by which I excuse myself of Quiet Americanism is that while I can identify events or objects that may be problematic in Russian society, I'm not trying to offer a perfect solution to those "broken" objects; I'm certainly not trying to offer them the American way of life as the only right path.

And no critic is infallible. I've already mentioned, if not here, then in person to most of you, that one of the reasons I have never enjoyed studying American history is because I feel too personally responsible for the atrocities of our past. I am a member of that sub-race once known as the Great White Male, and those "atrocities of our past" aren't all relegated only to the past. To force myself to look upon them forces me to question just how little I've done to fix the structurae and schemae that inform my cell of the Panopticon.

There, I suppose, is my answer. Any "dissenting" opinion has been coded as "un-American," and I, myself, fall into that trap transcription. Who knows how many people subscribe to the "Joe American" views of such a reduced, simplified, patriotic, Hurray!-nationalistic history? Maybe no one. Maybe we're all looking to an invisible Big Brother in the center for our cues and it's not that we can't see him for his secrecy, but for his absence.

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