Trump speaks on ‘patriotic history’

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2020 by kmflett

Trump speaks on ‘patriotic history’

UK reporting of Donald Trump tends to focus on certain aspects of his, at best, erratic behaviour, so his recent pronouncements on US history did not receive as much attention as they might merit.

While Boris Johnson has not, as far as I know, demanded an official patriotic update of Our Island Story a fair amount of Tory culture wars are in this area.

I doubt Johnson has ever heard of E P Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class which was the model for Howard Zinn’s work referenced below. That said the history of working class struggle for civil rights, democracy and justice is hardly the matter of every day discourse in 2020 sadly.

Johnson told the 2020 Tory Conference that he wants to make sure that all of British history is told. That includes the history of racism and imperialism and the fight against it. Inconvenient for Johnson that may be but socialist historians need to continue to make sure it is unavoidable.

Trump’s statement is at this link

A summary of what he said and what it was supposed to mean is below together with a link to a longer analysis

Trump wants history to be taught as a celebration of the United States and its achievements, and wants it taught in such a way as to erase the achievements of popular movements, including unions and civil rights organizations. He singled out for condemnation Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States

Trump and the people around him who wrote his speech, white nationalists like Stephen Miller, want to turn the clock back to a time when they imagine historians only wrote the history of white presidents and other elite actors, and when they did so with gushing praise. There never really was such a time. Professional historians have always been sceptical and the very tools of their profession are seditious, because history teaches us that things could have been different (contingency) and can still be different.

This post also appears in Issue 71 of the London Socialist Historians Newsletter (Autumn 2020)

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