Title

Un-American History and the First Great American War over Collective Memory

Authors

Evan George

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2003

Abstract

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole in a speech to the national convention of the American Legion in 1995, condemned those who try to ?disparage America? and the nation?s unified ?language, history, and values?. At the core of this subversive movement, he said, were ?educators and professors? who worked to ?denigrate America?s story while sanitizing and glorifying other cultures?.[1] This of course was not a new or innovative attack spearheaded by Dole, but merely indicative of the twentieth-century American tradition of fighting to control American collective memory. The notion of collective memory refers to a more-or-less unified historical consciousness, whereby citizens understand their nation?s history in similar terms. Few events in history are ever uncontested, however, certain narratives win general acceptance over others, even if only temporarily. The historical accounts of the past that children grow up reading in school largely determine collective memory. More often than not the battlefield to dictate American history has been occupied by reactionary politicians and interest groups on one side, historians and educators on the other. Senator Dole?s attack on un-American history relied unabashedly on cold-war rhetoric that developed out of the History War to end all history wars that raged after WWII. The most basic objections all of these critics lodged were based on what they perceived as 1) collectivist or socialist bias towards American history/economy and 2) internationalist support of world government and lack of American nationalism. Sympathy for anti-communist sentiments perhaps provided a cover for the right to push this historical agenda more effectively. In the end, the editing of progressive historical narratives helped restore the absolutist, fundamentalist way of telling history from the pages of American education. Historians of today have been uninterested in recognizing the successes these right-wing activists had in swinging American historical narratives further and further right to eventually land in the bland conformist center that we understand the Fifties to have become. [1] Tom Engelhardt and Edward Linenthal. History Wars . Metropolitan Books; New York. 1996. pg 4.

Advisor

L. Dumenil

Department

history

Support

Support provided by:Ford Summer Research Fellowship

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