Archive for the ‘History’ Category

October 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Listening to a podcast about Fred Korematsu, the man who sued the government, Korematsu v United States, the podcasters mentioned a difference between the treatment of the Japanese and Germans living in America. I am not sure which person mentioned German-American rallies in Madison Square Garden supporting Nazi Germany as evidence of bias, but I started thinking, how accurate is this and is it relevant? This isn’t about the right or wrong of interring Japanese-Americans, but whether or not there is a fair comparison between those of Japanese descent and German descent.

The first thing to understand is the fact the Japan attacked American held territory while Hitler was trying not to aggravate the Americans. Germany did declare war on America on December 11.  There is a huge difference between the two as one attacked and killed Americans in an aggressive act while Germany and America played a game without going to war. There is an understandable reason why America would target Japanese-Americans and this is evident by the draconian measures taken in Hawaii and the West Coast. Spying on Pearl Harbor was a real issue, so it was prudent, in the minds of leaders, to not only question the loyalty of Japanese-Americans but also isolate people that were relatively easy to identify.

For the German-Americans part, there were attempts by the Un-American Activities Committee to restrict any Nazi supporting rally. Prior to December 11, 1941, there was no reason to restrict any activities by German-Americans as the two nations were not at war and Germany had not attacked American territory with the intent of going to war. The only Madison Square Garden rally that I came across was a 1939 rally. This is clearly well before American and Germany went to war, thus there was no need to censor the German-Americans supporting Nazi Germany. In fact, it was before Germany invaded Poland. It was only after the declaration of war by Germany that we see the suppression of pro-Nazi feelings. In fact, Fritz Kuhn, the leader of the German American Bund, was targeted by Thomas Dewey and the White House. They were successful in taking down Kuhn as they got a conviction for tax evasion and upon his release in 1943, he was again arrested as an enemy alien. As for the Bund, it was defunct by 1941.

What we fail to recall is that 11,000 German-Americans were placed in internment camps during the Second World War, though not at the levels of Japanese-Americans. Latin America was pressured by America to arrest German-Latin Americans. There is also a failure to recall how German-Americans were persecuted during the First World War. What was being done to the Japanese-Americans was not uncommon as the past history of America shows the drastic actions America takes to protect herself.

Hawaii and the West Coast saw the worst of the treatment towards Japanese-Americans as the main threat from Japan came from the Pacific. Executive Order 9066 forced the Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast. Fear was a key factor more so than racism, but we cannot forget how racism also affected the decisions made by those in power. When this event is discussed one term is often mentioned – paranoia. That is the prevailing issue after the bombing of Pearl Harbor much like of the fear and paranoia during the First World War.

I have several friends whose grandparents and even parents were interred at these camps. They have strong feelings about how people are treated as they are directly descended from wrongfully interred Japanese-Americans, and I know they do not approve of the distortion of facts to make this event sound even worse. How much worse can it get for those interred who had to suffer from the harsh conditions? Marginalizing or distorting what happened to the German-Americans does not help anyone understand why Japanese-Americans were interred, nor does it add to the event. I am not a believer of learning from the past as past issues are not similar to current issues. What I do believe is we can make drastic and horrible mistakes when we distort the past to satisfy, support, or validate an ideology whether it is political or social.




Sanitized History

October 11, 2016 Leave a comment

I have noticed that many homeschoolers have talked about using traditional history book whether they are textbooks or book written years ago. They do not like or approve of the history being pushed to the American public today. There are claims made about modern history stating it is incorrect or wrongly portrays events. This new history demonizes America and fosters a hatred towards certain groups. Are past history books better than the current history being taught?

I recall in my youth learning history through the bland textbooks the schools provided. I also recall the history books in the ill-funded libraries. What made these books and history in general so dull was the simple fact these histories were sanitized. As a youth, President Kennedy was pure and perfect. George Washington’s biggest flaw was the folklore of chopping down a cherry tree. When slavery was presented with Washington, he became a kind and gentle soul who emancipated his slaves, after his death. Much of this history has been called patriotic history. How valid is this history?

