'In one sense, our historical mania is nothing new. Americans have argued over the meaning of the American revolution since the day it ended. As Harvard historian Jill Lepore reminded me when I talked to her a few days ago, both Whigs and Jacksonians grabbed for the mantle of the Founders, as did Confederates and Unionists during the Civil War. So did the New Left in the 1960s. Claiming some special kinship with the revolutionary generation is simply what American political actors do. It is the oldest game in the book.Her upcoming book sounds promising.
What distinguishes the current revival of interest in revolutionary times, according to Ms. Lepore, whose book about the tea party and history will be published this fall, is "historical fundamentalism." It's a way of understanding the past as "an incontrovertible argument. There is a narrowly defined past that is sacred to us as Americans." We have special historical documents, which "can be read as scripture. They come alive for us the way we need them to come alive. They cross time."'
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