Quote of the Day: Our Stories are Vanishing

 

Man is in his actions and practice, as well as his fictions, essentially a story-telling animal. . . Deprive children of stories and you leave them unscripted, anxious stutterers in their actions as in their words. – Alasdair MacIntyre

On one level, we know that storytelling is critical to nurturing one’s creativity and imagination. Stories connect us to our families, to our experiences and to our lives overall.

But this quotation struck me as I thought about America’s past. The Left is trying to corrupt and destroy our history and our stories. Who are our Founders? What were they like? What did they contribute to the birth of the United States? What has America contributed to the state of the world?

Not only are those questions relevant, but hearing stories that provide balance, color and depth to our history is so very important. We know that George Washington owned slaves, and he was probably our greatest president. We know that Harry Truman made anti-Semitic remarks, and he was the first national leader to support the declaration of Israel’s statehood.

With all the efforts to distort or erase our history, we are losing the stories that we would pass on to our children. How will they understand this country and the importance of their own role in taking forward our virtues and foundations?

There are 31 comments.

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    It might be important to say that the new stories we are creating are distortions, filled with hate and confusion. What does this state of affairs do to our children, our nation?

    • #1
  2. James Hageman Coolidge
    James Hageman
    @JamesHageman

    I think the anxious stuttering takes the form of protests and violence; the perpetrators are trying to create a story for themselves ex nihilo. It never works; thus the increasing levels of noise and violence.

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    James Hageman (View Comment):

    I think the anxious stuttering takes the form of protests and violence; the perpetrators are trying to create a story for themselves ex nihilo. It never works; thus the increasing levels of noise and violence.

    You are so right, @JamesHageman! I’m sure many of the young people go on to tell others about their valiant efforts! How sad. Thanks.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Let us give them back all of Western Civilization.

    • #4
  5. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    Susan Quinn: With all the efforts to distort or erase our history, we are losing the stories that we would pass on to our children.

    We are also filling the children with other unimportant ideas such as “Heather has two Mommies,” etc. Not that history isn’t important.


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    • #5
  6. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    C S Lewis said something like (very approximate quote)–“If you want to destroy an infantry unit, you cut it off from its adjacent units.  If you want to destroy a generation, you cut it off from previous generations.”

    • #6
  7. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    History is a funny business.  I love the expression “The past is a foreign country.”  In a way we have always been losing it, and its loss is not exclusively the Leftists’ fault. 

    I could rabbit-trail this subject for thousands of words and dozens of comments, and still not exhaust it, so I’ll try to give a precís version.

    Everyone lies about the past, or at least tells untruths about it.  But these untruths are true untruths – they’re stories that need to be true to make sense of things, or we need to be true (in a way) because the actual truth is messy, unclear, complicated, and requires so much else as context that we’d never hit any real concrete bottom of it all.  So we invent our foundations on myth and try to build up from there so we have something useful to say to the next generation about what it all meant.

    That the history the Left tells today has any purchase in the popular mind is because of two things:

    1.  In prior generations, when the Right had an ascendency over the telling of history, we told our own myths, and when those kids came of age and discovered them to be myth, they threw everything out (truth and myth and everything in between) and started over with a new mythology (with its own lies).  What was built proved to be brittle.
    2. Our own forebears disallowed nuance and feelings of anger their proper place in history, pushing often a sort of relentless patriotism that didn’t brook much dissent or debate.  

    The Left today is itself careening wildly too far off into its own mythology, and it’s own fever-dream mythology cannot withstand the test of human experience.  They’re casting as villains who used to be on pedestals as heroes, while elevating their own petty demi-gods out of obscurity.  But any honest and nuanced inquiry into the past, beyond the thin paste of the textbooks, shows their stuff every bit as brittle as what they think they’re still rebelling against.  So long as other historians are free to write and speak and publish (whether here or anywhere else in the world), the Left’s mythology is doomed to collapse, just like every other one, Right or Left, before it.

