… But then again, he loves everybody

Chaplain Mike of Internet Monk offers a meditation on divine grace, beginning with this passage from Deuteronomy 7:

It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you — for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

That struck me as an interesting companion passage to one highlighted by Randy Woodley in a discussion of “American Exceptionalism” at the Emergent Village. Randy offers a vivid paraphrase of Amos 9:7:

“Are you Israelites more important to me than the Ethiopians?” asks the Lord. “I brought Israel out of Egypt, but I also brought the Philistines from Crete and led the Arameans out of Kir.”

Taken together, those verses recall one of the few Christian T-shirts I actually like. It says:

Jesus Loves You! (Then again, he loves everybody)

American Christians like to say that God loves America and that God loves Christians. They’re right about that.

The problem arises when they think that this makes them different from everyone else.

(That T-shirt, by the way, comes from Lark News. They’re back with their latest volley of The-Onion-ish news from American evangelicalism. See, for example, “Church members struggle to memorize mission statement,” “Church email change leads to awkward results,” and especially this one, about a pastor opting not to follow Rick Warren’s “Daniel Plan” for weight loss.)

  • FangsFirst

    Yeah, there’s a fair number in the largest of cities (who naturally use it as you do) but most places don’t even have them. They keep trying to build them where I live, and it’s just. not. happening. It’s been recommended repeatedly, by people involved in such things (on the sociological/economic front, not the TracksNTrainsRUs CEO or something), but it just won’t get through.

    But, yes, some cities do have “el”-trains and subways, but (someone can correct me here, if I’m wrong) I do believe it’s only a few of the really, REALLY big ones that have those (Chicago, NYC, San Francisco has the cablecars, which are not too far off, functionally…probably some others I don’t know).

    Not, in general, a common method of transportation, though. Obviously, even the above would skew you toward urban Americans only (and I don’t mean that as the code word, so much as literally “major city-dwelling”)

  • Daughter

    Again, I think we need Sgt. Pepper to clarify. By “trains,” I don’t think she was referring to commuter trains and subways, but rather to Amtrak being the means the writer used to travel cross-country.

  • P J Evans

     Yeah, Amtrak is pricy enough that most people don’t use it. Local (commuter) trains are more of a normal cross-section, and when you get to the trolleys and subway trains, which in Los Angeles are run by the same system and at the same prices as buses, it’s a pretty straightforward Everybody Uses It. (The only people I’ve heard complaining are the ones who seem to think that people who Aren’t Like Them shouldn’t be using the system, especially at the same time. Scary crazy people at 6:30 am, apparently, from the last complaint, but I’ve heard about Too Many Brown People also.)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Expense-wise, of course, it’s also cheaper than driving or flying, so that’s sometimes the motivation.

    Really? Where? the times we’ve considered taking the train anywhere, it was several hundred dollars per person and took 8 hours for a trip that by car takes 3 hours and costs about $70 for a carload of people.  It only ever seemed to make sense for long-distance commuters, who would have to figure in wear on their cars.

  • Kiba

     Duck and cover drills

    To this day I can’t figure out how my desk was supposed to save me from a nuclear blast.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Duck-and-Cover isn’t as forthrightly ludicrous as it sounds (Still pretty dumb though). There’s a certain radius at which the major *immediate* danger from a nuclear blast is similar in kind to the danger from an earthquake: the building shaking and things falling on you. Ducking and covering is a reasonable response to that kind of risk.

    Of course, there is also a radius where getting hit on the head by falling debris would be a far kinder death than radiation sickness, but (a) civil defense liked to play down the dangers of radiation exposure, and (2) “better to die quickly” is not really the sort of decision you want people in authority to make on your behalf.

  • Lori

     
    Hell, we only got up to post-World War I in one of my classes–and that was because the class STARTED with World War I and was supposed to continue through the 1950s. We never even got to World War II.  

    In the US? Was WWI your prof’s area of study? I ask because IME WWI is the generally skipped right over in US history and huge amounts of time are spent on WWII. In most of my classes if you got the flu at the wrong time you could easily end up with the impression that other than the Great Depression nothing at all happened in the US between the Civil War and WWII. Indian Wars? Spanish-American War? World War I? Never happened or weren’t important enough to bother with. 

