Monday, August 15, 2011

Rose Colored Glasses and History

It is a truism that those who forget history and its lessons are bound to repeat it. Repeating the errors of the past repeatedly occurs and supports the value of a well rounded balanced history program in our school systems. While forgetting history can be an issue, a more common problem is the tendency is an unbalanced ahistorical view of history.

This unbalanced view is found in glorifying past events and/or people well beyond reality, and to dismiss or worse overlook the negatives that would dampen the glorification. Such a process is known as hagiography, which is currently taking place within some political spheres in the United States with regard to Ronald Reagan whereby his words and views are being held so high that they are considered and used as if he and his words are as infallible as Holy Writ. Further, a host of his actions, speaches and statements are taken not only out of context but are being reinterpreted to mean something beyond what he meant while disregarding his words and actions that are contrary to "what Reagan said."

It is not just Reagan that is misused, but it happens with all sorts of historical figures and events across nations and the centuries.

Equally or even more dangerous tendency is our interpretion of the past through rose colored glasses. Much of it is innocent, but it too ultimately opens us up to being mislead. The greatest danger of rose colored glasses is when its purveyors masterfully cherry pick through past events, statements, etc. to justify present actions and views even though that which is selected may actually speak contrary to what one is advocating. When in the hands of golden tongued craftspeople playing upon people’s emotions and fears use rose colored cherry picking for insidious ends. The cure against such modern day snake oil pitch people, whether they be businesspeople, politicians, or churchmen is to constantly read, study a broad array of solid thoughtful historical items.