    Human nature is unchanging, dirty, petty, valiant, self-sacrificing, and mercurial.  That won’t change.  We may forget our history from time to time, and endure generations where it is nearly lost, but it keeps coming back.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    •  In prior generations, when the Right had an ascendancy over the telling of history, we told our own myths, and when those kids came of age and discovered them to be myth, they threw everything out (truth and myth and everything in between) and started over with a new mythology (with its own lies). What was built proved to be brittle.
    • Our own forebears disallowed nuance and feelings of anger their proper place in history, pushing often a sort of relentless patriotism that didn’t brook much dissent or debate.

    Key points in understanding how we create or contrive our history, @skipsul–thanks! That’s what humans do, and I think it’s probably true for every country. I’m reluctant to give up on reaching a modicum of balance, though. There’s data from the Left and the Right that are true; I just finished McClay’s Land of Hope, a textbook on US history, and he made a valiant effort to provide some balance. He’s the first to admit the book is imperfect, but he was willing to include events and people we could celebrate, as well as those actions and individuals who were disappointing or even disastrous. It just seems like people are not happy unless we accept one version as factual and complete, and reject the other version as lies and distortions.

    I can only hope that our history lessons are not solely predicated on politics and ideology; that is my hope.

    • #8
  9. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I can only hope that our history lessons are not solely predicated on politics and ideology; that is my hope.

    There was a book out about 20 years ago called Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James Lowen.  The book was an examination of the history lessons taught in what were the the major high school and college US history textbooks.  I keep wondering what he’d make of this generation of books, and the way they almost completely ignore the Civil War.  Lowen was scathing of the ways that certain people were let off the hook for horrible stuff, while others were given credit for things they never even did.

    • #9
  10. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Washington and the cherry tree are clearly apocryphal. But sometimes it is the apocryphal that is most important. Elevate a figure for emulation and then attribute characteristics to be practiced. The reverse is also true: Diminish a figure of earned scorn and then caution against emulation lest a similar or worse fate await.

    • #10
  11. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    The big difference between Progressives and everyone else is their denial of human nature.  That way, they can convince people that the past was very different from today, and past people were different than people living today.  If they think that today’s people can be, do, and act differently than people in the past, then the world is improvable, and so are the people (and THEY know how to do it).

    So all we really have to do is convince children that people have NOT changed over the centuries, and that all people, having the same basic nature, do and feel exactly the same things that they are and do.  And the prescriptions written by the Ancients are the same as prescriptions written by today’s sages (although we have to find real sages and not the false prophets put up by today’s hatemongers).

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Washington and the cherry tree are clearly apocryphal. But sometimes it is the apocryphal that is most important. Elevate a figure for emulation and then attribute characteristics to be practiced. The reverse is also true: Diminish a figure of earned scorn and then caution against emulation lest a similar or worse fate await.

    Point taken! One of the reasons I like to read well-written biographies of the Founders is that you can see their victories and disasters, their strengths and weaknesses. It’s like the Bible too–no character in the Bible is perfect!

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    The big difference between Progressives and everyone else is their denial of human nature. That way, they can convince people that the past was very different from today, and past people were different than people living today. If they think that today’s people can be, do, and act differently than people in the past, then the world is improvable, and so are the people (and THEY know how to do it).

    So all we really have to do is convince children that people have NOT changed over the centuries, and that all people, having the same basic nature, do and feel exactly the same things that they are and do. And the prescriptions written by the Ancients are the same as prescriptions written by today’s sages (although we have to find real sages and not the false prophets put up by today’s hatemongers).

    A great approach, @rushbabe49! So often these efforts need to be about balance, not trying to destroy the other side (especially when we’re dealing with True Believers. Human nature is human nature!

    • #13
  14. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Scripture too contains many admonitions to retell the stories of the past so that the people would remember what G-d has done for His people, and what His people have done (and can do) when they follow Him. 

    • #14
  15. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Human nature is human nature!

    Most people will probably agree that *animals*, at least the higher mammals (dogs, cats, etc) have something resembling a human complement of emotions…I suspect that this is even more true among ‘Progressives’ than among the population in general.

