Life of a Historian

My weekdays consist of living in the past. I educate the future by informing them of how we have lived in the past politically, economically, socially militarily, and psychologically. There are times I feel more comfortable in the past than in the modern day because I know the outcome. However I have noticed that there has been a shift in how the past is now viewed.

I feel that the past used to be viewed with nostalgia and people would respect the past. But I feel that people still look to the past but do so to blame modern individuals for past events. For example there is a movement that blames Lincoln for allowing slavery to continue in the boarder states during the Civil War. This is confusing to me. Lincoln was very careful with the Emancipation Proclamation because he feared if he freed all slaves those states would join the Confederacy. However people now saying that was wrong and he should be viewed different by history? That just seems absurd.

I feel in our modern day the pendulum has swung so far into protecting every one and every thing that we have become transfixed on fixing all wrongs in human history. Yes, the enslavement of African peoples was wrong and covers a significant piece of American history. Yes, we are the only nation to enslave peoples for the color of their skin. However we must realize that as human beings that all people have made mistakes throughout history. No one civilization "got it right" and was thus perfect. But we learn from those mistakes. Lincoln was attempting to end this horrible institution. Southern states that had been placed under Union control had freed the slaves. Lincoln was providing governmental legislation for this. Which at that time was unheard of. 

If we could use the Delorian from Back to the Future and talk to people in the 1860s they would tell you that Lincoln was a tyrant using far expanded powers of the Presidency. Some of those powers are still existing today. However, Lincoln was vilified for his actions. It is not until his death that Lincoln begins to become beloved. Also African Americans after the Civil War began to vote Republican for almost the next 100 years because it was the Party of Lincoln. So vilifying this man would seem odd when looking at the whole of the historical record.

When I hear students come in with these beliefs at 12-13 years old I think, "At this age do you fully grasp the brevity of Lincoln's words in the Emancipation? Or are you just informing me a stance your parents believe?" Lincoln was a calculated and eloquent speaker. The House Divided Speech he gave before his Presidency is one of pure genius. Knowing that we as a nation are at a crossroads and needing to choose a path was vital. But using the analogy of a house so that all people could understand was masterful. 

I worry that with all this correctness in our world that we will eventually forget everything that we as a nation and world have done that was mean, hurtful, or degrading to others. While yes, it is wrong, it is the story of where we are now. History must be shared as it was: warts and all. If we change it it is not true history but a fictionalized tale of what we want it to be. We can create a fantasy but we cannot cover up what we as a people have become. Otherwise we will fall victim to the cliche: History will repeat itself to those who are ignorant to not study history.