As they say, history is written by the victors, and the United States of America has been the victor quite a lot. For this reason, they have gotten to write most of their own history, and it tends to be quite positive and rosy, and full of little vignettes that make particular groups pet theories look rather grand. However, the truth is that when victors write history, they often leave out the unpleasant details, and even insert little bits of propaganda. In today’s article, we will go over the truth behind several myths of American history.
10. The Emancipation Proclamation Freed The Slaves, And That Was That
As far as many Americans are concerned, the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves, the sweet sound of freedom rang across the land, and all was well… until those pesky Jim Crow laws came about. However, after the Emancipation Proclamation and before Jim Crow really got going, Congress passed the 13th Amendment, which officially outlawed slavery, and freed the remaining people held in bondage — except those who had committed felonies and were slaves of the state, whose labor the state could sell as it wished.
The Emancipation Proclamation only freed the slaves who were in the states in open Rebellion, which didn’t even include every major slaveholding state, and overall accounted for only about 3/4ths of the slaves in the country. While it was a big move, it was also only a presidential move that Lincoln could use because of the war, and did not outlaw slavery or free all of the slaves — that would came later, after the North beat the South soundly into the ground.
9. The United States Entered World War II In Order To Save The Jewish People
In many people’s minds, the United States entered World War II in order to save the Jewish people from the evil Nazis. We were indisputably the good guys, did great good in the world, and even though many Jewish people suffered under Hitler, we were able to stop it and give them their own country — with the help of England (and, we’ll grudgingly admit, the Soviets). However, the fact of the matter is that several countries in Europe, as well as the United States of America, knew Jewish people were being unfairly rounded up for some time, and had a pretty decent idea that they weren’t being taken away for their health.
However, many of those countries turned Jewish refugees away, and in some cases it is documented that refugees turned away from America ended up back in the hands of the Nazis. The truth is that while the allies were still the better guys, that doesn’t mean they were quite the good guys many movies make them out to be. The United States joined the war officially after being attacked by the Japanese, and the United Kingdom and France were fighting for their very survival against an enemy who caught them with their pants down. Of course, saying it was all about saving the Jews was a great way, after the fact, to excuse any of our own war crimes.
8. “In God We Trust” And “One Nation Under God” Were Founding Father Approved
Whenever anyone talks about removing “In God We Trust” from our money, or about protesting the words “Under God” In the Pledge of Allegiance, people will talk about how even if we should separate church and state, it’s still a proud American tradition that goes back to the Founding Fathers, and that, thus, we should keep saying it, if for nothing else than perhaps historical reasons or nostalgia. However, these claims are simply untrue. As many historians of the Revolutionary era know, the Founding Fathers were hardly the most evangelical Christian types, and wouldn’t have even been interested in putting such a thing on money.
On the contrary, the inclusion of “In God We Trust” was added in the ’50s under President Eisenhower, and not just the words “Under God” but the entire pledge of allegiance as we know it (which was also first made a big thing back in the 1950s). These “Proud American Traditions” have hardly been around for the better part of a century, so they certainly were not Founding Father approved.
7. General George Armstrong Custer Was A Brave, Intelligent Leader Slaughtered By Natives
General George Armstrong Custer is known as one of the last, and easily most famous of the “Indian fighters” among the old West American military. In fact, he is pretty much the poster boy for how the brave American patriots fought off the “evil natives” and secured the land for the United States of America. However, his legacy being so shiny is because after he died, his wife spent an incredibly amount of time lobbying to make movies about him and make a stunning, and thoroughly lie based and inaccurate hagiography about his life.
While portrayed as brave, thoughtful and a good military commander in most sources, the truth is that he was known for wearing flamboyant white fringe while riding into battle shouting and whooping, trying to make as big of a show as possible. He was a grandstander and often made decisions more based on grandiosity than actual, solid military planning. His final “Last Stand” wasn’t so much a brave last battle, but him pursuing natives and looking for glory. The old story was that he was ambushed and they fought bravely to the last man, but now military historians who have examined the battlefield say he did not properly scout first, and went foolishly charging into a much greater force — after that, the outcome was inevitable for foolish General Custer and his brigade of merry men.
6. The Native Americans Have No Right To Complain, As They Sold Us Most Of Their Land
Just getting past the incredible amount of reneged treaties, and actual stolen land, some people point out that certain tracts of native land were indeed sold to white people, and that whether that price was fair or not, a deal is a deal. However, we have to understand that in terms of land ownership, the natives didn’t think of it the way we do. When many “sold” land to the white settlers, in their minds they were really only paying them to temporarily share the land, as no one can actually “own the land” — it belongs ultimately to the great spirit, who has given it as a gift for people to use.
Now, this doesn’t mean they didn’t have any concept of land ownership. They just thought of it differently. They often didn’t develop it as much as European settlers would, because they believed the Earth was close to a living thing, at least spiritually, and that for future generations we needed to treat it sustainably. That often meant leaving very little environmental impact. They didn’t really use deeds, and they didn’t really have private ownership, but there was a belief that tribes had a shared responsibility, and that the tribe may have been gifted the land long ago to use by the great spirit. This meant that it wasn’t really right for most individuals or even smaller tribal groups to be “selling” lands permanently, and most did not mean it that way. The Europeans often took what the natives saw as a lease to share the land as a permanent purchase.
