Music critic Greil Marcus claims that "a culture has reached a dead end when it is no longer intrigued by its myths, when they lose their power to excite."  He's wrong.  Young nations are solidified by myth, but only when they outgrow them, move on, face facts, do they mature and progress. 

          Below are six American myths about that were widely believed until only 50 years ago.  We laugh at them now.  We are growing up.

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George Washington and his Cherry Tree -- "Father, I cannot tell a lie..." So what's wrong with honesty?  Only that this never happened.  From a fanciful biography penned by a man named Parson Weems, this whopper spread throughout the 19th century and into the 20th.  It was widely believed until the mid-20th century. 

Gone With the Wind -- Happy slaves.  Kind slave owners treating them "like family."  A "lost cause" of "cavaliers and cotton fields. . . Knights and their ladies fair..." All destroyed by a ruthless Yankee invasion.  This rewriting of the ante-bellum South made "Gone With the Wind" the gospel truth for generations South AND North.  We now know better.

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Women Aren’t Fit for Politics -- A generation ago you could fit all our female politicians into a large cocktail party.  In 1990, the House had 31 women, the Senate, none.  Now -- 104 representatives, 21 senators.  Far from 50-50 but just wait.

Draw, Pardner – Guns played a key role in the "winning of the West," but mostly they were trained on Comanche and Sioux.  In fact, murder rates in old Western towns were no higher than now, and there are few documented cases of face-to-face gun duels on the streets of Dodge City or anywhere else.  The water alone would have killed you.


States' Rights -- Caused the Civil War, right?  Not slavery!  Wrong.  The word "slavery" is in every Confederate state constitution.  The "peculiar institution," as the South called slavery, was at the forefront of every state's decision to secede.  The only state's right at issue was a state's right to have slavery.  All but a few have now come to accept this.


Cowboys and Indians -- For anyone of a certain age, "Cowboys and Indians" was a standard of childhood.  Choose a side and begin the fight.  Just a game?  Hardly.  We truly believed in the goodness of the cowboys, the treachery of the Indians, as in "Indian giver," one who takes back what he's given.  This myth died with Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and the truths it revealed. 



BTW:  Who do I mean by “we?”  Not everyone, of course, but a critical mass.






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