April 24, 2010

"Moral compass" in America: The Story of Us

'America: The Story of Us' gives a vivid docudrama sheen to US history

The History channel’s 'America: The Story of Us' premiers its six-part series this Sunday.

By Gloria Goodale
The cable channel now simply known as History returns to its roots as a traditional source of the grand historical narrative this Sunday night when it launches its most ambitious effort to date, a 12-hour, six-part survey covering 400 years of American history.

“America: The Story of Us” debuts with a lead-in from no less a figure than President Obama, extolling the virtues that make up the American character and encouraging Americans to help shape the nation’s future through understanding a shared past.

“Our American story has never been inevitable,” the president says in the introduction. “It was made possible by ordinary people who kept their moral compass pointed straight and true when the way seemed treacherous, when the climb seemed steep, and when the future seemed uncertain. People who recognized a fundamental part of our American character: that we can remake ourselves–and our nation–to fit our larger dreams.”

The filmmakers clearly hope to tap a resonance between early settlers and the headlines of today, from reminding viewers of the Mayflower settlers yearning for religious freedoms, as well as their partnership with one tribe of Indians that helped to wipe out a rival tribe of native Americans, to the early tobacco farmers in Jamestown and the first black Americans, including the first to die in the Boston Massacre. The early militia’s fateful encounters with British redcoats, not to mention the first tea party activists in Boston Harbor are but a few more of the same lines clearly drawn from the present day to our past.
Comment:  America was built by "ordinary people who kept their moral compass pointed straight"? Yeah, if keeping their moral compass straight is a synonym for killing and enslaving Indians and blacks. If breaking every one of almost 400 Indian treaties, transforming tribes from sovereign nations into domestic wards, is a sign of moral rectitude.

Sounds like Obama is whitewashing America's past again. As with his Inaugural Address, he's afraid to tell Americans anything but a fairy-tale version of history. Which may explain why he won't sign the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights or utter the word "genocide."

Will the first episode of America: The Story of Us cover the Mystic River massacre or King Philip's War? What will it say about the colonists' bounty on dead Indians or participation in the slave trade? Not a whole lot, judging from this article.

For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

Below:  "Actors play Powhattan Indians, near Jamestown settlement, in the new history channel series 'America: The Story of Us.'" (Charlie Sperring/AETN)

1 comment:

Apache Man said...

Depending on which values Americans choose to acknowledge, or ignore, the history of America has a range of mythical glorifications to that of outright deception. For even this half African American President, it is easy to find optimistic themes from a background of middle class American values. I am not so sure most of his working class brethren share his illusion and optimism(s).
Minority Americans sitting at the top in society will always afford to live by illusion once they have reached the so-called pinnacles of success and exists in that world that once literally “slammed” the doors in their faces and let us not forget that by many of Obama’s current status quo club members opinions and status, he is still considered, “new money” and will never quite be on the inside of the world’s main players, i.e., CEO’s and the good old white boy club that has existed since time memoriam.
“America: The Story of US” can be viewed as a history lesson from those that wish to continue the illusion that, America is the best nation on the earth, or we can be realistic about what exactly America has never owned up to in regards to race relations, something most Americans adamantly remain in denial about; the failure of capitalism in that there is not really a “free market” and “free enterprise’s” success equals that of a lottery game where only the greediest and most obscenely corrupt prosper; and democracy, which throughout American History lasts only as long as you have a great supply of blood to spill, or a lot of money to buy votes.
Until America has reconciled her debt with her indigenous past and educates herself with the true facts about this land’s history over the repeated “made for family TV” themes full of grandeur actors and celebrity ad nausea, I’ll stick to “South Park’s” version of America, since in this country today, it is the only real America I see and hear as even close to being ridiculously honest.