Sundays With the Christianists: American History Textbooks Still Fighting The Cold War From A Secret Bunker
You may have missedthis news item a couple weeks back: Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who remained hidden in the Philippine jungles until 1974, unaware that World War II had ended, died January 16 at the age of 91. For some reason, that seems worth mentioning in our review of rightwing textbooks for the Christian school market and their coverage of the Cold War. Since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, they still have a little while to go before they equal Onoda's 30 years of pointless hostilities, but we predict that future editions of these books will be just as terrified by International Communism as the current ones. For that matter, the Cold War chapters of the 2006 edition of our 8th-grade text from A Beka, America: Land I Love, are unrevised from the 1994 original -- and the book continues to use the present tense when discussing "communist nations." Our 11th/12th-grade text, Bob Jones University Press's United States History for Christian Schools, tends to be considerably less shrill, but still firmly anti-communist in outlook. Besides, it's always more fun to keep metaphorically fighting a war when your side won, as determined by having the most toys.
So what is this Cold War, anyway? While U.S. History goes with a perfectly conventional definition, "a period of tension and intense competition which only occasionally flared up into actual military conflict (i.e., a 'hot war')," and even cites Bernard Baruch as the coiner of the term, Land I Love prefers to define the era in terms of what the conflict was really about:
With Europe weakened by the destruction of war, the stage was set for a Soviet takeover and the rise of Communism as a world power. A Cold War, a conflict between the ideologies of Americanism (individual responsibility, capitalism, and Biblical moral values) and Communism (atheistic, oppressive, socialist Marxism) produced conflicts throughout the world. The rising military power and aggression of the Soviet Union and other Communist nations often caused the war of ideas to flare into "hot wars," as in Korea and Vietnam.
In other words, about what you'd expect from the nice historians at Pensacola Christian College, the alma mater, incidentally, of the new darling of the GOP, Cathy McMorris Rodgers. But let us learn more about these two adversaries!
U.S. History gives us an accurate review of U.S.-Soviet tensions from the 1917 Revolution to the end of WWII, noting that the wartime alliance was more a matter of having a common enemy than anything else, and with the end of the war, the "realization that the USSR intended to spread its dominion throughout the world" is what led to the Cold War. Land I Love isn't especially interested in that geopolitical stuff, and gets to what the Cold War was really all about, happily jumping between past and present tense because after all, there are so many communist countries just waiting to pounce even today:
Americanism sees the government as the protector of human life, private property, and the family. Under Americanism, people are free to make their own choices and are responsible for their everyday lives. They are free to worship God as they choose. Communism views the government as the controller of people’s lives. Communist leaders insist that the individual become completely subject to the government (or state). If individuals are not willing to surrender their freedoms and possessions to the state, the Communist government uses physical and psychological force or terror to control the people. Communist countries are atheistic; they deny the existence of God and persecute those who believe in God.
Glad we got that cleared up! On to the history now, right? Actually, just to be sure that the kids all have a clear idea of why communism is very bad, the text goes on to explain that in all Communist countries, conditions are exactly like this:
A person living in a Communist country must have the government’s permission to move from one apartment to another or to travel within the country. Few are allowed to travel outside the country. Housing is poor, food is scarce, medical care is inadequate, abortions are encouraged, children must go to state controlled nurseries and schools, working conditions are harsh and unsafe, and no one can marry or get a job without state approval. In short, Communism is oppressive; it is a slavery of the mind, body, and soul.
So now you know what communism is, and why it is bad. Soon we will get to the actual history of the Cold War so that we can memorize some names and dates.
The Communists persecuted Christians by destroying churches, killing church leaders, and putting parents in jail for sharing the Bible with their children. In spite of great hardships, many Christians continued to stand for the gospel. Christians who suffered behind the Iron Curtain were some of the great heroes of modern times.
OK, now we're pretty sure they're done, and we can get on with the actual history stuff.
Both texts give a pretty accurate description of the Marshall Plan, the "Truman Doctrine" of providing military aid to pro-Western governments, and the postwar policy of "containment" of Soviet influence. As usual, U.S. History is mostly content to explain what happened and who was involved, while Land I Love wants there to be no doubt about who the good guys and bad guys were. The 1948 Berlin Crisis gets a brief, accurate paragraph in U.S. History, which notes that while the Western allies quickly moved to quickly consolidate their "zones" of occupied Germany, the USSR tried to gum up the works by blockading Berlin:
By cutting off all access to West Berlin, Stalin hoped to take over all of Berlin or force the West to stop the unification of West Germany. Truman responded quickly with a massive airlift of food and supplies to West Berlin, and by May 1949 the Berlin airlift had forced the Soviet Union to end the blockade.
And that's about it for Berlin until the Wall goes up in 1961. Land I Love just can't resist editorializing, not to mention cheerleading:
Determined to control West Berlin, the Soviets blocked all rail, water, and road routes into the city. The people of West Berlin faced the prospect of starvation. The Soviets even denied medical supplies to the hospitals.
Communist leaders had little respect for human life; they tortured and murdered many of their own people in the Soviet Union. The U.S. military came to the rescue in the winter of 1948-1949 with the Berlin Airlift, as huge American transport planes landed in West Berlin every 45 seconds, carrying food and supplies to sustain the city. It was the greatest airlift in history and greatly impressed the Soviets, who were forced to admit the superiority of the American air force.
This is where you need to start chanting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" kids. Also, in this text, the Berlin Airlift had almost nothing to do with Cold War strategy; it was about the basic decency of Americanism, followed by the thanks of a grateful West Germany:
The airlift represented America’s great military power and its compassion for the free people of Europe. The Soviets eventually lifted their blockade, and the city of West Berlin developed a prosperous and free way of life. The West Germans were grateful to the United States and pledged to develop a free and peaceful nation closely allied to America.
Mind you, it wasn't all just about kindness -- the Berlin Airlift and subsequent events in Europe demonstrated the inherent superiority and decency of capitalism and the wretched cruelty of communism:
Meanwhile, life in East Berlin and the rest of Eastern Europe became harsh and economically backward under Communist rule. Almost all natural resources of the region went to build up the Soviet military or to prop up Communist terrorist groups around the world. The waste, inefficiency and forced labor of Marxist-socialism led to a declining standard of living throughout the Soviet empire. While Western Europe quickly recovered from the war and grew into modern and prosperous countries, Communist Eastern Europe and Russia could barely achieve the standard of living found in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s.
Strange, though, that while Land I Love does discuss the Marshall Plan, it leaves out any discussion of how that enormous government spending program and the rebuilding of Western Europe were largely financed by U.S. taxpayers, or that the Berlin Airlift was a triumph of government planning and coordination, or even that America gave Berlin all that stuff rather than selling it to them as a good free-marketer would. The minor detail that the United States was the only major nation to come out of WWII without its industrial facilities and civilian population having been bombed to hell also goes unmentioned, for some reason. And of course, there's no mention at all of the domestic opposition to giving all that money to a bunch of foreigners and why were we spending money to rebuild Germany what was our enemy anyway? All that messy stuff is easy to ignore, because the Free Market won, at least until Europe was infected with socialism and universal healthcare and high-speed rail and labor unions, which is why America remains the best. Whoohoo!
Next Week: The Korean War, General MacArthur's betrayal by Truman, and all those spies that McCarthy was right about.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.