Colby’s Professor Kieth Peterson contributed a very unique and interesting perspective to what we already covered in the Continuing Revolutions talks this semester. The idea that “We Have Never Been Revolutionary” was definitely a fairly new one after looking at the different avenues that we have considered revolutionary this semester from scientific to social development. Although I found myself slightly lost, at certain times, in Professor Peterson’s substantial philosophical knowledge and analysis, I thought he made a lot of very interesting challenges to the concept of being revolutionary. The part of his lecture that stuck out the most to me was the point he made about the cultural aspects of being revolutionary. He made the point that, by definition, being revolutionary is considering yourself to be different, and better, than those who came before you. Specifically with westerners and expansion in America, it was definitely the case that westerners saw themselves as superior to the Native Americans, and even other settlers, in the country before them. The european settlers did completely go against and redefine the social institutions in place at that time, but is this mistreatment of others really something we want to consider revolutionary? How revolutionary is it to have a country like the United States resting on a foundation of violence and dominating of others?

I first started learning about the history of the United States in first grade, with the first European settlers, westward expansion, the civil war, etc. From these early ages, we are taught about how the european settlers mistreated the native american tribes already living throughout the United States, but I remember learning it in a way that didn’t seem to tint the patriotism of this country. It wasn’t really until high school and certain Colby courses where my professors actually called the reality into question as Professor Peterson did in this part of his lecture. It was very interesting to see how this notion of superiority was similarly left from out from the Revolutions conversations until now in the semester, just as it usually is in teaching U.S. History.

After considering this idea, it doesn’t seem possible to have a revolution or be revolutionary in a way that doesn’t make an “other” group inferior. This isn’t always a bad thing as we have seen from previous lectures. For example, with the different scientific revolutions that we heard about this semester, it was hugely valuable to challenge the social norms and present scientific findings. These first scientists discovered evolution and how we got to the place we are today, the earth revolves around the sun, we need actual data not simply logic to support our arguments, etc. Mr. Khalid Albaih talked to us about his personal story and how his art brought people together and actually spoke out against those who were treating so many people so poorly. So with these kinds of revolutions, it did not seem obvious to me that these groups were placing themselves above or superior to the “other” group. Especially because they benefitted so many people in the long run. Yet, when you look at the American Revolution and that history, it really makes you take a step back and reconsider what makes a revolution. What would it mean to give up on ourselves as revolutionary in the United States? I’m not sure that it would be such a bad thing.