Our great America
Most of us either never learned, have forgotten or misremember most of the American story. Much of what we learned was likely from popular culture, at the movies not in the classroom.
Films of Indians warring cowboys or cavalry don’t do much to fill in the blanks missing in our knowledge. Generally the American cinema portrays a heroic expansion because as Americans we like to think of ourselves as good. The ideal of perfection is hard to attain, and John Wayne or Pistol Pete don’t give us an accurate picture.
History does not always paint a pretty picture
The impulse to be just is also the impulse of perfectibility that has made America great. We move towards the better, hoping for the best. We progress towards the ideal.We want to be fair; we aspire to decency. Our history is one of striving for the better for all our citizens.
We need to see the forging of the United States of America as a picture of struggle and achievement.
Musicals, even the well-researched like 1776, Hamilton, and for a bit of worldliness, Les Miz, can’t make historians of us anymore than the movies can. Even when they are rooted in events, their focus is not sufficient to make up for the deficiencies in our education.
What we do learn from both Hamilton and 1776 is that it took a lot of smart men (no women, but I digress) many months of hard work to come up with our America. The Constitution is an unprecedented document, built on enlightment values. It was written for democracy, with diplomacy and compromise.
The Constitution was not perfect, and America, ever striving, has added Amendments to the original. These Amendments improve on the freedoms granted its people, her citizens. Progress requires that we keep improving. It is, by definition, a moving forward.
As Americans we should be steeped in the spirit in which our country was founded.