    ETA: I occurs to me that my choice of illness is ironic, but I wouldn’t know that if I hadn’t done a lot of outside reading. The Great Influenza got maybe two paragraphes in my high school history texts and I don’t think it was even mentioned before that.

  • MaryKaye

    My impression as a student was that US history stopped sometime between the Civil War and WWII and was really, really boring.  I didn’t become interested until adulthood.  Given my druthers I’d have studied only ancient European and Asian history.

    In retrospect I think that teachers were afraid to get involved with topics that might relate too acutely to current politics.  This was in Alaska, a hyper-political (and very politically strange) sort of place.  I did have one class, debate, that did current events (and did them pretty well) but that teacher was notably fearless.  She taught me that I had both US Senators and state Senators and they were not the same people, bless her heart; one of the most useful D grades I ever got on a project, because I never forgot it.

    In much the same way, my younger siblings’ biology courses simply skated right past the origin of species.  Didn’t deny it, but taught nothing about it.  As an evolutionary biologist I feel that this eviscerates large areas of biology (“nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”–Dobzhansky) and I bet history teachers felt just the same about our miserable history.

  • Lori

     
    To this day I can’t figure out how my desk was supposed to save me from a nuclear blast.  

    I took a couple of grad school classes on nuclear issues. There were two things that I found especially fascinating. The first was looking at the list of every single country that ever had, or seriously contemplated a nuclear weapons program. There are some countries on that thing you probably wouldn’t expect. The other was looking at the sociology of Civil Defense films and other propaganda. By the time I was in elementary school they had stopped showing them (although we did do duck & cover drills), so there were quite a few that I had never seen. 

    It turns out that it’s not just that the thing your desk was really supposed to save you from was panic. The other films weren’t about nuclear war either. Half of them were about discomfort with the changing role of women and some of them had a nice dollop of poor-shaming, occasionally with the lovely racist coating that was so common at the time. Once you’ve watched those films with modern eyes that whole business with Homeland Security and the plastic and duct tape looks somewhat different.

  • Daughter

    I definitely remember in both 8th grade and 12th grade American history learning about the Chinese exclusion act, the gilded era, the Rough Riders, the League of Nations, and so on, and this was in an urban public school system.

    Unfortunately, the teachers who taught those two classes were among the most racist and sexist I had, so these topics were accompanied by heavy doses of racism and misogyny. My sister and I once talked about them as adults, wondering how on earth they weren’t driven out of the schools on a rail. We challenged their authority in the classroom, but no students, to my knowledge, thought we could do anything about getting rid of them.

    (For some reason, although there was more diversity in other subjects, every teacher I had for social studies or history was a white man. Not all were bad, however, and a couple–my 9th grade civics teacher and 11th grade European history teacher–were wonderful human beings and teachers).

     

  • Kiba

    I understood the part about possibly saving me from stuff falling on my head but  I was more concerned about the whole radiation thing and I couldn’t see how my desk was supposed to save me from that. I guess that’s what all the layers of lead paint on the walls were for.

  • Lori

     
    Really? Where? the times we’ve considered taking the train anywhere, it was several hundred dollars per person and took 8 hours for a trip that by car takes 3 hours and costs about $70 for a carload of people.  It only ever seemed to make sense for long-distance commuters, who would have to figure in wear on their cars. 

     

    The train can be very cost-effective for medium distance trips when you are traveling alone or when the other option is to fly. When I came to Indiana from DC I took the train because it cost less than half as much as flying and allowed me to bring 5 or 6 times as much luggage. As a bonus the train “station”* is less than half as far from my parents’ house as the nearest airport. 

    The financial advantage goes away if the trip is long enough that you need a bed, because sleepers are way more expensive. I had no problem doing an overnight in a regular seat, but I wouldn’t have wanted to go another night without being able to lie down and without access to a shower. For longer trips Amtrak really only makes sense if you consider the train to be part of the trip and not simply transportation to your destination. 

