Monday, June 14, 2010

The Whole Truth-Like it or Not

Donald Trump and I have something in common. He and I share Scottish Ancestry. Also- he’s one of the wealthiest people in the world and I’m ….. not. But seriously, his mother was a MacLeod who was actually born on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. This means that his family and mine originated from the same clan many centuries ago. There are many wonderful people all over the world that share this heritage. Our clan motto is Hold Fast, and our symbol is the bull. Many of the people we have married are not surprised at all to hear these two facts.

In Scotland, the story of the MacLeods is typical of many Highland families. Filled with strong-willed people who survived against terrific odds, and along the way, a lot of bloodshed. When we teach our children about their history, it wouldn’t do to gloss things over. The violence and feuding may seem senseless to us now, but it’s still part of the past; part of the truth that made us all who we are today.

James’ family has their own legends. His mother was the great-grand-daughter of Nancy Sophronia Huff, who as a small girl, survived the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah. This horrible event in 1857 wiped out all of the adults and many of the children in a huge wagon train that was traveling from Northwest Arkansas to California. Immediately after the attack, the local people tried to convince the rest of the country that Indians had been responsible. But, because of the determination of the children that were allowed to live, and the guilty consciences of a few of the perpetrators, the truth came out. When the children grew up, many, including Nancy, insisted to anyone who would listen that the attack was carried out by the Mormon people who had promised to protect them. A very hard truth to accept, even over 150 years later.

Here in the South, we have another uncomfortable issue in our past. Disagreements about whether the residents of each State should have the right to govern themselves caused the great conflict that split our nation, and took generations to heal. At the core of the conflict, as we all know, was the fact that some states wanted to allow ownership of human beings as slaves. Perhaps this issue would have resolved itself without a war, but like it or not, our history includes a terrible struggle that should never be forgotten. Southern people know that bitterness this big is not forgotten for many, many years. Unfortunately, even in the next century when the descendants of those slaves were ready for equal rights, there was another struggle. Those who couldn’t let go of the past used the Civil war symbols of the Confederate flag and the song “Dixie” for hateful purposes. As wonderful and nostalgic as that song is, to some who lived through riots and lynching, “Old times there are not forgotten.”

My new friend, historian Janis Percefull loves to study and write about the history of Hot Springs. Even in her Children’s book, “Three Strangers Come to Call” she mentions that all was not sweetness and light in the nation’s first National Park. Many people came here with the idea that the government was going to completely support them while they received a miracle cure for all of their ills. Most found out that there was no free ride, and they were left to their own devices in the spa city. Knowing this doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a beautiful place to live, but it’s good to remember the whole story, not just the “pretty” parts.

I heard that the State of Texas is revising the way their public school children learn about history. Present day politics is driving not only what views the children learn about, but even which names are included. For example, the biographies of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln may not make the cut. What? I think this is the most dangerous story in the news today. Right up there with terrorism in Times Square. Parents and grandparents, you must be on guard to make sure future generations get an accurate picture of where they came from. Otherwise, how can we really learn from the past and make the future better?

History is fascinating, and worth studying. We shouldn’t try to cover up the unpleasant parts. It’s all a part of who we are. So, this July 4, I want to wish the USA a very happy birthday. We love our country, warts and all.

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