Sorry to say homeschoolers that past history books are horrible. These books present an unrealistic past that glosses over the horrors of man, and in some cases outright lies about the past. What African slave was truly happy that they were a slave under the dominion of a kind master? Sorry, but there are plenty of books out there describing the misery these slaves endured. The perception of blacks being slow and unintelligent was a purposeful propaganda begun in the late 19th century to keep down the black population. Even our treatment of the Indians has been sanitized. We allow disease to wipe these people out, and portray most if not all of the horrendous treatment of colonial people to Indians. These past histories perpetuates myths and lies.

A second reason why past history books are flawed is the simple fact they are outdated. History is full of discoveries. I recall growing up while being taught the Norsemen visiting North America was a myth. How wrong we are. We now understand how the Danes migrated to Britain. Through discoveries, we are able to correct history that we got wrong. New discoveries of hidden facts alter the history we know. We have learned much about Jamestown in the last twenty years that any book or article before, say 1990, is likely to be wrong. Archaeology done on battlefields have change how the victors and losers portrayed what happened. The past may be static, but history is ever changing.

Are modern histories correct? The old history books portray a biased viewpoint based on the period. At the end of the 19th and early 20th century, historians would represent Indians in negative terms such as calling them savages. There was a view of white superiority based on how Europe conquered that looked down upon the Chinese, Japanese, and other cultures. These attitude permeate many of these books. If the old possessed this bias then it stands to be that modern history has the same types of attitudes. Yes, modern history is as flawed as ever and grossly over-represents the negatives of people like Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other characters of history. Like their past, modern historians make the characters of history one-dimensional and bland. Slave owners become the cartoonish, evil character we see in movies like Die Hard or the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Columbus is portrayed so one-dimensionally in history, now, that he becomes a mythical evil creature like Jason, Alien, or other unrealistic monsters. The minorities or down trodden become one-dimensional as well as their sufferings they must overcome makes them the comical heroes that, again, we see in bad movies, or they are tragic characters that we are forced to relate to as their humanity is taken away for the effect desired more so than their being.

Sanitization works two ways. One method makes history pure and wholesome while the other side makes history evil and corrupt. Today’s history does have a tendency to portray the worst in people and nations in order to try to balance a mythical problem. Today’s history must accept that people can be good and bad. It cannot focus on one element in order point out what was missed. It must be even keeled.

Modern history is the best option with a very healthy dose of skepticism. When history begins to describe the attributes of the character in a one-dimensional way, then allow skepticism to take over. Humans are flawed characters where they can do acts of bravery, kindness, sympathy, and empathy while often portraying the worst that can be imagined. History is at its best when we do not trim a section we do not like or do not focus on one aspect. If history is too good to be true or too terrible, then doubt its validity.

Jourdon Anderson’s Fake Letter

There was a profound and entertaining letter making its rounds a few years back on the web. It was a letter by a former slave, Jourdon Anderson, written to his former master in 1865. The letter had a sense of humour that one finds with some of the best writers or even pundits of today. It is a true work of art when you break the letter down for its content and message. Here is a link to the letter:

My question is the validity of the letter, not so much as the existence of the letter for it was published in the New York Daily Tribune on August 22, 1865, but more for the letter writer and the former master. The content itself lends credence to not being a true or real response to some letter written by Colonel P.H. Anderson. This is a well-written letter for a slave let alone an average white person living in the nineteenth century. In fact, the letter reminds me somewhat of Mark Twain. The letter in one take provides a narrative of the slave’s struggle. Keep in mind that Mr. Jourdon Anderson dictated this letter.

What about the original letter written by Colonel P.H. Anderson? I know of no evidence of its existence which leads me to surmise that it never existed. This letter would go a long way of proving the content of Jourdon Anderson’s letter as being real and not fabricated. This doesn’t mean that a letter wasn’t written, but we may never know and cannot conclusively conclude that it ever existed.