    My folks have taken the train a couple times from here to Seattle to visit my brother and they loved it. They weren’t in a hurry though and they enjoy the train ride itself. It’s basically an all-inclusive hotel with an ever-changing view. Also, when they go out there they stay for a month or more at a time so they have a ton of luggage and that’s where Amtrak really has it all over flying, especially now that you get 1 carry on and every checked bag costs $50 or more. 

    *There isn’t actually a station at all. It’s literally just a train stop—like a largish bus shelter. That’s weird, but not as bad as I first feared when I booked my ticket and found out there was no station. I had a vision of being put out beside the track in the middle of nowhere, but it’s not quite that bad. 

  • P J Evans

    If it was like the ones we had, about all it would protect was your back. Your head was going to be on the chair, right where stuff could fall on it. They did close the curtains, though, and those were vinyl-coated cloth, at that time, which probably would have slowed down the glass by, oh, not much.

  • P J Evans

    The film that still stays in my memory was one of the anti-Communist propaganda pieces. I think the Republicans are still using that one – as a training film.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    Didn’t you get the memo?  “Good” and “Evil” aren’t dependent on anything anyone actually *does,* they’re just teams you pick.  Team Goodguy is free to torture and imprison people indefinitely without trial, censor competing thought, ruin lives and start senseless wars for the sake of business interests if they want, since nothing they do can ever change the fact that they’re Team Goodguy.  Likewise, Team Badguy can feed orphans and the homeless, provide care for the sick and elderly, avoid throwing lives down a bottomless rathole by trying to avoid unnecessary and senseless military adventures, and try to maintain some standard of social and economic justice, and it doesn’t make any difference because they’re always going to be Team Badguy, and nothing can ever change that, either.  In fact, in all likelihood, they’re just trying to hide the fact that they’re Team Badguy by doing all those nice things, in order to fool the undecided masses who haven’t picked their team yet. 

    At least that’s what the Fantasy-Based Community has told me over and over again.

  • Lori

    The one I’ll never forget is about how a house that’s clean and doesn’t have peeling paint or a messy yard is more likely to survive a nuclear blast. That is true,sort of, in certain circumstances within a very small zone of the blast radius. However, the film was really about making women feel like crap for wanting to continue to have jobs rather than staying home cleaning all the time and about shaming people too poor or too disinterested to “properly” maintain the outside of their home to 50s suburban standard.

  • Kiba

    At least you had curtains. All we had were crappy window shades (the ones on the roller). 

  • Lori

     
    I definitely remember in both 8th grade and 12th grade American history learning about the Chinese exclusion act, the gilded era, the Rough Riders, the League of Nations, and so on, and this was in an urban public school system. 

     

    We covered all that, but the whole thing took maybe 2 weeks total. By contrast my 8th grade American history class spent 6 weeks on the Civil War. Other classes took less time, but I don’t think it was ever less than a couple weeks and we also routinely took 2-4 weeks on WWII. Even at that the war in the Pacific tended to get short shrift compared to the European theater. 

    The problem was we also tended to take multiple weeks on the stuff at the beginning of the book every. single. year. By the time I hit 7th or 8th grade I felt like I never wanted to even hear the world “pilgrim” again and figured that if no one had anything new to say about Vasco Da Gama I didn’t need to hear any more about him either. I did want to know how we ended up in Viet Nam though. I actively wanted an explanation for the war that I had caught glimpses of on TV and been sort of traumatized by as a kid* and I was POed that no one would give me one. In retrospect I realize why teachers didn’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole, but at the time I felt seriously ripped off. 

    *My parents didn’t let me watch, but they weren’t always fast enough shooing me out of the room. I have a (mild) fear of the sound of helicopters. It took me years to realize that it’s almost certainly because my parents didn’t realize I was watching from the stairs when the news showed the fall of Saigon. That is not the sort of thing that a kid is really equipped to process. 