    So, one could argue:  If your dog or cat is recognizably *like you* in certain ways, wouldn’t this be even more true of *humans* from 200 or 2000 or 3000 years ago?

    • #15
  16. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    It might be important to say that the new stories we are creating are distortions, filled with hate and confusion. What does this state of affairs do to our children, our nation?

    I used to think it was about over-correcting for the “I cannot tell a lie” nonsense we used to give children, but no, it’s an effort at National self-annihilation.

    There is at least some myth in every nation’s story, and in every person’s story. I suspect these myths are the stuff of our aspirations; kill one, and the other dies too.

    Edit: Aaaaaand this is what happens when I don’t read the other comments first. @skipsul said what I said better and said so much else besides.

    • #16
  17. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Washington and the cherry tree are clearly apocryphal. But sometimes it is the apocryphal that is most important. Elevate a figure for emulation and then attribute characteristics to be practiced. The reverse is also true: Diminish a figure of earned scorn and then caution against emulation lest a similar or worse fate await.

    Point taken! One of the reasons I like to read well-written biographies of the Founders is that you can see their victories and disasters, their strengths and weaknesses. It’s like the Bible too–no character in the Bible is perfect!

    Well, there is that one dude. 

    • #17
  18. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    My sister says this all the time – we’re not passing on the stories, both history and personal so that youth have a sense of themselves.  It’s eerily being replaced by selective stories, and fueling the mindset of fear and shame, under the innocent banner of political correctness.  These are the tactics of dictators.

    • #18
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    My sister says this all the time – we’re not passing on the stories, both history and personal so that youth have a sense of themselves. It’s eerily being replaced by selective stories, and fueling the mindset of fear and shame, under the innocent banner of political correctness. These are the tactics of dictators.

    I hadn’t considered that we are allowing PC also guide the personal stories we share, too. Heaven knows, we wouldn’t want to offend someone with a ribald story! Thanks, FSC.

    • #19
  20. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Susan, you put your finger on something that has troubled me for some time. We have no heroes any more. No one is there as an example of how life should be lived.

    It started out as a general effort to show that nobody’s perfect, that all the gods have feet of clay. Natural human impulse, compounded by the media need to be outrageous to gather attention. Tearing people down got to be an important part of journalism. I’m thinking of a couple of books I’ve read and narrated, one on TR’s whistlestop campaign for VP in 1900 and one on silent film star Buster Keaton. Newspapers either loved or hated TR, and the haters recycled the same stories, making them a little more evil every cycle. Keaton managed to lead a pretty much blameless life but his good friend Fatty Arbuckle was utterly destroyed by an incident that may not even have happened.

    Fast forward to today. The politics of personal destruction are in full swing…can anyone survive the nomination process, when if they can’t find something stupid you did when you were in high school, they’ll make something up? Media people and celebrities are not people, they are brands, carefully managed and/or destroyed by professionals. We are systematically tearing down our history. We have generations of people who were Zinned in school so they believe our country is irredeemably racist. We are told repeatedly that we should be ashamed of being white, of being male, of living in the highest standard of living ever achieved. Not only do our children have nothing to be proud of and no one to admire, they are presented with shame that they cannot redeem and existential crises that they cannot avert. And we wonder why they shoot up schools or commit suicide.

    • #20
  21. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    Susan, you put your finger on something that has troubled me for some time. We have no heroes any more. No one is there as an example of how life should be lived.

    It started out as a general effort to show that nobody’s perfect, that all the gods have feet of clay. Natural human impulse, compounded by the media need to be outrageous to gather attention. Tearing people down got to be an important part of journalism. I’m thinking of a couple of books I’ve read and narrated, one on TR’s whistlestop campaign for VP in 1900 and one on silent film star Buster Keaton. Newspapers either loved or hated TR, and the haters recycled the same stories, making them a little more evil every cycle. Keaton managed to lead a pretty much blameless life but his good friend Fatty Arbuckle was utterly destroyed by an incident that may not even have happened.