There is no doubt Jourdon Anderson was real. There are census records noting his existence in Ohio, so we can safely take Mr. Anderson as a real person and former slave. Mr. Anderson, not to be confused with Neo, lived to a nice age of 81.

As I searched for P.H. Anderson, I found a name of Patrick Henry Anderson. Colonel Anderson was a few years older than Jourdon likely was a playmate of Jourdon’s as youths. Slavery maintained a master-slave relationship. Colonel Anderson would die in 1867, two years after his supposed letter to Jourdon. So, Colonel Anderson is a real person.

A third individual is the man Jourdon dictated the letter to, and this is Valentine Winters. This man was an abolitionist who apparently hosted Abraham Lincoln once. Mr. Winters born in Clearfield County, PA (I had to include this because that county needs some recognition) and moved to Ohio where he started a bank, I believe. Apparently the comedian Jonathan Winters is a descendent of Mr. Winters.

Mr. Winters is the key component of my argument. First, I do not think Colonel P.H. Anderson ever sent a letter to Jourdon Anderson. Second, Jourdon Anderson did not receive any letter from his former master and did not dictate the published letter as it was written. Third, Mr. Winters constructed this letter as an abolitionist for political reasons or reasons to improve the plight of the former slaves. As stated earlier, the structure of the letter is too perfect and eloquent in its style. Was this letter ghost-written? I do not believe the letter reflects the words of Jourdon Anderson but uses him to make a political point. More research is needed to determine what the point of the letter was. It has nothing to do with what we interpret today or what it stated in the letter. The clues, though, are found within the letter since the mention of wages are driven home.

The monthly earning of Mr. Anderson’s of $25 does not dispute the validity though the $25 could have been elevated for effect. In 1870, the average daily earnings of non-farm labor was $1.56 which gives a white worker $31.20/month if they worked a standard five day workweek otherwise is was around $37. The education of his children are likely the result of the local abolitionists. More research into wages are needed to verify if $25 is reasonable. Other points to be made are acts his former master did. These remind me of all of the events that happened to the crew of the Memphis Belle in the movie of the same name. The events represented what happened to other aircrews since little of that happened to the real crew of the Memphis Belle.

I think the letter is real but the content fake. It was contrived for other reasons than to respond to a letter Colonel P.H. Anderson never sent. The content is a brief summary of slavery constructed for a letter. I can’t confirm these event didn’t happen the way they were stated but do believe they are a common summary as I indicated happened with the movie Memphis Belle. The evidence does not add up to this letter being nothing more than a type of propaganda constructed for a political purpose, and that little if any of the content was true.

The Weather Did It

March 16, 2015 Leave a comment

Weather influences everything on the planet whether it be a fish, reptile, animal, plant or even a stone. Weather will affect whatever it may be. It is no secret weapon or any such utilized instrument to perform a function designed by man. Weather is very unpredictable and cannot be used as a consistent weapon of choice. This does not preclude weather from being involved in events involving man or man’s idea of using weather to gain an advantage. Weather is there and humans are only a flip of a coin away from benefitting or suffering from weather.

Reading Genghis Khan’s Secret Weapon Was Rain article on the National Geographic website, you are left with the impression the Mongols saw an opportunity with the weather and decided to wait for the rain and actively use this weather to their advantage. “The Mongols saw their opportunity and seized it,” is an inaccurate statement on many accounts. The Mongols, though aware of the weather, did not decide to go on a rampage because they saw an opportunity. It was not as simple as that. Before Genghis Khan took power, the Chinese were dealing with Mongol raids. Why hadn’t the Mongols taken the opportunity before Khan? Even Khan himself did not see the weather as providing the impetus for him to conquer so much.