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Someday I’m going to go to Perth (other side of the country), and I think I’ll definitely take the train. It’s basically the same cost as the plane ticket, and much nicer…

  • FangsFirst

     

    Really? Where? the times we’ve considered taking the train anywhere, it
    was several hundred dollars per person and took 8 hours for a trip that
    by car takes 3 hours and costs about $70 for a carload of people.

    Hm, yeah, I guess the (extremely small number of) people I’ve known who ever bothered did so for medium trips like Lori’s describing (eg, Connecticut to NC), but that was partly because that was my, um, rather peculiar ex-girlfriend, who did not learn to drive. To the best of my knowledge, still hasn’t. Don’t really keep up with her since she found a joke about rape hilarious enough to post publicly on facebook (and months later found out I’d actively stopped talking to her and got angry at me when she found out why…)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Re some of the other suggested explanations:

    We have no land neighbours. We are a nation of immigrants (97.5% of the population having 220 years, max, ancestry here). Most of us think that we’re a pretty cool country but we don’t have that idea of exceptionalism the way America does. So I don’t think either of those explanations work.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Our senior high school modern history syllabus had a contemporary history component. Our class studied the Arab-Israeli conflict. I was 16 when Rabin was assassinated. A bunch of teenagers sitting around at lunchtime discussing the implications with concern is a sign that something is going right in your education.

  • http://twitter.com/Rhysdux Rhysdux

    Yes, this was in the U.S. and it was in high school. The teacher was pissed that we kept spending eons on explorers and the mostly fictional tales about Pilgrims and Puritans and ignoring more recent history, so he managed to convince Admin to have a class in twentieth-century history. It was a good class, and was the first and only time that I heard about the Red Scare in the 1920s. It was also the only time that we ever discussed the influenza pandemic and how it affected post-war society, Hoovervilles, Franklin Delano Roosevelt or the alphabet soup programs.

    World War II…we never got to it.  And it wasn’t the teacher’s fault. He budgeted about a month and a half for WWII. But then the administration started interfering. Oh, you have to have them read THIS article. You can’t ignore THAT and its impact on the Church. And so on. Every time we got to a point where we could have started World War II, the administration came up with some reason why we couldn’t just yet.

    The teacher was so fed up with the interference that he swore he would never teach this class again–which was probably what the administration had in mind. Though why they wouldn’t want kids to learn about WWII, McCarthyism or Korea is anyone’s guess. That never made any sense to me.

    Oh, and I live in an area where Indian wars were fought. So things like King Philip’s War, Tecumseh’s Rebellion, the Trail of Tears, the Battle of Little Bighorn, the Sand Creek Massacre and the French and Indian War got a lot of attention. The Spanish-American War–most of my teachers focused on how it gave birth to yellow journalism and how you couldn’t trust the press, ever.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Really? Huh. Victoria? Surely you at least did the Eureka stockade?

    We did heaps. Compulsory in primary school (European discovery of Australia, bushrangers, explorers, ANZACS, ancient Egypt) and the first two years of high school (more explorers and ANZACS, colonial Australia, plenty of ancient history, WWII and some historiography). Plus history was touched on quite a bit in religion, science and social studies.

    I also took 4 years of elective history (Years 9-12). Included the Industrial Revolution, more ancient history and historiography, causes of WWI (effectively pan-Europe late 19th century), major WWI battles, 20th century Russia, Cold War, African colonialism, the Holocaust, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Seriously lacking in Asian history–India and China were options in the same stream as Russia, and we got Russia. In general, awesome and one of my favourite subjects.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I will.

    More Don Watson*:

    I like the intimacy of trains, the close connections with other passengers and the opportunities they afford for voyeurism: the angle on the people and their backyards and porches, their clothes lines, pets and vegetable patches, their dogs and barbecues…On a train, pretty well anywhere in America, you can hear two or three conversations at a time and get them down on paper and people think you are writing postcards.

    …I came back [in October 2005] intending to ride on every Amtrak route I could. For the Americans I told, I might as well have been off to see the country on a mule. The railway has faded from their consciousness. Amtrak is the shadow that remains, a nether world of obsolescence inhabited only by the poor, who have no choice, or by purposeless eccentrics with nothing better to do than ride the dinosaur to extinction.