    Fast forward to today. The politics of personal destruction are in full swing…can anyone survive the nomination process, when if they can’t find something stupid you did when you were in high school, they’ll make something up? Media people and celebrities are not people, they are brands, carefully managed and/or destroyed by professionals. We are systematically tearing down our history. We have generations of people who were Zinned in school so they believe our country is irredeemably racist. We are told repeatedly that we should be ashamed of being white, of being male, of living in the highest standard of living ever achieved. Not only do our children have nothing to be proud of and no one to admire, they are presented with shame that they cannot redeem and existential crises that they cannot avert. And we wonder why they shoot up schools or commit suicide.

    Thar would be a good post – today’s heroes and role models.  They’re out there, but drowned out – many real heroes prefer to stay under the radar and work quietly.

    • #21
  22. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    My sister says this all the time – we’re not passing on the stories, both history and personal so that youth have a sense of themselves. It’s eerily being replaced by selective stories, and fueling the mindset of fear and shame, under the innocent banner of political correctness. These are the tactics of dictators.

    “We need to recycle, or the very Earth we live on will be destroyed. Your parents; do they recycle? How much do they recycle?” 

    • #22
  23. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    Susan, you put your finger on something that has troubled me for some time. We have no heroes any more. No one is there as an example of how life should be lived.

    It started out as a general effort to show that nobody’s perfect, that all the gods have feet of clay. Natural human impulse, compounded by the media need to be outrageous to gather attention. Tearing people down got to be an important part of journalism. I’m thinking of a couple of books I’ve read and narrated, one on TR’s whistlestop campaign for VP in 1900 and one on silent film star Buster Keaton. Newspapers either loved or hated TR, and the haters recycled the same stories, making them a little more evil every cycle. Keaton managed to lead a pretty much blameless life but his good friend Fatty Arbuckle was utterly destroyed by an incident that may not even have happened.

    Fast forward to today. The politics of personal destruction are in full swing…can anyone survive the nomination process, when if they can’t find something stupid you did when you were in high school, they’ll make something up? Media people and celebrities are not people, they are brands, carefully managed and/or destroyed by professionals. We are systematically tearing down our history. We have generations of people who were Zinned in school so they believe our country is irredeemably racist. We are told repeatedly that we should be ashamed of being white, of being male, of living in the highest standard of living ever achieved. Not only do our children have nothing to be proud of and no one to admire, they are presented with shame that they cannot redeem and existential crises that they cannot avert. And we wonder why they shoot up schools or commit suicide.

    Who needs heroes when we have victims to celebrate? 

    • #23
  24. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    TBA (View Comment):

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    My sister says this all the time – we’re not passing on the stories, both history and personal so that youth have a sense of themselves. It’s eerily being replaced by selective stories, and fueling the mindset of fear and shame, under the innocent banner of political correctness. These are the tactics of dictators.

    “We need to recycle, or the very Earth we live on will be destroyed. Your parents; do they recycle? How much do they recycle?” If not, we’ll recycle them.

    FIFY

    • #24
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    Susan, you put your finger on something that has troubled me for some time. We have no heroes any more. No one is there as an example of how life should be lived.

    It started out as a general effort to show that nobody’s perfect, that all the gods have feet of clay. Natural human impulse, compounded by the media need to be outrageous to gather attention. Tearing people down got to be an important part of journalism. I’m thinking of a couple of books I’ve read and narrated, one on TR’s whistlestop campaign for VP in 1900 and one on silent film star Buster Keaton. Newspapers either loved or hated TR, and the haters recycled the same stories, making them a little more evil every cycle. Keaton managed to lead a pretty much blameless life but his good friend Fatty Arbuckle was utterly destroyed by an incident that may not even have happened.

