Something I wrote for an online Chinese History class:
There’s a kind of reversal exercise that is getting more common: it’s worth thinking about. What would American history and society look like if it were written the way that we write histories of other cultures? What would the history of the Civil War look like if we talked about it in terms of tribalism, religious sects, honor culture, caste systems, and magical thinking? What would an analysis of US history that took Puritanism or Methodism as critically as Chinese histories take Confucianism and Daoism? Remember: Harvard and Yale were seminaries until the 19th century; we still haven’t had a non-Christian president, and we added “In God We Trust” to the currency and “Under God” to the pledge in the mid-20th century. What if, instead of focusing on ‘pioneers’ and activists and breakthroughs towards a more perfect union, we focused on conservative and subversive forces and how each crisis revealed deep-rooted problems and how we failed to actually solve them most of the time?