Sanitization of the Past

Rory has an interesting post that starts with the sexuality of Lewis Carroll. Basically, he’s amazed at how sanitized much of our history and culture is.

His short list left off a couple of my favorites, and since I’ve fairly recently ranted on Christopher Columbus, I’ll stick with just this.

Everybody always remembers Hellen Keller as a story of hope and courage. Undoubtedly, her life and work have provided either direct support or indirect inspiration for an uncountable number of blind, deaf, or otherwise disabled persons around the world. She has even been honored by the United States with her likeness on the Alabama quarter.

What most people don’t know is that Helen Keller was also a firm socialist. She was thrilled with the rise of communism in Russia, and she was an active member of the Socialist Party here in the United States. She was also investigated and harassed numerous times by the FBI.

Please don’t misunderstand me: This post is not about communism and socialism, and whether or not it is good or bad. This post is about the ignorance in which most of us live. Our collective history has been erased, and the victims are the very heroes whose ideals we so revere. Helen’s story has been whitewashed, leaving her legacy devoid of the purposes to which she passionately devoted most of her adult life. Telling the first part without the second robs each of us of lessons from our past, potentially dooming us to repeat the past’s mistakes - not to mention the irony of memorializing her on our currency.

I learned the true stories of Helen Keller, Christopher Columbus, and famous U.S. historical figures, from the fantastic book Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. Check it out from your Library - it’s a fantastic read.