The Myths of American History

American history is full of myths. The most conspicuous and derided is the “Myth of the Lost Cause.”

Most people don’t know what the so-called “Lost Cause” meant, but they think it means people who argue that slavery wasn’t important in the antebellum period or as a contributing factor to the “Civil War.”

All they know is that only “neo-Confederate”, racist, uneducated dopes believe in it.

Except we know that isn’t true or that the “Myth of the Lost Cause” is the most pernicious in our understanding of the past.

I wouldn’t call the “Lost Cause” pernicious, but those who spend much of their time as keyboard warriors fighting against this bogeyman do.

No. Pernicious American myths center around one figure: Abraham Lincoln.

The Lincolnian Myth drives most of our understanding of the American past.

Take for example this piece by historian Wilfred McClay. He points to several myths of American history, but does not identify the root of each myth, Lincoln.

Both the Left and the Right claim Lincoln and the Lincoln myth as their own, a phenomenon I will be discussing this week on The Brion McClanahan Show.

For the Left, Lincoln represents all that is potentially good in America, we, of course, have fallen short of that proposition.

For the Right, Lincoln embodies the ideal America, from politics to his treatment of executive powers, to his positions on “democracy” and slavery.

Both positions are based on myths, even more fantastic than that of the “Lost Cause.”

That myth was at least based on the established political traditions of the United States. In other words, it was a concrete “myth” of heroic people fighting to preserve self-government and self-determination against an ideology.

McClay’s essay offers a great starting point for a week on myths at the Brion McClanahan Show, and it begins with Episode 721.

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