When analyzing history, people either use erroneous information obtained from biased sources and/or they project their own values onto society at the time, and do not realize that given what the people at the time of the event knew and believed would have had a profound impact on their decisions at the time. For this reason, people would greatly benefit if they had a method for understanding and analyzing history.
First, when reaching an important decision and conclusion about events, one must be well rehearsed in the major and minor details. The goal is to understand why something happened, and then determine if the actions involved were justified or not. Researching events is time consuming and one cannot possibly hope to accumulate all the details for every event, and,as a result, people often use shortcuts, such as news programs, to gather information. Additionally, many people may only use one source for their information. Since even news corporations often spin stories the way they wish them to be seen, people who rely on them are especially prone to be biased. Because of this, it is advisable to glean information from a variety of sources and cross reference the facts for consistency. If sources offer their own analysis, it is okay to listen to them since they may offer a unique viewpoint, but one source’s analysis should not be blindly followed and consumers of information should come to their own well-informed conclusions.
Second, most people will find that an in-depth examination of any event will often bring understanding to all the sides involved. The goal is to understand the logic of every side. Humans rarely operate without following some kind of logic, reasoning, or strong motivation. And, as such, while one may claim that a certain side was pure evil, closer inspection will often reveal some type of logic or motivation. Large conflicts, in particular, are very seldom fought with pure emotion.
As a general rule, when exploring a historical event or era, one must void oneself of all emotion and bias. Holding onto such feelings and tendencies will cloud one’s final decision. Granted, this is difficult if one is a descendent of people involved in an historical event. For example, given the past treatment of Native Americans, would it be surprising if, on average, Native Americans have a lower opinion of the United States than some other groups? Native Americans are much more likely to condemn the United States for past actions, and understandably so.
One example of distorted history would be a particular “battle” the United States fought with Native Americans: the Battle of Washita, where the U.S. military fought and killed women and children. This battle should be more appropriately named a massacre because a battle is when both sides fight with some degree of proficiency, but, in this conflict, soldiers were shooting defenseless women and children. There were very few men on the Native American side that fought back. After proper fact gathering and analyzing, it can be said that the United States treated Native Americans very poorly.
People often unintentionally project their values into life. Doing so gives them a distorted view of the world; these people often evaluate the actions of others against their own standards, often resulting in contempt for the actor. Therefore, it is imperative that one set aside one’s own beliefs, and be willing to listen to new ideas. There is no need to forfeit one’s personality, but people should realize that there is no one perfect way to view the world.
Everyone has a certain “lens” that they view certain events with; everyone has a natural “filter” they use when they interpret information from the world around them. This “filter” alters their understanding of the event. How much the filter changes the information is dependent on the individual; for some people the level is so high that they twist the information they receive to a point where it in no way resembles what actually happened. When faced with a piece of evidence that clearly contradicts their “filter” they reject it out-right and question the source. These are the kind of people who cannot grow their understanding of the world around them. They refuse to come out of the shell and acknowledge the fact that they might