Lions, Poles, and Japs! Oh My!

Several of my Polish friends spoke of having to re-learn some elements of history after the fall of Communism in the late 1980s. History (as well as art, music, the social sciences, and even the physical sciences) was dominated by ideology. Because Communism represented the pinnacle of human achievement, something “the masses” for centuries had been working for, it could not be wrong. It had become a religion, in that sense. And so the mistakes and crimes of the Soviet government were recast as wise planning that had been necessary; the achievements of capitalist countries (read: America and Western Europe) were due solely to capitalists’ deviousness, usually stealing the ideas from the honorable Socialists.

With the fall of the Soviet empire, it seemed that such nonsense would never happen again. Yes, well, it has. As Putin seeks to rebuild Russian strength, he’s turning to nationalism, stoking a pride in the achievements of Soviet Russia. This means recasting a few, unpleasant episodes in Soviet history. No worries, though: “We’ve done it before,” Russian media services must be thinking. “We can do it again.” And so youngsters in Russia will be learning “history” that’s a little different from, well, reality.

A few highlights:

  • The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was not an agreement with Nazi Germany to split Poland between the two of them. It was a defensive move, for Poland and Japan were planning a two-pronged attack on the Soviet Union. (Source)
  • World War II began when Germany attacked Russia in June 1941. The rape of Poland that began almost two years earlier was a defensive move, remember? (Source)
  • Stalin’s purges and mass murders were entirely rational and logical — for the good of the country. (Source)

The bottom line: Stalin is a hero who was defending the country from malicious outside influence and outright Polish/German aggression.

The temptation is to mutter something about this never happening in America, but of course it does. The whole premise behind Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (Amazon) is just that. It’s a play on the maxim, “history is written by the winners,” which means the losers are misrepresented and underrepresented.

A few highlights:

  • America was founded as a Christian nation.
  • The rise of American power has always been a benign influence on the world.
  • American foreign policy has always been a beacon of reason and justice; America respects democracy worldwide.

Not all of these myths are taught or were taught in school, but they are spread evenly enough in our collective conscious (and conscience, possibly) that they might as well have been. And, to be fair to America, the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation is not all that morally repulsive (it only becomes so when one sees that believe in action); the notion that Stalin’s purges were ethically justifiable is completely morally repulsive.

But there is a level playing field now: thank God for the Internet, that beacon of tried and true information. It will surely save Russians and Americans alike from the national myths.

Source: the beatroot

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3 thoughts on “Lions, Poles, and Japs! Oh My!

  1. Papa says:

    It’s difficult to find an original document that says this is an established Christian nation. However, one cannot read anything about this nation without reading the tremendous faith that the founders had and exercised. You can’t tour our national capitol and not see the numerous references to God, “In God We Trust”, etc. Notice the very first document about the establishment of this nation, the Declaration of Independence:

    “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…”

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

    There are excellent books which quote “book, chapter and verse” regarding the strong Christian heritage of our nation and influence of our founding fathers. However, I thoroughly agree that the internet becomes a great leveling field because it allows the research on this subject to be so easy.

  2. gls says:

    Well, my comment about the Internet was really meant to be ironic — so much of the information on it is simply trash that’s taken authoritatively by so many.

    The question at hand seems to be whether this is a nation founded by Christians or a nation founded as a Christian nation. Just because many who are regarded as founding fathers were strong Christians doesn’t mean that they meant to found a nation on Christianity. You quote the Decl. of Independence, which has theistic language in it; the First Amendment, however, clearly states a neutral stance: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion […]”

    It’s interesting that the “In God We Trust” didn’t appear on coinage until the 1860s and on paper money until the 1950s.

    It seems if the Founding Fathers wanted us to be a Christian nation, they would have been a little more clear on the subject.

    Not only that, but many of the FFs were deists: they didn’t believe in a personal God that intervened in human affairs. Jefferson created his own version of the New Testament, striking out everything that smacked of the supernatural. In other words, the idea of “God” Jefferson alludes to in the Decl. of Ind. is most decidedly not your idea of “God.”

  3. Papa says:

    I think that the Founding Fathers in writing the first amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” didn’t mean that there was no place for Christian values in civic government. Note the misuse of history:

    On New Year’s Day, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, endorsing the persecuted Baptists’ aspirations for religious liberty. The First Amendment, he wrote, denied Congress the authority to establish a religion or prohibit its free exercise, “thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
    In 1947, the U.S. Supreme Court “rediscovered” Jefferson’s metaphor: “In the words of Jefferson,” the justices declared, the First Amendment “erect[ed] ‘a wall of separation between church and State’ … [that] must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.” This landmark ruling in Everson v. Board of Education had enormous repercussions for the role of religion in public life. The Court, it would seem, sought to legitimate its decision in this case by appealing to a giant figure in American history. The Jeffersonian metaphor may be the Court’s most celebrated use of history in contemporary jurisprudence. It is, in fact, a misuse of history because Jefferson’s “wall” misrepresents constitutional principles in several important ways. …

    First, Jefferson’s metaphor emphasizes separation between church and state—unlike the First Amendment, which speaks in terms of the non-establishment and free exercise of religion. …

    Second, a wall is a bilateral barrier that inhibits the activities of both the civil government and religion—unlike the First Amendment, which imposes restrictions on civil government only…

    Third, having assumed the separation of church and state, the civil state (often acting through the judiciary) has then presumed to define what is “religion” and what are the appropriate realms, duties, and functions of the “church” in a civil society.This has given the civil state practical, de facto priority over the church, subjecting the latter to the jurisdiction of the former….

    The use of Jefferson’s metaphoric wall to exclude religion from public life is at war with our cultural traditions insofar as it shows a callous indifference toward religion. It also offends basic notions of freedom of religious exercise, expression, and association in a pluralistic society. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s “high and impregnable” wall has redefined First Amendment principles, transforming a bulwark of religious liberty into an instrument of intolerance and censorship. (Source: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/thepastinthepresent/historymatters/misusinghistory.html)

    In my words, the civic government presumes to affect the practice of religion but denies the religious society to affect civic government. I do agree with your observation that the FF did not establish this country as a Christian nation – that would be a violation of “establishing” a religion – verses being established by men of Christian values or who were Christians.

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