I’m a semi-closeted fan of Antiques Road Show. I rarely have reason to talk about it, and don’t typically plan my schedule to view it, but if I’m channel surfing in the evenings (that’s showing my age – do young people even know of channel surfing?), I will always stop on whichever PBS station has it on.

Apart from the excitement of seeing an old family hand-me-down or an attic find appraise at six figures, and apart from the happy pleasure of witnessing genuine, sometimes teary joy at the reveal, one of my favorite aspects of the show is the historical education it provides, especially when it comes to Americana. Our nation is young, especially in comparison to the European lands from which it sprung, but it has a rich and fascinating history that is, in my opinion, increasingly forgotten.

I was reminded of this opinion this morning, as I listened to a satellite radio program. Ron Bennington, one of my absolute favorite personalities (and quite possibly the best interviewer I’ve ever heard), was discussing iconic characters of American folklore and how young people today barely knew any of them. Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, Johnny Appleseed, the Lone Ranger, Casey Jones, Rosie the Riveter, Uncle Sam, Sal the Mule, and other “tall tales” characters. Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, Rip Van Winkle, Natty Bumppo, Ahab and Ishmael, and other standouts of American literature. Iconic historical events like the gunfight at the OK Corral, the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s ride, the Alamo, the California and Alaska gold rushes, and so forth. And, even the cautionary tales, like the Salem Witch Trials, Wounded Knee, The Little Bighorn, and of course the Civil War are part of the nation’s fabric that we were immersed in growing up. All these were things I recall from my childhood and younger years, and not just from popular culture. Today, I wonder, were it not for some of these being immortalized by film, if young people have any knowledge of this mythology and larger-than-life history.

Of course, our societal caretakers don’t have much interest in promulgating the positivity, heroism, and can-do stories of Americana (nor the cautionary tales, unless they fit a moment’s events), choosing instead to teach and advance the narrative that America is born of genocide, that any interest in American or Western history/culture is inherently racist, bigoted, and un-woke, and that curricula should eschew Western history/culture in general. Indeed, when I googled “American Myths,” half the first page of results just such stuff.

While I understand some of the thinking behind the modern… I’ll be polite and call it “skepticism…” towards Americana, in particular the nation’s terrible history regarding the Natives and blacks, it is a terrible injustice to paint this nation with a broad-brush of antipathy. Every nation has its historic wrongs, and we should study and remember them, lest we repeat them. Indeed, libertarians are among the first to remind us of the government’s historical misdeeds towards its people (misdeeds that are conveniently downplayed by the America-sucks statists who want to be in charge of everything, to no one’s surprise). We do right by those who’ve suffered past injustices when we study and learn from their plight, and we do both them and ourselves good when we correct the historical record.

But, America has been a success story unparalleled in the history of the world, with its elevation of individual rights and limited government, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with embracing and taking joy in that story. Part of that story is the unique nature of American folklore, the frontier life, and the heritage of average, hardscrabble, and working-class folks who built the nation. It is that last part that I so often witness on Antiques Road Show. It fascinates me, and it draws me into a sense of belonging to this land, even though I’m only a first-generation child of immigrants. Diminishing, dismissing, or ignoring all this goodness is as much an injustice to history as doing so to the bad things, the bad people, and the wronged.

Here lie the ties that bind. Common heritage of, to many, an adopted land, both good and tragic. Their loss is our loss. Their fading away is our unraveling. We find less and less in common with our friends and neighbors of differing political ideology, and I can’t help but suspect that part of this growing dissonance is the fading of this (oftentimes adopted) heritage.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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