A nation with no pride in its past will feel little confidence in its future.
If citizens look upon the origins of their society with guilt and confusion, they’ll find scant reason to identify with its fate or to repair its shortcomings. The current notion that America’s undeniable power and privilege rest upon shameful foundations poisons our public discourse, embitters the national mood, and paralyzes all efforts for constructive change. We worry over anti-Americanism abroad, but echo its primary charges here at home. While all objective indications identify the residents of the United States as among the most fortunate human beings on the planet, much of the public refuses to acknowledge our blessings because, according the widespread acceptance of politically correct America-bashing lies, we don’t deserve them.
Those who embrace the idea that the USA came into being through vicious genocide against native populations, built its economy through the unique oppression of African slaves, facilitated corporate exploitation of immigrant masses, and damaged countless other nations with its imperialist policies, will naturally assume that we’re paying the price for these crimes and abuses – viewing an allegedly dark present as the inevitable product of a purportedly dark past. Negative assumptions about our guilty forebears allow contemporary Americans to wallow in self-pity without accepting blame of any sort for our much-discussed sorry state. In a typical aside, New York Times book reviewer William Grimes laments that American “success…came at a price….for the descendents of the colonists, who have inherited a tainted legacy.”
This ‘tainted legacy,’ this endlessly analyzed burden of embarrassment and apology, has brought a bittersweet or even decidedly sour flavor to great national celebrations that formerly featured joy and jingoism. For Thanksgiving, 2007, the Seattle City Schools sent out a letter signed by the district’s “Director of Equity, Race & Learning Support” and addressed to all faculty and staff warning that for many students, Turkey Day represented “a time of mourning, of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land….As currently celebrated in this country, ‘Thanksgiving’ is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal….”