    Fast forward to today. The politics of personal destruction are in full swing…can anyone survive the nomination process, when if they can’t find something stupid you did when you were in high school, they’ll make something up? Media people and celebrities are not people, they are brands, carefully managed and/or destroyed by professionals. We are systematically tearing down our history. We have generations of people who were Zinned in school so they believe our country is irredeemably racist. We are told repeatedly that we should be ashamed of being white, of being male, of living in the highest standard of living ever achieved. Not only do our children have nothing to be proud of and no one to admire, they are presented with shame that they cannot redeem and existential crises that they cannot avert. And we wonder why they shoot up schools or commit suicide.

    Thank you for this insightful comment, @douglaspratt! I agree with @frontseatcat; one of you should write an OP about heroes and role models. They are hard to find. I hope one of you will consider it!

    • #25
  26. Goldgeller Member
    Goldgeller
    @Goldgeller

    I don’t know when this phenomenon started. I don’t really think it has to deal with “cancel culture.” There is most likely a tendency for every generation to think that history largely begins with them. It makes sense because facts, observations, and trends don’t actually speak for themselves (in the abstract). At the same time, existing theories that would cause them to make sense are also always being challenged so there is a bimodal premium on complete novelty or maintaining a standard/traditional line of thought. 

    I see it with undergrads. I also think the salience of stuff that is happening right now means people are trying to keep up with this day’s news and don’t see the value of looking back to history. 

    • #26
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Goldgeller (View Comment):
    I see it with undergrads. I also think the salience of stuff that is happening right now means people are trying to keep up with this day’s news and don’t see the value of looking back to history. 

    I think that young people start out that way, but if they are taught that history has something of value to teach all of us, I would hope that they would test that theory and discover that history not only has lessons that would benefit us, but they would better understand how we arrived at this present time. But you’re right, @goldgeller; our youth have no history to even study, and therefore believe the only history that matters is the one they create. Such a loss.

    • #27
  28. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Goldgeller (View Comment):
    I see it with undergrads. I also think the salience of stuff that is happening right now means people are trying to keep up with this day’s news and don’t see the value of looking back to history.

    I think that young people start out that way, but if they are taught that history has something of value to teach all of us, I would hope that they would test that theory and discover that history not only has lessons that would benefit us, but they would better understand how we arrived at this present time. But you’re right, @goldgeller; our youth have no history to even study, and therefore believe the only history that matters is the one they create. Such a loss.

    It’s not like they wanted to read history even before it was Zinnified. I said elsewhere that literature is wasted on the young, and I think pretty much all education is; they quickly become bored or frustrated. 

    Sure, childrens’ minds are ‘open’ and can learn quickly, but I sometimes wonder what would happen if we put them to work at age (for example) ten and then let them choose whether to keep working or go to school. 

    • #28
  29. Goldgeller Member
    Goldgeller
    @Goldgeller

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I think that young people start out that way, but if they are taught that history has something of value to teach all of us, I would hope that they would test that theory and discover that history not only has lessons that would benefit us, but they would better understand how we arrived at this present time. But you’re right, @goldgeller; our youth have no history to even study, and therefore believe the only history that matters is the one they create. Such a loss. 

    (I’ll just say, I see some of the ahistorical theorizing in grad students as well.) Good points! The bolded part: I think this is probably a newer post-modern development. If all previous narratives are actually coercive power structures, students should create their own history and pick and choose what makes them feel good or angry. That’s a newer problem I think.

    @robtgilsdorf

    It very well could be. We ask a lot of kids and maybe it isn’t the best way to go. But I’m not sure putting them to work would be the best way either. When I was young I liked to read, but what I was given for literature wasn’t that exciting for me. That could be the issue. Maybe students are forced to read stuff they don’t like (a dry history text) and then decide that history books must be that way. 

     

    • #29
  30. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    TBA (View Comment):
    Sure, childrens’ minds are ‘open’ and can learn quickly, but I sometimes wonder what would happen if we put them to work at age (for example) ten and then let them choose whether to keep working or go to school. 

    Um m m  mm. . . .  I don’t think so, TBA.  ;-) I hated history in high school and graduated as a history major from college. It’s all about making it come alive, and I had a couple of fabulous professors in college who showed me how to appreciate history.

    • #30
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