Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Do Americans Lack a Historical Consciousness?

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Do Americans lack a historical consciousness? Well, I am starting to think so anyway - at least some of them do. Lately, I have been going full throttle with reading, writing, and discussing American history. Why not right? I went to college for a million years, why not do what I was trained to do?

At any rate, I am especially interested in engaging the public - to find out what they know...what they want to know...what they think about US history.

Twitter has been absolutely wonderful for this. Real time conversations with real people! Imagine that!! Who knew just a few short years ago that this would be how we interact?

But here's what I have discovered - people say the darndest things. Oh sure I have had some great conversations with some very knowledgeable folks. But I have also run across a sort of alarming theme. Many Americans have no sense of their own history.

Case in point: I recently stumbled upon an Obama critic who claimed that the president was the "most divisive POTUS in American history."

REALLY??? Let's see, I can think of at least one time in our history when things got just a tad stickier. You know...when Abraham Lincoln was elected, eleven states seceded from the Union, war broke out, and 620,000 people died. I would say that the political climate of the mid-nineteenth century was just a hair more fractious than things today.

The Civil War Preservation Trust suggests that the war is the "central event in America's historical consciousness." Now, I love the CWPT but I think they have missed the mark - at least for those Americans whose historical consciousness extends only as far back as their own lifetime.

Well anyway - I called the Twitter guy out and he just got all angry and defensive. Whatever - choose your battles, right?

So - that's my observation for this morning...Off I go to engage the public. The good news? I am finding more and more forums that discuss history from an informed position. Maybe all is not lost. Huzzah!


PS - if you happen to read this and think I am full of it - let me know! I welcome all comments and criticism. I know....tell me on Twitter :)


  1. Keith full of crap never comes to mind, when it comes to your posts. We all just look at our nations history differently from each other.

  2. I couldn't agree more. People don't care about what's going on outside their own world at this very moment, why would they care about what somebody did before they existed? The problem with this attitude is that it taints any political discussion because people make statements such as the one referenced above. Sadly, for most people history is akin to algebra or chemistry; something they *had* to learn when they were young, but promptly forgot when given the opportunity.