For years, the Taliban and ISIS have been rightly derided for whitewashing history by destroying monuments dating back 2,000 years or more.
But the United States is no stranger to the same practice, as the controversy surrounding the removal of Confederate monuments shows. The tools our populations use are demonstrations that prevent diverse opinions from being expressed in the public square and at colleges, by revisionist history books and TV documentaries and “historical” dramatizations which use artistic license to commingle facts with fiction, creating a distortion of history.
Books: In my opinion, books can be the most dangerous tool, because anything written by one historian —regardless of the author’s political slant — is too often considered as being based on newly uncovered facts instead of opinion.
Talk radio & TV: The whitewashing of history is most evident by listening to far-right entertainers. Facts are twisted to fit a political agenda; guests are booked only if they have a far right philosophy. Conspiracy theories abound.
Schools of higher learning: Colleges and universities have often played a part in the whitewashing of American history, when the administration accedes to the demands of students’ pressure groups, resulting only in biased views of history.
Civil War monuments: Most Taliban-ISIS-like is the movement to do away with statues erected of so-called Southern Civil War “heroes,” and the renaming of buildings and streets named after historical people now out of favor.
What’s most troubling about this is that people who are against the removal of Civil War monuments are automatically called racists by individuals who don’t have the slightest idea of the political philosophy of those they're slandering.
History is meant to teach us lessons from the past, both the good and the bad. If evil is not to be repeated, people must constantly be reminded that it existed and still exists (and is growing because of Trump’s actions). Removing Confederate statues and renaming buildings and streets is a form of censorship: Once it starts, where will it end?
Personally, I think that the statues should not have been built. They are not "beautiful," as Trump has said. They represent a shameful era in America's long history of racial injustice. But evil must always be remembered.
In Europe, concentration camps still remain so that future generations will witness the evil of Nazi Germany. Before people are so certain that the Confederate statues must be removed, maybe they should remember the saying “out of sight, out of mind.”
Controversy about these statues plays into what hate groups want. It assures them continuous news coverage, which provides them a platform to express their hatred.
Let the monuments stand and become teaching tools and gathering places so that future generations will constantly be reminded of the necessity to be on guard and fight back against hate. Build new ones of people of all races and religions who fought for justice and civil rights. Doing so will not erase history but will set the record straight.
Show biz: All facets of the show biz industry, the legit stage, TV and movies, are guilty of whitewashing history. Too often facts are completely changed. Artistic license is the excuse. Unfortunately, the shows are publicized as being based on history with the word “fiction” not included.
Hollywood, in particular, holds the record of whitewashing history. Dozens of films have glamorized the Confederacy as a noble effort to achieve freedom, instead of what it really was: A movement to ensure the continuation of slavery.
Record busters: The most frequent reported whitewashing of history occurs almost on a daily basis by sports reporters. Record-breaking sports achievements in baseball and football become major news often without mentioning that they occurred because the seasons are much longer (or, in baseball’s case, the distance between the batter’s box and the outfield fences have shrunk, and the balls aren’t what they used to be). Records in other sports are also broken with no mention of how modern equipment and training played a role.
Trump spokespeople: As anyone who has watched the White House press briefings know, Trump’s press secretaries are consistently whitewashing history, not from years ago but from the past 24 hours or less.
Trump: Whitewashing current history is practiced almost daily by the President. Trump has made so many contradictory and false statements that when historians write about his tenure in the White House, the libraries should place the books in the fiction section. Trump often has said, according to White House leakers, that he is being criticized for statements he never made. If he truly believes that, he has serious mental problems that should be addressed. And if he knows that he’s deliberately lying, that’s even worse. Either way his conduct makes him unfit to be President of the United States.
One segment of U.S. history that should be remembered and publicized before every election is the vulgar, crude and incendiary remarks of Trump so that, hopefully, more people will leave their couches and vote to prevent a smaller slice of the electorate from choosing a future unstable megalomaniac through the electoral college, even though a larger portion of popular votes went to another candidate.
Arthur Solomon was a senior VP at Burson-Marsteller. He now is a contributor to public relations and sports business publications consults on PR projects and was on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.