As July 4th Approaches, PC Culture Takes on American History
Historian David McCullough’s new book Pioneers focuses on relatively-unknown western trailblazers, such as Rufus Putnam and Ephraim Cutler. Their frontier was the Ohio Valley wilderness, around the town of Marietta — named after Marie Antoinette (who supported the American Revolution).
But according to historian-reviewer Neil J. Young, McCullough’s book is not worth your time. Why? Because we already know too much about white men — celebrated or not.
What does this have to do with Jewish history?
First, take the obscure controversy over whether President George Washington spoke Yiddish. Historians emphatically answer “No” — but Thomas Pynchon authored a novel having him speak exactly that, taught to him by a Black-Jewish slave butler owned (according to Pynchon) by Washington.
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss, appearing on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, remarked that he had spent an entire day reading through George Washington’s papers looking for Yiddishisms — and found none.
But my question is this: If Pynchon is correct, does that exempt Washington from the ban on hyping the Founding Fathers because the first president was a multiculturalist who spoke Yiddish?
Second, take Isaiah Isaacs of Richmond, Virginia. In 1781, when the intrepid frontiersman Daniel Boone did some surveying across the Appalachians all the way to Pittsburgh, Boone signed a receipt for payment for his services that his employer Isaacs notated on the back in Yiddish. Did Boone also speak or understand Yiddish? Ask Thomas Pynchon!
Whatever the answer, according to the PC standard promoted by Young — and supported by many in this country — the famous Daniel Boone certainly deserves no additional publicity. But what about the unheralded Jews, such as Isaacs? I can add about Isaacs that his 1806 will, written in English, provided for the emancipation of his slaves, because “all men are equally free.”
Should Isaacs be damned for being one of the Jews whom Louis Farrakhan claims invented slavery as well as racism? Or should he be honored as an early abolitionist? (George Washington also liberated his slaves when he died.)
Our PC culture is not only undermining our values — but now also our history.
Historian Harold Brackman is coauthor with Ephraim Isaac of From Abraham to Obama: A History of Jews, Africans, and African Americans (Africa World Press, 2015).