Of Textbooks and Empires

October 24, 2007
Of Textbooks and Empires

Last year in AP World History, it took my class a few days to cover the rise, peak and the fall of the great Roman empire. One of the greatest and vastest empires in history yet it took only a week of our class time. The Romans were responsible for so many technological advances in human history, yet today's history classes can only muster up a few days to talk about one of the heights of humanity. Hundreds of years in a week? It's mind boggling. I can't get over it.

So what about this great American "empire" (shh, don't tell the government I'm calling it that)? If the Roman empire could only occupy a week of our time, what about the United States who has yet to exist more than 3 centuries? It will only be a speck on the timeline of any future world history textbook. It will be at least a chapter in the book, if we're lucky.

But how can that happen? Don't we have the best form of government? The best military? The most money? Are we not destined for greatness, a virtue instilled in us by our ancestors who once crossed frontier after frontier to fulfill the Manifest Destiny? Is it not written in the stars that we are the real shapers of history?

However, we are so naive and ethnocentric to have thoughts such as those.

Step back for a second and think. Humans have a history that dates back 6000 years before Christ. We are barely 2000 years after Christ. What should make us think that everything starts and ends with us when we are part of something so much bigger, so much greater? We are but a measly dot in a time frame that stretches farther than we could ever imagine.

We're taught to push limits and declare ourselves the greatest. But one has to wonder if the Romans of so many years before thought the same thing. An empire that spread to enormous proportions crumbled after so many blows to it. However vast their empire, I'm sure the Romans never spread themselves as thin as the United States currently does. The Roman fall was the result of many blows that eventually broke off, piece by piece. The American empire has taken too many blows to count in a history that is nothing compared to the Roman empire. So why are we so confident that one day we shall take up half of a history book when we're a tiny dot?

A 300 year history for a country is rubbish in many view points. Instead of making our dot spread out across the timeline, we should focus on darkening it so if we are to be a dot for the rest of our history, at the very least we're unforgettable.

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