Amy Hessel, a professor at West Virginia University, is quoted as saying the change in the weather, “must have created the ideal conditions for a charismatic leader to emerge out of the chaos.” This ignores the skill and determination Khan was possessed with. She is correlating the change in weather from drought to wet as causing Khan to come from nowhere to develop such a powerful army. This is simply wrong. History has shown Genghis Khan was an intelligent man with a drive to succeed. The change in weather did not develop this in Khan. What the weather could have done and has done for many other successful and unsuccessful leaders is provide a window of opportunity for a man to succeed just as men have used terrain in battles to become victorious. There is nothing remarkable about this. Khan was going to succeed without this wet period. What we can’t say is would Khan have been as successful without this wet period?

History is full of crossroads that affect the future. Weather is only a part of the puzzle. There is no need to make it as this amazing game changer of history. The weather has always played a role in human decision just as terrain has done. It just didn’t do what the article says it did for the Mongols.

The article mentions the data 1211 – 1225, but this does not coincide with Khan’s rise in power. It is in 1186 when Temujin, Genghis Khan, is elected khan of the Mongols at the age of 24. By this point, he had been fighting for a number of years. His power was growing as he consolidated the tribes. In 1197 he suffers defeat and is soundly defeated. Like any king or leader, they either go into hiding or lay low until they can build up strength.

To this point, I would say Khan is learning to be a leader and learning how to win. He is learning the science of war. He would learn an idea that weather could not teach. He would begin to delegate authority based on one’s merit as well as loyalty. This decision alone would be the factor that would drive Khan to conquering as much as he did. We can look at Subutai as an example of Khan’s understanding of leadership. The wetter climate was not the reason. It may have made conquering easier but not the opportunity as the article mentions.

Khan continues to battle the factions within the Mongol lands. Finally by 1206 Khan completes the unification of the Mongols. The Mongol Empire is born. This is before this climatic change that supposedly caused the Mongols to see the opportunity. What Khan saw was available resources. The weather may have helped provide the additional resources, but it was Khan who saw the opportunity years earlier. As Khan attached the Chinese kingdoms, he saw the weakness in each kingdom and acted accordingly. Khan would continue his magnificently, brutal conquering for years

The change in weather in Mongolia may have assisted Khan in some ways, but I would find it very surprising to see if another Mongol tribal leader would have been as successful if they were in power instead of Khan. The change in the weather and Khan’s rise to power was a coincidence. Without the wetter weather, Khan would have been successful just as without Khan there would not have been a great Mongol Empire. There was no “it’s rainier than normal and we have a surplus. Let’s go and conquer!”

Weather plays a role in history but not in the capacity as described. What happened with the Mongols took a man with the ability to learn, lead and conquer. The weather was ancillary with respect to the Mongols conquering as much as they did. It is also a coincidence that the weather event ended around 1225 and Khan died in 1227 at the age of 65.

My thoughts on my limited knowledge of AP History

February 12, 2015 Leave a comment

I see some AP history classes require a textbook. I do not know if all of these classes require a textbook. The fact a textbook is required has me wondering the value of AP History. Only one college history course I took or my son has taken required a textbook. The professor of this textbook explained there were no books that explain the period and therefore the textbook was more of a reference for the students.

As an undergraduate, I was required to read multiple books for a history course. My oldest have five or six books for his class. I had as many. We listened to lectures and read books. I was expected to follow the syllabus. We didn’t always discuss the book in class. Names and dates were important, but it was the concepts that held most value in class. Sadly, I was struggling with names and dates.

None of my exams were multiple choice. I remember one test where I had a choice of five problems of which I needed to answer three. I had two of the Blue Books with me for the test. I had to write a bloody essay on each problem. My high school never prepared me for this, and I never truly got the hang of it. I was too busy with the wrong concepts. In fact, I was not prepared.

Interestingly, I didn’t do many papers for history. I am not sure why and thankfully I didn’t. Again my public school failed me there. I got a B on one paper. This was the history class that used a textbook. It could be that they recognized the lower history courses were fillers for students and not the main subject of study.

In graduate school, reading is a main part of the class.  I do a lot of reading and then discuss the reading. In fact, I feel like I’m studying philosophy more than history. Another part of graduate school are the essays I write. For one class I wrote seven or eight essay and one thesis. After the fact I enjoyed the class.