     
    So yeah, Amtrak, listening to people’s conversations and chatting to whoever sat next to him. He got off a lot and ate at diners doing the same. The areas not covered by Amtrak he drove, listened to talkback radio and ate at diners.

    *I could have just gotten straight to the point but Don Watson’s prose is worth sharing :)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Not related to the rest of the conversation, but while I had the book cracked open I came across this section, which resonates with me*.

    On the United States of America my senses swung like a door with no latch…Love and loathing come and go in about the same proportion. Rage is common. But then, one rages about one’s siblings from time to time, and one’s own country; it is not rational, in the main. Yet there had been a time when anti-Americanism took on the gleam of reason. As earnest student radicals in the late 1960s, we saw the thread that joined the vicious white mobs of the South to the very foundations of the republic—because we learned that such founders of American democracy as Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. We learned what we took to be the real truth about the Indian Wars, the Mexican Wars and the Monroe Doctrine, and it persuaded us that Vietnam was part of a pattern which, when you looked at it hard, revealed IMPERIALISM.
    But just as we were thinking that it was in the ‘nature’ of America to be brutal, racist and imperialistic, a paradox appeared. The Freedom Marchers had been Americans. Martin Luther King was American. Sidney Perelman was American. Mark Twain was American. Portnoy was American. Louis Armstrong, Bob Dylan, William Appleman Williams, Herbert Marcuse and Robert Crumb were all American. The most articulate critics of America—the most articulate people on earth, and the most liberal—were American. The America of my most avid anti-American phase was the America of my first rational adult heroes. That paradox, greatly modified though it is, animates me still.

     
    *Don Watson’s memoirs are called Recollections of a Bleeding Heart. So we’re related J

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Really? Huh. Victoria? Surely you at least did the Eureka stockade?

    Please refer to the enclosed. Our history lessons were abysmal – and were usually taken over by classes on “let’s teach these kids all about that brand new interwebs contraption”.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    …we didn’t have the internet when I was at school…/feeling old

    Lower Gen X–the internet existed but only rich tech-lovers had access

    Interesting to read your perspective on your webpage there. It’s not abysmal education across the board. I changed schools a bunch of times and all but one were pretty decent in terms of curriculum content. Sometimes my teachers were obviously thrilled to have an engaged student, so I might have got a better education than my classmates :) But all were very far removed from snooty private schools.

  • Lori

     
    We are a nation of immigrants (97.5% of the population having 220 years, max, ancestry here).   

    Your immigrant story as a nation is quite different though and I think might lend itself to a different view of things. “We were sent here as convicts and made a good situation of it” puts the weight in a different place “we chose to come here for a better life”. There are many commonalities to the immigrant experience in various places, but for the purposes of this discussion I don’t think the reality is the issue nearly as much as the story is, if that makes sense. 

    If I thought I had the theory about American exceptionalism I’d move it right to the top of the list of books to write in hopes of getting on The Daily Show. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to be chatting with Jon Stewart any time soon (or ever actually). 

  • Lori

     
    …I came back [in October 2005] intending to ride on every Amtrak route I could. For the Americans I told, I might as well have been off to see the country on a mule. The railway has faded from their consciousness. Amtrak is the shadow that remains, a nether world of obsolescence inhabited only by the poor, who have no choice, or by purposeless eccentrics with nothing better to do than ride the dinosaur to extinction.  

     

    This is lovely prose, but I have some concerns about his observations because IME  even in 2005 they doesn’t really reflect reality. The train system in this country has unfortunately been allowed to whither in favor of cars and planes, but its not like the passengers are some transplanted pool of riders from one of our less well-maintained city bus systems. 

    My most recent train trip was taken because I was poor and trying to be practical, especially because of the luggage issue, but I doubt the same was true of most of my fellow passengers. My parents aren’t “purposeless eccentrics”. They’re retirees who like the train and they tend to meet other people like them when they’re on it. On the east coast the folks on Amtrak are neither poor nor eccentric, they’re mostly people commuting along the DC-Boston-NYC corridor and making a perfectly sensible decision that the train is the best way to do that. 

