According to my dictionary, history is “a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events.” Since obviously there is a whole lot going on all the time everywhere, some selectivity is involved in what make the cut. Similarly, within what gets recorded are different points of view of the same events. As time passes, the culture will adopt certain versions as the accepted history.
In 1991 and ’92, the historical narrative of Columbus being a heroic explorer became moderated when the legacy of enslavement and slaughter crept in. Just recently the suppressed history of the Armenian genocide came to the fore as the hundred year anniversary forced Turkey to face up to what took place (see the David Barsamian oral history on page 14 for more on this).
If history is “a branch of knowledge,” knowledge is said to be “a clear perception of truth.” Truth is said to be “the real state of things.” What we see with history is that it is a nice ideal, but it turns out to be in some cases more “stories” than history. The bombshell story dropped this week by famed investigative journalist Seymour Hersh about the false narrative regarding the killing of Osama Bin Laden (see link in Editors’ Picks, page 24) is huge. While I am sure the right wing will go nuts over it, this update should give pause to everyone as to the myths and stories our government and our culture throw at us everyday. There was a great book a while back called “Lies My Teacher Told Me;” there could be a whole series on lies other sources produce. I had a wise friend tell me years ago about watching TV with her child and making a game of recognizing the lies and deception being told in commercials. “What are they trying to get you to believe?”
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Speaking of lies, deception and false narratives, the 2016 presidential race is forming up. I can’t even begin to comprehend the array of folks lining up under the “R” banner, other than that it’s a tribute to the silo-ed momentum created by talk radio, right wing preachers and fear-mongering Fox News that anyone even takes them seriously. This paints a picture though: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/08/opinion/fringe-festival.html?_r=0.
The “D” side has gotten much more interesting with the declared candidacy of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. I have seen an interesting mix of responses to this development, including some from a rather cynical side who believe this is yet another pacifier for the Left to get behind (think Jesse Jackson or Dennis Kucinich), only to have them drop out and request that the mainstream Democrat be supported. Yes, that has been the pattern, but I quibble with this attitude for these reasons. First, Bernie is a firm established independent socialist/social democrat voice with a long track record and a clear platform (see it on page 1). Perfect, no, but you aren’t gonna get perfect. If nothing else, he creates a construct to bring these issues forward in the public debate, and this just might work to stimulate LOCAL participation of progressive candidates who actually CAN do progressive social change.
Watching how the agreed-to six debates play out will be revealing. There are so many disaffected voters out there, Sanders’ campaign could get legs in an exciting populist insurgency. Not saying he can win, I am saying it is a teachable moment, and those lessons may pay off down the line. Folks, you and I know this system is broken; corporate power and big money have seized control of the two parties more firmly than ever. Their opinion researchers feed us what they know will provoke the response they want, and avoid addressing fundamental larger issues. But through the internet we can go deeper. To see where Bernie stands on the issues, visit https://berniesanders.com/issues/.
We are not going to turn things around with one candidate, one election or on one issue, but IF it is going to happen, it’ll be in steps. This could be a start.