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Or does it?

Real heroes often die for a cause—the real ones that is. But the histories are written by those who survived. In what the Russians call the Great War, the Russians eulogize Marshall Zhukov. No doubt he was a great man. But what he did came at the great expense of his soldiers, not to mention the common folk caught in the way by either the German juggernaut or Zhukov’s great march westward to Berlin and Hitler in his bunker. Were these people who gave their very lives not the truer heroes?

We Americans have our Paul Revere, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Jimmy Doolittle who led great battles, daring game-changing rides, or raids. How much help did they get? Tons—in both lives and exchequer—like Zhukov.

India doesn’t deify people, but they hold Mahatma Ghandi in the greatest possible esteem for throwing off the yoke of the British empire. So also, South Africa claims Nelson Mandela as it liberator. Neither commanded a great army as such. But they created and led movements requiring sacrifices that too often included death. All of these great gentlemen are given hero status by their kinfolk—and often by the world as well. Those sacrificed are rarely if ever celebrated or even mentioned in the pop history book accounts we are given during the march each of us takes on the road to citizenship in our society.

Let’s take the case of Paul Revere. He was lionized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1860 who wrote,“…through every Middlesex village and farm…” created a hero with his great moving poem. The truth is quite different in important detail.

Revere was a Bostonian, a silversmith by trade. But he knew Sam Adams, and John Hancock, as well as several other leaders of the Revolution. And he was in the thick of organizing resistance to the Redcoats. Revere’s main assignment was to alert Adams and Hancock of and about the nature of the British landing party. On his way, he alerted militia leaders who in turn alerted others. All this had been practiced beforehand. It was a stealth mission; there was no war cry, “The British are coming.” About sixty riders in all took part, both men and women. Yes women—a fact K12 history texts typically omit. One of those female patriots, Sybil Ludington, a militia commander’s daughter was perhaps the most gallant. She road 40 miles that night, warning militia leaders, double the distance covered by Revere.

Why do we revise history?

It happens again and again, even when the actual truth is even more interesting.

The victory that day was not the result of a Lone Ranger, but of a well-rehearsed rebellion of hundreds of people. People pulling together will beat the lone wolf every time.

So why, really, do we revise history?

Let’s us look in the mirror; what kinds of personality and character can we see?


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