5. The Phrase “Separation Of Church And State” Is Not In The Founding Documents At All
Today, the argument over whether the church and state should be more intertwined is an extremely contentious one. Some people argue that they should be entirely separate, and others argue that as long as one doesn’t become a state religion, that we should be able to teach the bible in school, or put the ten commandments up on public grounds, and so on. Some people think this really shouldn’t be an argument at all, as they believe the constitution mandates a “wall of separation” between church and state. However, the truth is that this isn’t in the constitution.
It is in one of Thomas Jefferson’s letters, and he was one of the Founders, but they had a lot of different opinions, and his was just one of them. What the actual constitution says is that
“congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” but the “wall of separation” is not something it actually says. Considering the actual nature of how the constitution has it written, it is plausible that under some arguments (and we aren’t taking a side), certain religious displays or study could be allowed, for example, as long as no religious study was forced, and displays and study of all religions were allowed. This has long been the biggest constitutional controversy over the issue: whether we allow it as long as we allow everyone, or if we simply keep government and religion completely separate.
4. The Supreme Court Ruled Whether Or Not Abortion Was Morally Okay
Today abortion is one of the most contentious debates in human history, and abortion doctors have even been murdered for providing them. Some people feel that access to abortions should be removed or restricted for various ethical reasons, and others feel that those ethical reasons are simply inadequate to ban it, and that women should be allowed to make these decisions about their own bodies. Regardless, many want the United States Supreme Court to relitigate the issue. Now, access to abortion has been the law of the land for years, but some opponents of it are banking on the fact that the Supreme Court didn’t really rule on the moral fitness of abortion.
Despite what many on both sides of the debate misunderstand, the Supreme Court never ruled as to when life begins, or whether abortion was murder, or any of that stuff that people like to argue about. Rather, they argued that restricting abortions by law was unconstitutional because the woman’s right to privacy extended to her fetus (or unborn child, depending on the stage and how you define it), and thus to her right as to what she did with it and her body. We certainly aren’t interested in taking a position on the abortion debate, but we are clearing up what exactly the Supreme Court did and didn’t decide, and what they based their decision on.
3. The Taliban Had Absolutely Nothing To Do With 9/11 And Neither Did Iraq
While Osama Bin Laden did have some ties to the Taliban and they were certainly guilty of sheltering him over the years, they also denied involvement from the start, and offered to extradite him to an Arab country to stand trial under Islamic Law. The USA refused that offer. The fact of the matter is that the people who perpetrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks were from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In fact, the vast majority of the people involved were from countries we are allied with, yet have a lot of clerics who denounce our values and stir up extremist sentiment not only within their borders, but around the world.
On the other hand, the actual Taliban itself wasn’t really involved with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and neither was Saddam Hussein or the Iraqis. Of course, fewer people believe the Iraqis were involved than the Taliban, but there were plenty who did, and the government didn’t spend a lot of time trying to convince people otherwise — probably because it made it easier to gain support for the Iraq War. In truth, the official reason given for attacking Iraq was that they were constructing weapons of mass destruction — weapons which we never found evidence of upon invading and tearing the place apart from top to bottom.
2. The Constitution Of The United States And Surrounding Documents Are Sacred
These days many people consider the constitution and other founding documents practically sacred, and revere it so much that some experts say we now have an entrenched constitution, to the point where politicians are afraid and unwilling to add as much as a constitutional amendment. However, the fact is that there are already dozens of constitutional amendments, because the Founding Fathers envisioned a world where things would change, and we would regularly need to update things to make them current. Today, we have issues like global pollution and abortion, just to name a few, that they wouldn’t have had much of a concept of at the time when the constitution was penned.
Some of the Founding Fathers were even more radical, such as Jefferson, who suggested in his letters that pretty much every generation should evaluate the entire system and see if starting over fresh was necessary or justified. And while most were certainly not that radical, they definitely thought of it as a human document, which they managed to barely hash out among their own differences, and was clearly designed with future change (as needed) in mind. Unfortunately, too many today think of it as some kind of sacred writ, and are holding back what should be obvious and easy progress.
1. George W. Bush Won The 2000 Presidential Election Fair And Square, End Of Story
Al Gore was declared the early winner in Florida, then George W. Bush, and then it became unclear… this all happening on election night in 2000. Then, a recount was started. Now, the recount was almost more of an audit than anything, as the election was relatively close and there were a lot of arguments about so called “dimpled chads” and “hanging chads,” which was in regard to ballots where bits were punched out and what the voter meant by it. However, the Brooks Brothers riots, which were allegedly started by right wing provocateurs, caused a temporary halt to an important part of the recount. The Supreme Court shut down the recount, and voted 5-4 to give the election to the current vote total holder, Bush, despite the recount not being finished and all the irregularities going on.
By giving the presidency to George W. Bush, they gave in to mob rule, and forever tarnished the legitimacy of their own decisions and that of the office of the presidency as well. George W. Bush may very well have been the real winner — we aren’t trying to take a position one way or another — but because the recount was forced to end early by the Supreme Court for no good reason on a very partisan line, we will never know for sure, and the American people, and future historians, will never be confident that the right decision was truly made. For many, this decision caused them to permanently lose a lot of faith in the political system as it stands.