I love living in the Pacific Northwest. The myriad shades of green, white snow capped mountains and sparkling blue waters (well, when the sun is out) are a balm to the soul. The pace of life is gentle and soothing to one who grew up in New York City. But, aside from Indian annals, there isn’t a lot of American history in the area. The Pig War, so named in memory of the lone casualty, just doesn’t loom large.
So, it is always a thrill to be on the east coast, particularly in the South. Driving from Baltimore to Roanoke, VA, as we did last week for Thanksgiving, we passed signs for Harper’s Ferry, Antietam, and numerous other Civil War sites. A day earlier we were at a wedding in New York close to a cemetery filled with the graves of Revolutionary War veterans.
In my previous life as a Homeschooling mom, history was one core of our curriculum. Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic certainly had their place, but an idea I tried hard to convey is that language and numbers are tools to be used for living. Proficiency with them was vital but not the goal. The goal was raising the next generations with values and morals so that they would use the skills they acquired to live in a way that would bring honor to God, their family and their nation.
For that purpose, history is invaluable. Recognizing the gigantic mistakes to which we humans are prone and the acts of greatness to which we can rise, forces one to evaluate ideas and actions. An educated, brilliant person who is evil is capable of doing more harm than an ignorant, evil person of average competency. Advanced degrees are no assurance of being good or even of being wise.
Walking in the footsteps of history reminds us of those men who gave their lives and the families who sacrificed their men for the formation and continuation of this country. Too many history books are dull and inaccurate. A few weeks ago I was privileged to hear American historian, David Barton. His words were disturbing as he decried the many random mistakes and deliberate revisionist history built into to the newly opened visitor center at the nation’s Capitol. The over six hundred million taxpayer dollars spent were too often used to convey an agenda and bias rather than historical fact.
So, while I always leave the Northwest with some regret, occasional visits to the east coast serve as a reminder that America’s prosperity and greatness were not random events. They were the results of faith, conviction, courage and sacrifice and if we wish for this country to continue on a successful path, we need to be willing to learn about and inculcate in ourselves those same ideas.