Harmony in our country requires we all learn our unadulterated history. It makes atonement for our past accepted by those in the present. Steve Schmidt’s essays are a good start.
I often read “The Warning by Steve Schmidt” newsletter because he is one of the most honest national writers. I do not always agree with him, but I respect him. One of his recent articles, “Our faith sought the harmony of man with his surroundings,” was on point. The piece is a great Thanksgiving read that will provide a necessary perspective. It s clear the man, unlike me, is a well-read history scholar.
The article is long, and with limited time, I must decide quickly if I will invest the time into any piece given the dozens of articles I receive daily. The first two paragraphs told me it would be a good one.
I was driving down a mountain road wondering who built it. I think about things like that when I look at my kids. I wonder if the notion of wonderment about everything around them ever crosses their minds, or they just accept the road as is. Of course, it is a work in progress as all things are. Certainly American civilization is.
The United States is a young country, while being the oldest constitutional republic in the world. America did not always exist as it does today. That is true in several regards, most importantly are the extension of equal protections under the law — if not in reality — to every race, creed and gender that had been written out of American liberty and denied equal citizenship with the right to vote. But it is also true territorially. Look at America in 1800. John Adams was president. The western boundary of the United States stopped at the Mississippi River.
As a Panamanian who immigrated to the United States and became a citizen at the first opportunity, I have a special relationship with my adoptive country. I describe much of this in my book “It’s Worth It: How to Talk To Your Right-Wing Relatives, Friends, and Neighbors.” I lived through what America does abroad in foreign lands. I learned the good and the bad that were foundational to the country. And I understood the necessity, as time passed, that there would be a fight between atonement for our past and responsibility.
Any writer who writes the following truthful paragraph in their article is one that one must continue to read. Why? Because you will be getting history as opposed to a myth.
American presidents have long made comments about the peaceable character of the American people, while speaking to Americans who are usually peaceful when the president of the United States is speaking to them. That doesn’t mean they are peaceful as a group. We aren’t. We never were. America is a violent country, and it always has been. The 19th century was a savage century of war, conquest, subjugation and the largest slaughter of warm-blooded animals in human history. The purpose of the slaughter was to starve and subjugate the Great Plains Indian Nations until they were forced into impoverishment on reservations. …
The dominant American political ideology of the era became known as “manifest destiny,” and it held that the United States of America, guided by the hand of providence, was predestined to spread and control the entirety of the territory between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In the end, the most powerful nation won control of the territory, and once it was held, there would never be another foreign power to take it back from the people who claim it — the very fierce people of the United States.
What happened in 19th century America is that the dominant economic and military power settled all questions around its authority and power to control its sovereignty. It was a brutal era of history filled, like always, with both shame and glory.
An uninformed America cannot be a critically thinking America. Worse, it puts us on a path to self-destruction as the strengthened aggrieved assert their power over the aggrieved. Schmidt expresses this as follows.
There seems to be a lack of curiosity in the American character around what just happened, as opposed to what is coming next. Perhaps it is a mark of national impetuousness that Americans seem mostly oblivious around the concept that America today is inexorably connected to America’s past. It remains an astounding fact and great piece of trivia that John Tyler, born in 1791, and the 10th president of the United States, whose treachery delivered him to service in the Confederate House of Representatives, has a living grandson in 2022.
There is an accompanying arrogance that rides comfortably with obliviousness and ignorance. It gives license to people in the present who know nothing of the past to indict the totality of the struggle for justice and progress against a present standard that is as deluded as it is preening. It is also not cost-free. There is a cost for fighting over the past, which cannot be changed, and it is a terrible one. The fight costs the future and strangles the imagination needed to create it.
Yet, there are occasions where great injustices can be recognized, repudiated and a new beginning forged with mutual grace, joy and achievement.
Steve Schmidt’s article is an essential read, especially in our times. He even provides a few things that America must do to atone. I do not know where Steve stands on reparations, but I think it was a form of atonement missing from his article, given the quantifiable harm that afflicts an entire people in our country. I wrote the following message on the article in his Substack newsletter.
This is so powerful. I must admit, the honesty shocked me. One point not addressed is reparations for those who were ripped from a foreign continent, enslaved for free labor, and denied the opportunity after freed, equal access to success by government sanctioned actions.
Imagine if were all informed by honest and thorough historians. We would have a country filled with critical thinkers that would elect politicians who would pass policies that move us forward as a country as it atoned for its past.
This subject is the topic of discussion today on Politics Done Right on KPFT 90.1 FM Houston today at Noon Central Time (1 PM Eastern/10 AM Pacific/11 AM Mountain). You can listen to it on air at 90.1 FM in the Houston metropolitan area or at politicsdoneright.tv.