From what I have discovered in AP history, it is not so much a college history course. Some do require a fifteen page paper, but I wonder what the format must be in. I am held to strict standards which I believe should be taught in high school. Chicago style if you want to know. Times New Roman, 12 font and 1.5 spacing. As for textbooks, I don’t see the value since you need to read from a variety of sources. I guess I should investigate this course in more detail.

Categories: Education, History Tags: ,

Christmas Truce II

December 14, 2014 Leave a comment

I recently read an article that stated it was trying to explain why Germany doesn’t remember the Christmas truce. The author never fully explained or even explained the reason why. He was more concerned about a modern, political issue and related it to the British grocery store commercial. This is journalism for you.

When you lose a war and your pride has been crushed, why remember? You could do as the South in America did and re-write your truths into the Lost Cause. This is very evident with Edward Pollard and a few others that penned books shortly after the war in order to justify the South’s actions and restore their pride.

I linked to the Sainsbury commercial not long ago. My was to provide a nugget of history for the reader to research and learn about. Also, the commercial is very touching and artistic. It didn’t represent the true reality of the truce. In fact, there were areas on the front where there was no truce. The Germans and I suspect the British also used this truce to reconnoiter. The soccer match has been disputed but likely happened. Yes, the commercial is sanitized but so is our history books and other such media.

The biggest lesson to take away from this event was the fact it happened during a war between two unrelated sides. Historians will continue to debate this topic as they do for other historical issues. We can look at this event in a more humanitarian way.

Categories: History Tags:

A Story Of Hope

November 17, 2014 3 comments

I want you to watch an ad. Though they are selling something, I want you to concentrate on the story. Whether you believe in God or not, you must admit this experience, however brief it was, is a true statement of what Christianity is. It was Jesus that brought these people together even if many did not know it or believe.

The year is 1914 and The Great War was beginning to shape Europe and the world. Arrogance of nobility and political leaders brought forth two opposing side to murder each other. The month was December and the two sides were basically at a stalemate. A war of attrition had begun as stated by Private R. Fleming, “It is not war this. It is who can kill the most in the shortest possible time”.[1]

The lines between the two sides were at time only yards apart. Close enough for the two sides to yell at each other with black humour. Examples of this were soldiers yelling out “missed” if a bullet was off the mark.

In December, the weather was rather wet. Christmas was approaching. Pope Benedict XIV would suggest a temporary halt in the fighting for the celebration of Christmas. The leadership of the warring factions would not take up the pope’s suggestion for a cease-fire. It just so happened on December 24, Christmas Eve, the weather was cold enough to allow for a frost to cover the landscape thus providing a white Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, the Germans began to sing Christmas carols and placed Christmas trees lit with lanterns above their trenches. The Germans celebrate Christmas Eve more than Christmas day. On some areas of the line, the British returned the German carols with their own carols. The two sides were serenading each other. There were even brass bands accompanying the carols.

On Christmas Day, some Germans left their trenches and entered the no-mans land to say “Merry Christmas.” On other areas, British soldiers yelled, “Good morning Fritz,” and offered the Germans cigarettes. The Allies soon left their trenches to meet their fellow humans in the middle of no-mans land to greet each other with laughter and shaking of hands. More songs were sung, gifts exchanges, pudding shared and even a game of soccer (football) played. You could hear Silent Night (Stille Nacht), O Come All Ye Faithful, The First Nowell, Old Folks at Home, Auld Lang Syne, While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks and O Tannenbaum along the lines. The men exchanged jokes, souvenirs and even prayers.

Sadly, the truce was not to last. The only sane idea of the war was erased by the desire to murder for no good reason.

I know this is very early for Christmas. My reason for posting this so soon is to give anyone the opportunity to do some research and talk about it during the Christmas season. This is one story worth repeating.

Here is the link I think would be nice to watch. Watch and enjoy it for the historical reference. (In case the link isn’t working:

Categories: Christmas, History Tags: ,