Nations have stories too. Ours is a story about the American Revolution against monarchy and aristocracy, a revolution based on the faith that all people are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. The revolution espoused the ideal that legitimate governmental power comes only from the consent of the governed.

In the old world, kings were sovereign. In America, the sovereign was “the people.” That ideal appeared in the preamble of the Constitution—a preamble that declared (somewhat inaccurately) that the Constitution came from “we the people” and was designed to assure liberty and justice. Though we often fall short of them, ideals matter. The Bill of Rights to the Constitution, added in 1791, also stated ideals;it declared and protected basic liberties of the people. With the end of the Civil War, slavery was abolished. In 1919 women got the vote. At any rate, according to our story, the United States is a democracy that protects basic rights of its citizens.

As far as I can recall, that was pretty much the American story I learned in public schools in Galveston, Texas, in the 1950s. Of course, the dominant Texas story had some peculiarities that did not fit too well with the larger story. According to the version I recall, greedy Yankees and ignorant blacks subjected the South to a period of misrule after the Civil War—from which, somehow or other, the South was rescued. If my high school history book told me just how the rescue was effected, I do not recall.