“Those who ignore history tend to become its victims.” ~Carlos Romulo
I was educated in the USA, in quality, private schools. Still, the history in our books was sanitized, devoid of almost any hint of wrongdoing perpetrated by my country against other countries, against its own citizens. It was whitewashed giving the impression that all important world events unfolded from the white palms of Western men. The stories of women were mostly absent as were those of minorities, of South America, of Africa, of Asia except where they were bent to show the superiority of the USA saving the world. It was as if, without the West, nothing worth writing occurred, or if it did, it wasn’t worth noting in our annals of history.
I understood this clearly while talking to my wife, educated outside the US, when I was telling her about an alternate perspective of history, revelatory to me, I discovered in Howard in Zinn’s, “A Peoples History of the United States” and Eduardo Galeano’s three-volume history of the world from a South American perspective and many other books written by non-US bred authors, only to be greeted time and again with, “Yes. We learned that in school.”
This came to me, yet again, while reading the “Rape of Nanking” by Iris Chang. It is a book about a forgotten holocaust of WWII rivaling the evil perpetrated by the Nazi regime, the Japanese destruction of Nanking, China. It was an event summed up in a 6-week cataclysm seeing the murder of more than a quarter million Chinese people. 6000 killed per day, 250 murdered per hour, 4 slaughtered per minute. In addition, there were an estimated 20,000 rapes of girls less than 10 through the elderly. That is 476 rapes per day. Many of the raped were then executed to eliminate them as a witness to the atrocities.
The callousness is exhibited in a contest between to ranking Japanese officers to see who could lop off 100 Chinese heads the fastest with their government issued swords. It was celebrated as a ‘heroic’ killing of the subhuman Chinese by the superior Japanese. How does heroic come into play when the victims were blindfolded with their hands bound behind their backs?
We do a disservice to our children when we show only one side of history in our schools when we exaggerate our accomplishments, hide our embarrassments, attempt to erase our evil from the collective memory.
I didn’t learn about the WWII, US-based Japanese registration followed by interment camps until much later in life. People imprisoned based on their ancestry despite many being born US citizens. How many would support Muslim registration, today, if they were educated about this maliciousness committed by the US government solely because people were different? How many would support a wall at the Mexican border if they knew the role our government played in the hidden history of subjugating the people of Central and South America to brutal, US-backed dictators like Chile’s Pinochet? A history leaving many innocents dead, a history condemning many into poverty. I guess it’s easier to spend billions building a wall than to admit our role in creating the problem.
Failures only become failures when we don’t learn from them and grow. We are failing our children by not educating them properly regarding the history of the world. And we are opening them to becoming histories next victims. Is that the legacy you want to leave for the next generations, for your children?