The way we look at the past is often altered when governments change hands. I just returned from Moldova, a Soviet republic until 1991 when the Soviet Union imploded. The Romanian-speaking majority seized control and began changing place names and national memorials. The main boulevard of the capital which had been named after Lenin (founder of the Soviet Union) was now named after Stefan the Great, a 15th century Moldovan king who had fought off invasions by Turks from the south and Slavs from the north. Statues of Lenin were also removed, replaced by statues of Stefan the Great. Their currency, which had pictures of Lenin and Marx on it, now showed Stefan the Great.
However, Moldova was soon controlled again by the pro-Russian Communist party due to support by both the Russian/Ukrainian minority and retirees believing their pensions would be more secure under Communists. It was during this period of Communist control that I first visited Moldova as a Fulbright professor in 2004: they celebrated International Worker’s Day on May 1st and Victory Day on May 9th (the day Nazi Germany “capitulated” to the Soviet Union).
Things changed again in 2009 when a coalition anti-Communist democratic parties were able to organize a parliamentary majority. This brought further changes, which I noticed while visiting Moldova a few weeks ago. The new government called for a national “Day of Mourning for the victims of totalitarian communism” on June 28th, the infamous day in 1940 when the Soviets occupied Moldova after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact dividing eastern Europe between Hitler and Stalin. While the Communists had promoted the idea that Moldova was “liberated” by Russia from Nazi Germany, now Moldovans were told to mourn the day they became “occupied” by the Soviet Union. In like manner history is now being rewritten in the United States. Our textbooks glorify new people hardly discussed a couple decades ago. Old heroes are now considered villains, famous entrepreneurs and captains of industry are now referred to as greedy “Robber Barons”.
When I was a child I was told the founding fathers were heroes (Washington couldn’t tell a lie, Lincoln was called “Honest Abe”) but my own children are now taught that they were selfish slave-owners and deplorable racists. Even our holidays are being co-opted by new ones serving more “multicultural” and “progressive” goals. We can’t mention Christmas or Easter, but much is made of Cinco de Mayo and Martin Luther King’s Birthday with hardly a mention of the birthdays of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. Columbus Day parades have been met with ugly protests, and now hardly take place anymore, replaced by Gay Pride parades, which are held conveniently on Father’s Day. When I taught Western Civ at CU Boulder, Marijuana Day seemed to be the biggest event of the year with no mention of Memorial Day or Veterans Day.
In fact, even the CU Boulder Western Civ class I once taught is now being taught by someone else in a manner more acceptable to the new historical revisionism. It seems as if we have experienced a revolution similar to the implosion of the Soviet Union, and that our nation has been fundamentally transformed, yet we are hardly even aware of it.