It is true. We do become the ‘stories we read’, whether those stories are read in a book, a magazine, on a tablet, through a gaming video monitor, or on the ‘silver screen’. Those ideas enter our minds and become part of our thought processes. This is the first step in education psychology. Teachers tell a story, exercise the story, and then test on comprehension of the story told. It is fundamental learning.
Let’s just look back a century when the U.S. was coming of age as a world power. Our predecessors were taught about how Admiral Columbus ‘discovered’ America, and how Signor Vespucci (Amerigo) gave the continents his name (he was the first successful map-maker of the continents). They were taught that America (these United States) is a great nation, to honor the flag that represents it. How many stories do we hear of people coming through Ellis Island, looking at and learning “The New Colossus” (“Give me your tired, your poor…”). “America, the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” were songs newly written and still to come to popularity. Broadway was filled with Mr. George Cohan’s plays celebrating America. Little of our bigotry and our struggles were emphasized, especially after the Second World War and with a Bicentennial celebration approaching. These United States were strong and the People were of one mind and purpose. Or were they?
The social revolutions were already underway. Our country never really recovered fully from that Civil War in the mid-1800’s. Jim Crowe laws kept the Negro (Spanish for Black), no matter where s/he came from, and a second class citizen. A reminder of the 1890 Indian massacre at Wounded Knee, SD came in 1973 when Russel Means and the American Indian Movement had a standoff with federal officers. We were reminded that there were other people oppressed in our land and by our Law. Mr. King and two Mr. Kennedy’s were assassinated. Scientists found it was Leif Erikson, a Viking, who discovered this continent, not Admiral Columbus. Then, Admiral Columbus became a villain, a bringer of disease, and a murdering tyrant. History stories about Ellis Island and the poem became eclipsed by current events on immigration and modern slave trade. New musicians write about ‘killing cops’ and the Viet Nam War’s ‘military industrial complex’ tarnishes the sacrifices by both combatants and civilians through two World Wars. The Nation’s People are divided. Minorities of all sorts become ‘special interests’ and ‘special laws’ are written to ‘protect’. One political party claims to embrace everyone while it supports all the ‘special interests’ and another political party is shown to really only ‘protect’ business interests.
We become the stories we read. And we read in school, in the news, and in what was called ‘jingo’ now called ‘tabloid’ presses just how terrible our lives and our country is.
The Truth is somewhere in between. Life was never as rosy as we were taught a century ago. There were oppressed peoples and there were successful ones. Life isn’t as terrible today as we are told. There are people who are continuing to find success and there are those who still flood to our country no matter the laws that work to restrict them.
The Truth is somewhere in between. We can find it if we follow a simple guideline most of us would call ‘common sense’ for our own lives and families. We celebrate our successes. We lament our known errors. And somewhere, each of us hides ‘sins’ of some sort in the closet. Our relatively young nation has successes to celebrate. Viking Erikson may have discovered the continent, but the Admiral brought it to the attention of Europe. Institutionalized slavery took us a century to fully overcome in Law. But we have overcome it. Our country was a bastion of Freedom through two World Wars and helped the world recover. We should still be teaching and singing “God Bless America”. And, we should be working more as partners with other nations rather than ‘saviors’ who are owed allegiance.
We become the stories we read. Let’s shift the balance back to center, and read more to celebrate our successes than exalting our failures, watch more about real heroes, and less about future zombie destruction, ‘talk’ more about what we have in common than those things that make us different. Let’s choose to become a united, “We, the People…” and stop letting some play us against each other for their own profit. Let’s become the story we really want to BE!