History Is History, Patriotic or Not
The WSJ op-ed by Donald Kagan says, “Democracy Requires a Patriotic Education.” He cites Thomas Jefferson for support, not thinking that Thomas Jefferson was not a British patriot, If he had been, the United States would probably not exist. By his definition, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, and most of the leaders of the late 20th century were not patriots. They refused to fight for their country (the U.S.) during the Vietnam War. They rebelled against their government, which wanted to send troops to Vietnam; they didn’t go. They had excuses, but they did not do what the government wanted them to do. By Kagan’s definition, they were (are) not patriots.
Kagan rails against the intellectuals in universities who encouraged their students to examine reasons why the 9/11 terrorists may have done what they did. He mistakes the conflict of intellectuals versus regular people for the actual conflict between generations. The baby boomers who avoided war in the 1960s are the professors whom he denigrates as intellectuals. They are just rationalizing their own refusal to fight for their country years ago. The new, student generation which does not have the draft to contend with is less concerned about sending some poor rednecks to fight a war for them. And, yes, some are patriots who will go and fight, just as many young men in the 1960s went and fought in Vietnam. Fewer go today if you compare the number of individuals who fought in the Vietnam War and the number who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. The proportion of the population that serves today is much smaller that it was during Vietnam. But the elites did not fight then and will not fight now.
This is relevant in my neighborhood. The school board of Jefferson County, Colorado, wants to throw out the curriculum for the high school AP history course, because it is not patriotic enough. The school board wants to remove history about dissent and resistance to the government. They want to teach history as they wished it had happened, not as it actually happened. They wish the rebellion against the draft in the 1960s had never happened, along with civil rights protests, prohibition, the Civil War, and many other unpleasant episodes in US history, but they did happen, and if you ignore them, you are not teaching history, but you are just distributing some sort of propaganda. Welcome to the old Soviet Union! Will history be taught from little red books like those Mao distributed in China?