#123 – Wise Choices

America never was America to me.
Langston Hughes

Only a very catatonic political leader would want to reverse course and return America to any time in its past. “Let’s make America great again?” Life has never been “great” at any time in our history except for those caught up in romantic and patriotic delusions. Take, for example, the most famous 19th century expert on the history of the United States George Bancroft (1800-1891) who wrote a multi-volume History of the United States.

Bancroft saw the history of America as he wanted to see it, not as it was—much as many Americans still do today. “The sovereignty of the people is here a conceded axiom, and the laws, established upon that basis, are cherished with faithful patriotism. While nations of Europe aspire after change, our constitution engages the fond admiration of the people by which it has been established. Prosperity follows the execution of even justice; invention is quickened by the freedom of competition; and labor rewarded with sure and unexampled returns.” (l)  Laughable if it didn’t so sadly deviate from reality.

We also use our history to project an identity we want our posterity to see and believe. In Washington D.C. the nuns of the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School posted an “official history” for several years on the school’s website. The sisters who established an elite academy ran a “Saturday school, free to any young girl who wished to learn—including slaves, at a time when public schools were almost nonexistent and teaching slaves to read was illegal.” (2)

What the convent’s archives revealed was that no enslaved children were taught to read or write. Instead, a much darker truth was revealed. “The Georgetown Visitation sisters owned at least 107 enslaved men, women and children, the records show. And they sold dozens of those people to pay debts and to help finance the expansion of their school and the construction of a new chapel.” (2)  It’s in the nature of our collectives, whether nations or religious communities to create stories that satisfy our need for an acceptable identity. Denial is indeed not a river in Egypt, it is a universal need to escape taking responsibility for our self-destructive behavior.

Nations don’t exist in isolation even though they strive to create a story that feeds their need to feel prosperous, powerful and secure. For example, leaders of Asian nations know that both their domestic politics and economic futures rely on Beijing. Whereas China offers financial incentives to influence the behavior of their neighbors, the United States offers weapons. “Countries that purchase American weapons bind their militaries and their foreign policies to the United States.” (3)

The nations of the Global Village will have to find a different choice than that between money and military power if they are to have a viable future. “Many of the 20 countries caught between Beijing and Washington face an impossible choice between Chinese wealth and American security.” (3)

As we are beginning to realize, virtually all individuals and human communities create their own fantasies about who they are and were. These delusions distort their worldviews (beliefs, attitudes and values), their identities (who they think they are) and their behaviors (life-enhancing responses or self-destructive reactions). How can we learn to face the truth and take responsibility for our behaviors?

Click on the link below for some insights related to that question.

Insight # 123:  The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.    Albert Einstein (4)

Link:

References:

  1. Lukacs, John. “Bancroft: the Historian as Celebrity.” American Heritage. October, 1961, page 66.
  2. Swarns, Rachel L. “The Nuns Who Bought and Sold Human Beings.” The New York Times Sunday Review.” August 4, 2019, page 1.
  3. Fisher, Max and Audrey Carlsen. “How the Rise of China Is Challenging Longtime American Dominance in Asia.” The New York Times. March 16, 2018, page A8.
  4. Terwilliger, Cate. “Sixth Sense Trek.” The Denver Post. Page 5G.

 

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