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Modern history lessons

By Lisa Fabrizio
web posted June 9, 2008

This past weekend on my annual baseball park tour, some friends and I decided to take a one-hour riverboat excursion on the Mississippi River, which departed from the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Having previously taken a few extended riverboat trips, I wasn't expecting much from the short tour other than a lap around the historic Eads Bridge and maybe some gentle river breezes. However, the presence of a National Park Service ranger on the boat proved most illuminating.

SacagaweaAfter pointing out a few historic milestones, the ranger proceeded to launch into a rather heretical discussion of famed Indian guide, Sacagawea, who, according to feminist propaganda was a keen-eyed scout who basically led the whole Lewis and Clark expedition while still a teenaged mother. You may remember her being immortalized in coin by the U.S. government in 2000. Alas, the coin, like its predecessor, the Susan B. Anthony dollar, failed to cash in on feminist sentiment and is of interest now only to numismatists.

Our intrepid NPS ranger bravely stated that not only did our Native American heroine not guide the party to any new territory, but that she simply recognized her own land when she returned there after having been kidnapped and sold by another tribe to her husband, who agreed to accompany the expedition. He went on to further shock the crowd by relating that her son, also on the Sacagawea dollar, was baptized a Christian. I'm not sure how all of this was received by the rest of the tour group, but those in my party rejoiced in the glow of truth.

After our surprisingly informative trip on the river and an entertaining Cardinals game, we repaired back to our hotel bar where a TV was tuned to Fox Sports' Best Damn Sports Show Period. The show--a repulsive display of all that is wrong with sports today--featured some ex-ballplayers and other ‘notables' selecting their all-time Major League Baseball team. Using such idiotic yardsticks as All Star selections, most of the picks were risible.

For example, not cracking the lineup was Rogers Hornsby, perhaps the best right-handed hitter ever, who posted a .358 lifetime batting average--highest ever in the National League--with 301 home runs and two Triple Crowns. His spot at second base was laughingly but predictably given to Joe Morgan, a supposedly great slugger who amassed 268 home runs and batted a pedestrian .271 for his career.

And when discussing the greatest starting pitchers, not one of the top seven all-time winners was even mentioned, yet the eighth and ninth, who of course are still active, were touted as the best. I'll spare you all of the final results if you were fortunate enough to have missed the telecast, but suffice to say that Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb did not make the grade as outfielders.

Now, what do Sacagawea and the schlock jocks at Fox have in common? They are exemplars of the maddening trend of the last forty years or so, of modern relativists shaping our history and therefore our culture, not according to what actually happened, but to fit into today's way of thinking.
Was Sacagawea a notable woman for having endured the rugged but involuntary trek from South Dakota to the Pacific Ocean? Yes, but from the scarce amount of reliable historical information available, it is a mighty jump to call her "a near-legendary figure in the history of the American West for her indispensable role on the Lewis and Clark Expedition." Yet this is how modern history is distorted; the perceived ‘heroic' qualities of one subject are exalted regardless of whether there was actual achievement, while verifiable facts are ignored because those qualities are missing in another.

Modern sports pundits take this further by not only gazing at past greats through a distorted historical looking glass; the fact that they preceded the great intellectual lights of the Baby Boomer era makes them nearly invisible, except for ridicule. Take Tyrus Raymond Cobb for example. His records on the baseball field are undeniably of the first rank, yet it would be hard to find a post-1970's account of his life without mention of his virulent racism.

It would be even harder to find more than a few sentences dedicated to his charitable works; endowments for a hospital and a scholarship fund which still bear his name and aid the needy in his native Georgia. But that Cobb grew up in a state whose remaining Jim Crow laws were only officially expunged three years ago, must be forever held against him. To chastise Cobb for racism in post-Civil War Georgia would be akin to decrying the Native American practice of kidnapping and selling into bondage women of rival tribes; most people are the product of their times and circumstances.

The practice of portraying historical figures in light of modern norms was once held in abhorrence by scholarly chroniclers; indeed, the understanding of earlier cultures was thought to enlighten contemporary learning. Hopefully, current historical reportage will be seen merely as the viewpoints of those laboring under the 20th Century's penchant for political correctness and hubris. ESR

Lisa Fabrizio is a columnist who hails from Connecticut. You may write her at mailbox@lisafab.com.





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