Very often truth is a matter of personal perception just as “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” We view Muslims who kill and maim helpless civilians as terrorists and cold-blooded murderers while our enemies laud them as “freedom fighters.” No doubt, many Germans had a very different view of Adolf Hitler than that of the Jewish people.
Years ago, when I was still teaching history in Staten Island, I remember a classic case of how perception and cultural background influenced not only how we view other individuals but how often history is interpreted. I am thinking back specifically about the standard lesson in the world history curriculum that dealt with two Roman emperors: Constantine “the Great” and Julian “the Apostate.” Why have standard textbooks attached these titles to them?
Many of us grew up inside a country that is part of the Western Christian world.Constantine, about to face a battle for survival against a contender, raises his eyes and sees an unusual atmospheric phenomenon in the sky. Was it a bird, a plane, Superman, a UFO, or a rare meteorological phenomenon? We will never know but Constantine claimed that he saw the image of a cross and heard a voice “by this sign you shall conquer.”He ordered his men to paint the symbol on their shields; they went on to win the decisive battle, and the new emperor first legalized Christianty and, upon his death years later,made itthe official state religion of