Choose your heroes wisely.
Or better yet, avoid lionizing people in general. And question everything.
It does humanity no service to whitewash history. In fact, it can be quite detrimental. We need to look at the events of our past with a clear, unflinching honesty and tell it like it is. Especially to our children.
Many years ago I read a book called “Lies My Teacher Told Me” and it blew my mind. I’ve always been fascinated by history because I took a lot of art history in college (being an art major of sorts) and the art came alive when it could be placed in its social, political and cultural environment.
Ever since then, I’ve always been a seeker of the most comprehensive and accurate information about history. I’ve read other fun tomes such as “Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” by Jared Diamond and the “Don’t Know Much About” series by Kenneth C. Davis. And one of the things I read over and over again is what an absolute bastard Christopher Columbus actually was. The Oatmeal lays it out quite well here:
All of the American history you learned in school is just one giant propaganda campaign to make us look like this was all supposed to happen and it was good. Manifest Destiny, baby. Try convincing all of the dead and displaced native populations or the Africans brought here as slaves that their lot in life was a good thing. Even today, our society exists on the backs of almost slave labor and wars occurring all over the world.
Until we can own it, we can’t change it. Until we can look at the behavior of our ancestors and get that we are a product of it, we will keep trying to pawn off the horrors and injustices on someone else. The world is the way it is because of heroes and villains. And sometimes the only difference between the two is perspective.
Seriously, The Oatmeal rocks! Happy Bartolomé Day!