Santorum Crusades to Rewrite History for 'Winners'

By Sam Uretsky

In February 2011, Rick Santorum, during a visit to South Carolina, decided to defend the Crusades. “The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical. And that is what the perception is by the American left who hates Christendom. They hate Christendom. They hate Western civilization at the core. That’s the problem.”

Actually, the problem is that history has been frequently revised, sometimes to make a better story, and perhaps more often to suit the tastes of the winners, and people like Mr. Santorum are happy to take the revised version as fact. Beyond that, they represent it as fact, and it’s assumed that a serious contender for the presidency knows the facts before he speaks. He doesn’t. Rick Santorum’s comments on women’s “emotions”, on history, on climate change, and virtually every subject he discusses shows a terrifying rejection of reality in favor of a private world, something between C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll.

The history of the Crusades has been misrepresented for centuries, so that the revisionist version is part of our collective culture. In the 2010 movie Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe, King Richard stops on the way back from the Crusades (in this case the 3rd Crusade) to attack a castle in France, where he is killed. In fact, the King was captured on his way to England, and held for ransom by Henry VI. It was the King’s ransom that the Sheriff of Nottingham was collecting from the English peasantry, so that the Sheriff was working towards Richard’s return and Robin Hood who was willing to leave Richard as captive.

Also discussing the 3rd Crusade, Sir Walter Scott made things up as he went along. Richard never met Saladin. While Richard never officially approved of attacks on the Jews, his followers financed their own travels to the Holy Land with a pogrom in York. If any Jews survived, they had little or no property, and wouldn’t have been able to pay for a horse and suit of armor for yet another crusader. Scott was a great story teller, but don’t read the Waverly novels as history. The 4th Crusade was even worse than the 3rd. As usual it was intended to recapture Jerusalem, but instead the crusaders got diverted and destroyed the largest Christian city in the world, Constantinople, the center of the Eastern Orthodox church.

History goes back a long time and, given enough opportunity, nations and religions will have done things that their modern adherents would as soon forget. The United States is a relatively young nation, and one founded on the best, most idealistic principles, but in our short history we’ve had slavery, severe mistreatment of Native Americans, internment of citizens of Japanese descent, indefinite detention at Guantanamo and assassination of American citizens.

We have voter suppression and corporate immorality in the name of capitalism. The best we can hope for is that our children will be ashamed of us and try to do better. Mr. Santorum and those like him are boosters.

They’ve taken sides on the issues and formed their beliefs, and whatever they believe they proclaim as true. They believe there is no such thing as climate change, believe that fracking to extract natural gas will have no adverse effect on the soil or water supply. They’re also the birthers and conspiracy theorists.

The important difference between scientists, historians and people like Rick Santorum is that scientists and historians learn; their understanding evolves with new information. There was a time when scientists did believe in creationism and a flat earth, but they learned and improved on their understanding. Historians modify their understanding based on new discoveries, new documents or advances in carbon dating of artifacts. True believers like Rick Santorum never learn, and neither do their followers.

Perhaps Mr. Santorum’s success in the polls just indicates a protest vote, Republicans voting blindly for an anti-Romney. That’s the best case. The worst is that some people are actually voting for him.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living on Long Island, N.Y. Email

From The Progressive Populist, March 15, 2012

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