High School History Remains Diplomatic Cherry-Picking

Scott Deshefy


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American history taught in high schools today remains diplomatic cherry-picking. Often omitted are dark sides of manifest destiny’s “divine sanctioning” on which U.S. expansionism rests. Except for the Seven Years’ (i.e. “French and Indian”) War fought for global primacy between France and Britain in North America (1754-63), little else between pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock (1620) and 1776 is accentuated. King Philip’s War between New England colonists and Mohegan allies against coalitions of Wampanoag, Narragansett and other tribes led by Metacomet (aka “King Philip”) is one such sacrifice to time and textbook size. Another is the Pequot War (1636-38) and the massacre in Mystic led by John Mason. Spanning Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Acadia and Maine, and lasting from 1675 to the treaty of Casco Bay in 1678, King Philip’s War was the deadliest per capita conflict on American soil. It was also the closest Native Americans got to containing, if not pushing European migrants back to sea. For a time, decimated by disease and martially outnumbered, combined indigenous forces shrunk colonial frontiers in Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth and Rhode Island.

Metacomet’s Rebellion was the first of many lost-, but just-cause insurrections against oppression in early U.S. history. All were terminated with “extreme prejudice.”As Howard Zinn and other historians have documented, dozens of slave revolts were attempted in America, North and South. And from 16th through 18th centuries the Caribbean was rife with them. A 12-year Haitian revolt against the French led by Toussant Louverture won independence. Maroon and Coromantees insurrections, Tacky’s Revolt in Jamaica and uprisings in Barbados, Puerto Rico and Antigua, while less successful, scared our founding fathers into the 2nd Amendment. Constitutionally, only citizens ─ white, property-owning males ─ could bear arms in well-regulated militias, militias maintained as security against slaves. Among the greatest U.S. slave revolts were South Carolina’s Stono Rebellion (1739), the New York City Conspiracy of 1741, Gabriel’s Virginia Conspiracy (1800), Louisiana’s German Coast Uprising (1811) and Nat Turner’s Rebellion in Virginia in 1811. Summarily, insurgents were captured by state militias, executed and frequently dismembered.

When in 1787 Daniel Shays, a farmer who saw action in the Continental Army at Lexington, Concord, Bunker Hill and Saratoga, led rebels against the Springfield, MA armory, intent on seizing weapons and overthrowing the government, his motivation was just: a debt crisis. Farmers, who by serving in the army couldn’t afford to pay property taxes, were losing their homes and land to rich folk in their towns, “swells” who hadn’t fought in the revolution and bought up existing liens. But, Shays’ Rebellion was nonetheless treasonous, an uprising costing a dozen or so lives. He and hundreds of his followers were indicted, though eventually pardoned. Two ringleaders hanged for looting.

There was nothing righteous about the Jan. 6th attack on the Capitol by politically-brainwashed zealots incited by lies of election fraud. Their paramilitary gear, coordinated planning, “stacked” assault formations, and confiscated diagrams and models, assuring all entrances to the Capitol were attacked at once, prove the takeover was premeditated treason. Of over 500 insurgents arrested, prosecutors reveal, 1 in 10 was a current or former military member, many susceptible to voter-fraud fallacies because of PTSD, anxiety and relationships under strain from inabilities to adapt to post-military life. They’re the recruitment targets of online misinformation and antigovernment extremists like Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and other militia groups intent on steering the isolated down radical paths where criminality, attempted coups and murder are miscast as patriotism. Many, like vaccine-resisters, are dangerous links in society, weakened by the warped propaganda that truth, justice and shared responsibilities for one another are un-American. Five dead and dozens injured are grim reminders that George Lincoln Rockwell, a Navy vet, founded the American Nazi Party, and Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols both served in the army.

Scott Deshefy is a biologist, ecologist and two-time Green Party congressional candidate.