I’m mostly teaching music courses this year, but I still have a couple of sections of Honors US History. That means it’s another year of telling the “grand narrative of American history.” My main goal as a history teacher is to make sure students receive a balanced, analytical telling of our great nation’s history. That means that while I point out the atrocities of, say, the Spanish conquistadors, I also discuss the wickedness of the Aztecs, who engaged in daily human sacrifices. That the Spanish built a cathedral atop the old Aztec altar to their false gods is a fitting bit of divine judgment.
Of course, as an American I’m more interested in English colonization and settlement in British North America—what would become the United States—than I am in the vast empire of New Spain. We should be getting into Roanoke, Jamestown, and Plymouth Rock today or tomorrow, and I’m quite excited about that. For me, that’s when the story really starts cooking. Naturally, the clash of Spanish conquistadors and Aztec and Inca warriors is cool, but those first saplings of a free country stir my heart.
All that said, this week’s TBT looks back at those cool conquistadors. Here is 3 September 2019’s “Remembering 1519“:
We’re continuing our dive into the B-sides and deep cuts of the TPP oeuvre. For this Lazy Sunday, I decided to check out September 2019.
Whoa! What a gold mine of hidden gems and nuggets, forgotten in the tide of events. I didn’t realize how many good posts I generate during that first full month of the 2019-2020 school year. There’s enough for a couple of weeks, but here are three forgotten posts to tide you over until next Sunday:
“Remembering 1519” – With The New York Times‘s 1619 Project all the rage—a retelling of American history in which racism and slavery are the only pertinent factors in our grand national story—this post examined a piece from The Federalist about Hernan Cortez’s conquest of the Aztecs in 1519. Rather than framing it as evil Europeans callously destroying the peaceful natives (any fifth grader can tell you the Aztecs were anything but peaceful), he flips the script to something closer to the Truth: the Catholic Christian Spaniards toppled a wicked regime built on human sacrifice and false gods. The Spanish weren’t angels, but they destroyed a great evil.
“Saturn: The Creepiest Planet?” – Quora inspired this post, and the site has now become a favorite of mine for people smarmily answering astronomy questions. The Solar System has always fascinated me, and Saturn in particular is alluring—so mysterious and regal, with its massive rings. I’ve even written a song, “The Rings of Saturn,” which I will hopefully record one day. The Quora post in question asked “What is the creepiest planet in our solar system?”; the answer, per a recording of Saturn’s electromagnetic waves, is Saturn. The embedded video to that recording is now, sadly, dead, but I’m sure some intrepid searching could turn it up.
“A Tale of Two Cyclists” – One of my more frivolous and cantankerous posts, this short screed denounces “spandex-festooned cyclists riding in the middle of a busy lane during rush hour.” Yet my sympathies are entirely with the second cyclist, “a black man of indeterminate age…. wearing street clothes, and riding what appeared to be a fairly rundown bike.” I have no problem with folks who use a bike as their primary means of transportation, lacking any other options. But these large groups of “cyclists” who ostentatiously hog entire lanes at 5 PM drive me batty.
That’s it for this Sunday! We’ll continue our exploration for at least another week, as there are some more goodies from September 2019 to explore.
A major part of American history was, of course, slavery. As I typed that sentence, I nearly wrote “the unfortunate legacy of slavery,” though we’re still living that, just not in the way the race-baiters and social justice warriors claim.
But phrases like “the unfortunate legacy of slavery” have become incredibly cliched. It and similar phrases (“slavery is our great national sin”) act as magic talismans, incantations that, when invoked, protect the speaker (presumably) from the ultimate curse, the label of “racist.”
Of course, slavery was wrong, and slavery is immoral. It was our great national sin (paid for, as Lincoln pointed out in his Second Inaugural Address, with the blood “drawn by the sword” in the American Civil War). It continues to have an “unfortunate legacy,” in that race-baiting charlatans continue to blame it for virtually every pathology in black American culture.
Dang it… I screwed up the incantation with that last bit. I’d better kiss my job goodbye right now.
The start of the school year always means the start of the grand narrative of American history. It dawned on me some years ago that, over the course of roughly 180 days, I undertake an annual, oral retelling of the story of the United States. One day, I plan to record my lectures, taking the best bits, and compiling them into a lengthy podcast series. After that, I’ll never have to teach again!
Regardless, the story always starts the same: a brief overview of the pre-Columbian Americans (what we used to call “Indians,” and more clumsily “Native Americans”), followed up with Spanish exploration from Christopher Columbus through Hernan Cortez and on.
A major part of those early lessons is the encounter of the bloodthirsty Aztecs and the gold-mad Spaniards. Students love the story of the advanced Aztecs, sacrificing humans to ensure the sunrise, and the arrival of the fiery-haired Cortez and his ragtag band of conquistadors and buccaneers.