  • Lori

     
    The teacher was pissed that we kept spending eons on explorers and the mostly fictional tales about Pilgrims and Puritans and ignoring more recent history, so he managed to convince Admin to have a class in twentieth-century history. It was a good class, and was the first and only time that I heard about the Red Scare in the 1920s. It was also the only time that we ever discussed the influenza pandemic and how it affected post-war society, Hoovervilles, Franklin Delano Roosevelt or the alphabet soup programs.  

     

    I would have loved to cover those things in more detail in an actual class, so in that respect it sounds terrific. (There were a few important things about WWI that I didn’t get until grad school and it certainly would have been nice to have picked them up sooner.)  It’s obviously less terrific that the Admin. butted in so much that you never got to what should have been the 2nd half of the class. It is odd that they seemed to determined to prevent that from happening. 

  • Anonymous

    .. But then just a few passages later in Deuteronomy 13, God tells you to kill everyone who doesn’t believe in him, be they neighbors, your children, or entire cities. And this is why we don’t quote Deuteronomy! Bloodthirstiest book in the entire Bible, it is.

  • Tricksterson

    Joshua mightbe worse.  Basically it can be summed up as.  “We met these people.  God said they were bad.  So we killed them all.  All the men, all the women all the children.  Also their cows, goats, sheep, pigs, cats and dogs.  Lather, rinse, repeat.”

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Thing is, though, that most of us aren’t descendended from convicts. 29% of Australians were born overseas; another big chunk are children or grandchildren of migrants. The wave of people sent here as convicts (or to guard convicts) is very small in comparison to the people who migrated to escape the potato famine, poverty and revolution in 19th century Europe, WWII and its aftermath, the Soviet Union, the Vietnam War, the Chinese cultural revolution, apartheid, the Slavic wars, and most recently conflict in the middle east and Africa.

    But yeah, if we figure it all out we should get together and write a best-seller for nerds. Or dream big get tenure in some sociology department ;)

  • Intersection Victorian

    I graduated recently from the Victorian school system. The schools I went to taught us some things about Australian history, ‘though nothing after WWII. WWI and the convict period were covered in quite a bit of detail, and we also learned some stuff about WWII, the gold rush, and aboriginal society before European settlement and in the convict period (there was also brief mention of the Stolen Generation, but generally what we were taught in school probably gave the impression that Aboriginal history ended in the convict period). I suppose some of that was stuff the schools chose to cover.

    As far as foreign history, I think all we learned about outside of English classes was stuff from the 19th century or earlier, and mostly about Europe.

    In English class, we learned about the times our texts were written and set, and that covered quite a bit of history that wasn’t covered otherwise, including the only post WWII history we learned. I guess what was covered there would depend on what texts were used.

  • Lori

     
    Thing is, though, that most of us aren’t descendended from convicts. 

        

    I expressed myself badly. I know that most Australians aren’t actually the decedents of convicts, but that’s the origin story about Australia as a country. I think that sort of thing tends to have a sort of subconscious influence on the way people frame their experience of a place. In that regard, “this is a place people were sent to and then made something good of it” is quite different from “they came here for a better life”. 

    The reality is that in both cases the people involved had to build lives for themselves, but the stories aren’t the same. In one story the life is explicitly tied to the effort of the people and in the other it’s tied to the place. In both cases the story fails to include the experience of a lot of people, but because its the origin story it still gets told and has weight. Story is a force and origin stories are powerful, whether they’re true or not. 

    And as soon as I have anything more coherent than that I’ll hook you in as a coauthor and we’ll be Daily Show-bound. 

  • Tricksterson

    You’re ignoring the large minority of those with kangaroo, wallaby and koala blood.  After all women were scarce out on the frontier.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Canadian history classes in British Columbia stop roughly with the Second World War, at least when I took the classes back in high school. If you wanted to learn modern history you needed to take grade 12 history which was 20th century world history.

