Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Don't Know Much About History

Sadly, the headline is true. I don't know much about history. I lay the blame squarely on the "teachers" in high school and college that made sure the topic was as tasty as dry unleavened bread. That's been sitting on the kitchen counter for three days. And gotten dusty. Memorizing dates and names and being able to draw the borders of ancient kingdoms on a blank map . . . woo fucking hoo. Who the heck ever thought it would be a good idea to make a class called "History of Western Civilization" that only lasts a semester? Of course there were "United States History" courses as well, that were just as superficial and boring.

Now that I'm getting closer to being all grown up, however, I've been noticing that certain episodes or event do catch my interest, and I wish I knew more about them. For example, when I took my fabled Route 66 vacation a few years back, I found out about the Navajo Code Talkers. Neat stuff that appealed to my love of espionage and my apparently inherited interest in cryptography (Thanks, Dad!) I also noted, on my first trip to London, how the general public seemed to know a lot about British history, and they've got a lot more of it over there. It was humbling.

So when I noticed a sig on somebody's Slashdot post that said "The United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian doctrine. - George Washington", it caught my eye. Take away the cherry tree and the dollar tossing stories and there's not much left in the GW section of my brain. I looked around and discovered that the quote isn't something that ol' George came up with sitting around the tavern, tanked on a couple of ciders. No, it's actually from "The Treaty of Tripoli," which was initially written while GW was President, although there's apparently no evidence that he wrote it.

There is a well-researched article about this, and a lot more refuting the concept that the United States was founded as "a Christian Nation" here.

George was fairly mellow though, in comparison to Virginia's golden boy Thomas Jefferson. He came up with this doozy -
And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.

I gathered that one from this site, but it's easily searched out any number of other places online.

The point to all this rambling is that it's too bad I never knew about this before. As I find myself more politically aware and involved, it's going to be necessary to have a freakin' clue about what was happening 200 or so years ago. Maybe I should have paid more attention to Schoolhouse Rock.

Current Music
Pet Shop Boys - Art (from the keen PopArtMix box set)


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