The idea of historical revisionism is puzzling to me

When I heard Kate Smith was being added to the long list of past racists, I wasn’t upset. I don’t like listening to her. And playing God Bless America during the Seventh Inning Stretch is not only unnecessary and inappropriate, it borders on violating the Constitution. The same overreaction that produced religion during baseball games was responsible for In God We Trust in the Fifties.

Statue of Kate Smith in Philadelphia, removed in April 2019 amid allegations of racism
Statue of Kate Smith in Philadelphia, removed in April 2019 amid allegations of racism

When you think of the greed and dishonesty associated with the settling of America, current inhabitants should be relieved whatever Almighty is running things hasn’t obliterated every white human and given this continent back to the original residents. So I’m not real heartbroken about not having to change channels during the seventh inning of any Yankees home game.

At the same time, we’re offended by someone that sang a song mentioning Darkies in the thirties? Really? Won’t we have to ban nearly everyone from that era? The idea of historical revisionism is puzzling to me. Humans are inept at learning from our mistakes to begin with, and when we start trying to make every historical period mirror the current one, things fall apart quickly.

We get up in arms about various displays of racism, hate speech, and such, but allow the principles of this behavior to not only exist but flourish. We need to have an honest discussion about bigotry. I’ve been hearing that since high school.

Tribalism is an inherent human trait and trying to eradicate it by pretending some of us don’t discriminate is just plain stupid. We have long taken comfort in being around those with similar beliefs, habits, customs, physical characteristics; so the idea we can easily resolve tribalism is suspect.

In addition, we have this annoying habit of grouping those “Others” together in lockstep, while allowing members of our tribe, regardless of reason for inclusion, with individual responsibility. When one of our own does something stupid, disgusting, or inappropriate, we blame only that person. When one of “them” does it; “Well, you know, they’re all like that.”

But maybe the most disturbing thing we do when trying to project our modern woke feelings on past historical periods is thinking we’ve finally got everything figured out. As if our modern version of civilization is without flaws.

The Earth’s inhabitants have known for at least fifty years that we are destroying our only available living space. Yet we do nothing except argue about whether that is true. Greed, fear, and ignorance are still our go to motivating emotions. Assuming there is still a Planet Earth in a hundred years, how do we think the population will feel toward us?

Will future inhabitants honor our hard work in eradicating bigoted behavior, and be impressed we were able to cleanse ourselves of our racist past by toppling a few statues and removing offensive holidays? Or will they wonder how we sat and watched the Constitution disintegrate.

Will the world’s leaders in 2119 use our hard work as a model for adjusting to problems on a planetary scale, or wonder how we lost our way on big problems while dealing with things like proper gender identification and making sure no one with controversial beliefs was allowed to speak publicly.

And surely, in a hundred years, what will the residents think of Thoughts and Prayers?

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Image Credit: Statue of Kate Smith in Philadelphia, removed in April 2019 amid allegations of racism, photo taken by Peetlesnumber1 (flickr/CC).
Mike Cox

Mike Cox

Mike Cox currently writes a weekly column in South Carolina for the Columbia Star called "It's Not a Criticism, It's an Observation." He is trying to grow old as gracefully as possible without condemning the current generation in charge to doom. Each day this task gets harder as the overwhelming evidence mounts. He currently has two published books; Finding Daddy Cox, and October Saturdays. His columns have won three South Carolina Press Association awards since 2003. Mike has three sons and two grandchildren and lives in Irmo, Sc, just outside of Columbia.