Over the years, I’ve studied American History in both college and on my own. In line with this, I’ve read various schools of historical thought so I could form an educated opinion on the subject. The historians I’ve studied range from those with Marxist interpretations, to moderates who emphasized Liberalism from classical to modern, to traditionalists. Needless to say, since history is somewhat an interpretative discipline that uses facts to shape narratives, the views of America by different historians are often profoundly different.
The Marxist influenced historians I’ve read tend to view America’s history as a series of events meant to cement in the power of the ruling class. Therefore, their views of America lacked the optimism other historians had. The moderate historians, who sometimes reflected Classical Liberalism, emphasized how the American ideal of equality of opportunity, became a key feature as America evolved and influenced the world. The traditionalist historians tended to view the United States as a good and decent country with few strong critiques. Over the course of my studies, I’ve come to the conclusion that the moderate historian’s dynamic view of American history seemed reasonable. In addition, I’ve realized that Classical Liberalism – as exemplified by the philosopher John Locke and our Founding Fathers, was not quite the same as modern Liberalism. As many know, Classical Liberalism has much in common with modern Conservatism.
Those frustrated with America often claim that human rights progress has not been fast enough. Therefore, they sometimes turn to Marxist theory in hopes of finding answers. Although some find this theory attractive, this hope is often tempered by the fact that Marxism in practice, as opposed to theory, has not always respected human rights. In reality, Representative Democracies such as the United States seem to provide the strongest support for human rights advancements. Prior to the development of modern democracies – a movement America helped inspire, human rights protections were more rare. The Founding Fathers vision of America – as shown through the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, has provided many of the seeds of hope to address oppression. Our Constitution’s Reconstruction Amendments – which addressed racial injustice, provide proof of this. Also, modern civil rights and human rights legislation draws somewhat on the inspiration of our Founding Fathers.
The United States, as well as other democracies, has checks and balances setup to maintain societal and political balance. Understandably, this is a constant work in progress. And yes…in looking through history, America has treated certain groups unfairly. This is shown by the injustices suffered by Native Americans through the years, as well as the slavery, Jim Crow laws, and racism impacting the lives of African-Americans over time. However, if there was ever a society capable of acknowledging and rectifying historical wrongs, and respecting human rights, it’s the type of Representative Democracy America has. As many can attest to, the United States has been one of the most durable and hopeful societies in human history.