MUST READ OF THE DAY: History in a Post-American World
Do you know what would have been a great character trait to assign George Washington? Integrity:
17th September, 1796 Farewell Address: “I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain (what I consider the most enviable of all titles) the character of an ‘Honest Man.’”
The authors and editors decided instead to reserve the trait “integrity” for none other than Simon Bolivar. At the time I read it, the name meant nothing to me. Yet, the description of this dude as the “George Washington of South America” naturally rose my hackles a bit, first because I knew they had screwed GW out of the “integrity” label, and second because I am wary whenever some multicultural figure is casually equated with America’s founders.
Then I started reading about Simon Bolivar in The Land That Never Was, and my wariness became well-founded. According to David Sinclair, Simon Bolivar saw himself not as the South American George Washington, but as the South American Napoleon, “to the extent that he would even stand in the famous pose of the French Emperor, with his right hand tucked inside his tunic . . . .” (The Land That Never Was, pg. 144)
Now, my subsequent internet research (which ate half my Sunday right up, by the way) did not produce a simple picture of the man who was Simon Bolivar. My point is not to demonize him, nor minimize his importance.
My point is to heap scorn upon our education textbook industry. Not only do they over-simplify the rich and complex stories of nations in a way that makes all of them interchangeable and therefore virtually meaningless, they can’t even get the basic facts right.