Friday, July 25, 2014

Post Colonialism and Inalienable Rights

For as long as I can remember, history was always my favorite subject in school. I love learning about different people and different times. Fourth grade is when I first started thinking critically about history -- wondering if everything my textbooks taught me was true (I didn't have a word for "bias" at the time, but that's probably a more accurate phrase for my search). 

In Middle and High School I remember becoming frustrated with the weak coverage of modern history. It always seemed we gave certain time periods a lot of depth, and we never finished up WWII before May -- which meant we had less than a month to cover the 50 years of my parent's lifetime. I wanted to know more than a brief week's worth of lessons about things like Vietnam, Civil Rights, and Apartheid. 

Apartheid. A word I didn't even hear until I was a Junior in High School, and I was sitting in my English Honors class. That is likely the moment my favorite subject changed from History to English, but my motive remained the same. At the age of 17 I realized I could learn about the world through textbooks and lectures or through literature and critical thought. The answer was clear. 

I wrestled with the idea of at least minoring in History at Utah State, but the thought of exploring the world through a predominately white, male, textbook heavy department just didn't appeal to me. I figured if I really wanted to dig into the why's of human behavior, or history, then Psychology was a preferred route. 

But literature has always been my love. My true route for exploring both history and human behavior. I would have never been given the chance to learn about colonialism beyond the American revolution, if it were not for great literature and great professors I met at USU. I didn't always grasp the different literary terms and lenses such professors used, but in hindsight I embraced a post-colonial perspective. 

Too few Americans understand that the sun never set on the British Empire, and that was long after the colonies were free to rule by their own Constitution. Twenty-five percent of the world's people and land suffered British rule, just like we did. And few of them liked it, just as we didn't. 

People want to be free. People want to govern themselves, but modern American policy and textbook history seem to ignore this basic truth all together. The US stance toward Apartheid makes me sick to my stomach. I hadn't thought about it much until a recent viewing of The Butler. How did it take us so long to stand up for a citizen's right to a revolution against colonialism?  How were we raised to love our own heritage so deeply, while denying anyone else the right to it?

I know the world has a long history of land grabs, and I know early Americans, in their quest for freedom, also stole freedom from millions of others. But I guess I thought that by 1980, by 2014, we would have recognized our hypocrisies and granted others the same inalienable rights we enjoy. 

I guess not. 

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