    Over the course of grades 8 to 11 (four years worth!) we spent a LOT of time on Canadian history from the early days of British and French landing on the shores of the North American continent – the North West Mounted Police – the voyageurs, les filles du roi, the Plains of Abraham, the BNA Act, etc etc.

    Along the way we got a healthy dose of what you might call American caution-ism. We were taught about the American concept of Manifest Destiny – the right claimed by the USA to rule all of North America – and it was most definitely slanted in the direction of “The US would have loved to swallow up Canada”. If you think a teenager who learns that does get left with the impression the USA might still want to do it, well, you’d be right – especially in an era when the Prime Minister (Brian Mulroney) gets made the butt of dirty jokes about providing sexual services for the US President, especially after the enactment of the FTA.

    I think part of Canada’s different national identity comes from being taught about two countries, not just one (which you kind of have to do since the US and Canada are both British creations of a sort), and recognition of the French fact (that is, the presence of Quebec) in Canada’s history as well.

    Given the distorted and hagiographic versions of history I’ve seen people relate here, it may be that one part of American exceptionalism is the pop-culture understanding of World War II (GOOD GUYS BEAT BAD GUYS) coupled with the romanticization of people like Davy Crockett (or the antebellum south, or what-have-you) that mix together to create a, hmm, shall we say, rather unnecessarily ‘clean’ view of the USA as seen from inside the country.

  • Tricksterson

    Here’s a question regarding your last paragraph, namely don’t all countries present a sanitized and/oor glorified version of their history?  I don’t really think the US is exceptional in that regard.

  • Lori

    Yes. Anyone who thinks that the version of their country’s history that they were taught in public school is the whole unvarnished truth has some unpleasant surprises coming if they look any deeper. That applies to every country I’ve ever looked at or heard of and is definitely not just a US thing. The way US history tends to be taught can be an exaggerated version of that, but I think that’s a consequence of exceptionalism more than a cause. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Granted. But the Canadian history we were taught included things like the way traders took advantage of Indians by trading them alcohol that would make them sick in exchange for furs, as just one example of the early stages of a long and sad history of Canadian governments being less than helpful to Aboriginal peoples.

  • Lori

    We learned that sort of thing in our history classes too. My Michigan state history class covered quite a bit on the less savory aspects of how the trappers, the priests and the settlers all treated the native tribes horribly and we certainly learned that the federal government made did horrible things. I have no doubt that there are places and times were kids weren’t thought about that, but the bad history of the US government and the tribes is not universally dodged in the US.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Here’s a question regarding your last paragraph, namely don’t all countries present a sanitized and/oor glorified version of their history? I don’t really think the US is exceptional in that regard.

    From…I’m not sure exactly when, maybe the early 90s?…there was an increased tendency for Australian history classes, and the national conversation more generally, to acknowledge the various nasty sides of our history–especially treatment of Indigenous people, which has a very large and very nasty side. This created a lot of consternation among conservatives, including the Liberal Prime Minister, who complained about “black armband history”.

    This is the era when I was studying high school, so my history education was pretty frank. But older generations I speak to seemed to have the traditional “ANZAC war heroes and explorers let’s not focus too much on the rest” narrative.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Ah, I see.

    Our weird thing is the tendency to talk about the birth of the nation as being in the battlefields of WWI, a decade or so after Federation. The largest part of the national mythology stems from the ANZACS, rather than anything in the colonial days. The main things looming large from the 19th century are Ned Kelly and the Eureka stockage, but they pale in comparison to the immense status of the WWI digger.

  • Tricksterson

    Well  we did try to take Canada both during the Revolurion and the War of 1812 and yeah we wanted at least a chunk of Canada up til and for a while after the days of “54’40 or Fight”.  Nowadays it’s more that we think either that you are functionally part of us as in “USA Lite” or that you represent the threat of creeping socialism, that Obama and his Atheistic Socialist Muslim Masters (Yeah, I know, don’t ask) want to turn us into you, which, as I’ve said elsewhere, while I don’t particularly want it doesn’t exactly fill me with shivering dread either.


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