By Don Feder – BarbWire guest contributor
It’s become a tradition. Every Memorial Day, our family goes to the Concord Battlefield, not far from our home, where Americans first fell fighting for freedom.
Now The Minute Man National Park, it’s 967 acres of winding trails, flower beds, stately trees and the meandering Concord River. This is the place where America began. Words must be spoken or written – as they were in Philadelphia in 1776. But it’s cold steel that gives them force.
On April 19, 1775, we showed our mettle. Emerson’s poem still stirs the soul: “By the rude bridge that arched the flood, their flag to April’s breeze unfurled, here once the embattled farmers stood and fired the shot heard round the world.”
Those yeomen farmers had to know they were committing treason and could suffer the consequences – if they survived British bayonets. “Throw down your arms, ye villains, ye rebels!” a British major shouted at the Minute Men assembled on the Lexington Common earlier that day. The punishment for lese-majeste is always unpleasant.
At the Park, you can see a recreation of the Old North Bridge (the rude bridge that arched the flood), the Obelisk erected in 1836 (the first monument to America’s war dead) inscribed in part, “In gratitude to God and in love of freedom, this monument was erected,” and Daniel Chester French’s heroic, if somewhat idealized, statue of the Minute Man, musket in hand, leaving his plow behind him.
The British marched into Lexington the morning of the 19th – 700 strong, regimental bands playing, resplendent in their red uniforms. They were somewhat less resplendent on the march back to Boston later in day. They had routed the militia on the Lexington Common, killing eight of the 77 who offered only token resistance to their progress.
At the North Bridge, British light infantry companies faced angry and determined Minute Men and militia. The colonials were told not to fire unless fired on. They were. “Fire, for God’s sake, fellow soldiers, fire,” Major John Buttrick, who commanded the American force, shouted. When the smoke cleared, the greatest army the world had ever seen was in full retreat. The countryside was roused and 2,000 Americans exacted a bloody revenge. On the 18 miles back to Boston, 73 Redcoats were killed, 174 wounded and 26 went missing.
Without Concord and Lexington, there would have been no siege of Boston, no Battle of Bunker Hill and British evacuation. Washington would not have taken command of what had become the Continental Army. The 13 colonies would not have declared their independence, taking the first hesitant step toward national greatness and changing the world in ways those embattled farmers could never imagine – all from an exchange of musket fire at an insignificant bridge in a sleepy colonial village.
For all that those turbulent years meant for our infant republic, a dwindling number of Americans know even the basic details of the Revolution and its importance to our history. Other than Barack Hussein Obama, this national amnesia is the greatest tragedy to befall us.
In a 2009 survey by The American Revolution Center, 83% failed a basic test on America’s founding. More than a third didn’t know the century in which the Revolutionary War was fought – not the years or the decade, but the century. Half thought the Revolution occurred after the Civil War. A third didn’t know the Bill of Rights guarantees trial by jury. More than half thought the system of government established in 1787 was a democracy, rather than a republic. Most didn’t know the outcome of the Boston Tea Party. (The British forced patriots to drink non-fat soy lattes?)
In 2011, the ironically named National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that 35% of 4th graders didn’t know the purpose of the Declaration of Independence.
Over half who took The American Revolution Center’s test attributed the phrase “From each according to his ability to each according to his needs,” to George Washington, Thomas Paine or Barack Obama (at least that’s plausible) rather than Democratic Party icon, Karl Marx.
Bruce Cole, president and CEO of the Center, comments: “The American Revolution defined what it means to be an American. It forged those principles that unite us as a nation.” Cole cautions that what’s “undefined and misunderstood” can’t be defended. “Many people are unaware that the everyday freedoms and liberties they enjoy – reading newspaper editorials, expressing a dissenting opinion while attending a public meting, or worshipping at a religious institution of their choice – are the legacy of the American Revolution.”
In his farewell address, Ronald Reagan said much the same. “If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I am warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.”
The left’s war on freedom of expression, private property and Second Amendment rights (not to mention its ongoing attacks on religious speech) is abetted by ignorance and distortions of America’s past.
The attention our schools now devote to George Washington is roughly 10% of what it was 50 years ago. Covering the 2011 NAEP, The New York Times reported: “American students are less proficient in their nation’s history than any other subject, according to the results of a nationwide test released on Tuesday, with most fourth graders unable to say why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure and few high school seniors able to identify China as the North Korean ally that fought American troops during the Korean War.”
Most high school seniors probably think Columbus and Long John Silver sailed the Mayflower up the Hudson to help General Custer kill a lot of Chinese railroad workers and keep women from exercising their right to choose.
We don’t teach American history any more. We teach multiculturalism – history filtered through a racial or ethnic lens designed not to educate but to enhance group identity and self-esteem, or advance the left’s agenda.
The latest fad is whitewashing the history and practice of Islam. A 2009 study of the 28 most commonly used social studies textbooks exposed such gems as these: Jesus was a Palestinian. On 9/11 “teams of terrorists” hijacked three planes (no mention of Islam, even with the modifier “radical”) And. of course, jihad is a “spiritual struggle” aimed at self-improvement – the better to kidnap Nigerian schoolgirls.
Larry Schweikart, author of “48 Liberal Lies About American History,” examined the 10 most popular American history textbooks. Guess which image was most often used to illustrate American life in the 1920s – Lindbergh and Spirit of St. Louis, Babe Ruth hitting his 60th home run in a season, “The Jazz Singer” and the advent of the “talkies,” men selling apples on street corners during the Great Depression?
The photo most commonly used to depict American life in that watershed decade was of the Ku Klux Klan. This fits liberal dogma of America the ugly – history a la Oliver Stone.
As a result, patriotism is waning, especially among the young.
In a 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center, overall, 48% said America is the greatest country on earth. However, the survey noted a generational gap. This sentiment is shared by 64% of the silent generation and 50% of Boomers. Slightly less Gen Xers (48%) concur. But less than a third of Millennials (32%) think the nation on which the future of mankind depends is the greatest.
Millennials are the most ignorant of U.S. history and the least patriotic. Consequently, they were the most supportive of Obama in the past two presidential elections. In 2008, Obama got 53% of the total vote, to 46% for John McCain. Millennials backed his fraudulency by 68% to 30%.
Americans again face an occupation – not foreign troops and their mercenary allies, but a foreign ideology. This dogma isn’t just contemptuous of liberty (in ways that make the Hanoverian dynasty seem benign by comparison), but determined to demolish 3,000 years of Judeo-Christian civilization on its way to creating an anthill society. At least George III was a Christian monarch.
But those of us who cling to the ideals of America’s founding aren’t fighting alone. When I look across the Old North Bridge, in my minds eye, I see Doughboys and Rough Riders, Billy Yank and Johnny Reb, troops of the 82nd. Airborne and Green Berets, standing side by side with Minute Men and Colonial Militia.
If we can but remember the sacrifices and heroism of our past, we may yet rescue the future.
Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains his own website, DonFeder.com.
First published at GrassTopsUSA
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.