Which History are We Recalling?

Sharon April 9th, 2008

It isn’t a perfect piece, but it is a nice expose of parts of our history that most of us would rather not recall.  The reality is that even the best parts of our history are always a struggle with the power of the worst parts.  And truth, to the extent that is possible to achieve, lies in knowing all - especially the parts we’d like to forget.


“The principle myth for explaining U.S. support of fascism was fear of the Soviet Union and the spread of “repressive” communism. In fact, the only criterion the U.S. has ever had for supporting or rejecting any regime or policy is whether it would welcome, if not foster capitalist profit needs.”


“At the time of the Spanish Civil War, the U.S. military was segregated and only whites were promoted to higher ranks. When the European fascists began legalizing their own brand of oppressive racism, they used the U.S. model to fashion their laws. Only the human target changed. The laboratory of horror of the demented Nazi doctor Josef Mengele had its precedent in the horrors perpetrated on young African American slave women by Dr. J. Marion Sims. In Harriet Washington’s book Medical Apartheid, she wrote that Sims performed vaginal operations without anesthetic on these women. Sims was attempting to perfect a procedure to correct a gynecological problem, but only rich white women enjoyed the benefits.”


“We are constantly being told by the “polite left” that it’s all W’s fault, that we need our country back. “Back to what?” is a reasonable response. Five hundred thousand dead children in Iraq during the Clinton administration? Countless U.S. veterans after the Vietnam war suffering from war related illnesses and not getting treatment, or the blitzkrieg in Guernica rather than shock and awe in Baghdad?’ Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Tulsa? Make your own list.”

This, of course, *is* the big question - back (or forward) to what?  It can’t be just an evocation of an idealized past that never existed - but we simultaneously must reconnect to the parts of our past that do have value and are worth preserving and treasuring - because otherwise we are anchorless. 



6 Responses to “Which History are We Recalling?”

  1. Wendyon 09 Apr 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Very good points, Sharon, and I completely agree. My hope is that we can really embrace the best of what we have today with the best of what we had in the past and make a better tomorrow. Some technologies would be nice to retain (like the Internet and being able to call my parents who live several states away from me). It would also be nice to be able to keep some “modern medicine”, but realize that much of it (like most obstetrical care, which studies have shown is better handled by trained midwives) is unnecessary overkill, and many of our modern “illnesses” are a direct result of diet and lifestyle choices.

    I think it’s important that while we’re lose much of what makes life today convenient, that we don’t also revert back to Middle Age attitudes, prejudices and fears, and instead we go forward more enlightened, voluntarily accepting more simple lives so that we can keep some of the really great “advances” that have been made.

    That’s my hope, anyway :).

  2. Toomas (Tom) Karmoon 09 Apr 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Dear Sharon,

    One way of keeping our links to the past is through studies in literature. Back in October, I resolved to spend 3 hours a week reviewing and reviving my Latin. As of 2008-04-04, I had done 80 hours, 45 minutes on the project, and this is enough to cover quite a lot of ground, with some reasonable exposure to fragements of Virgil.

    And the sentences in my textbook! At one point someone is saying something like “I have no difficulty in abstaining from eels and oysters’”. At another point, the grammatical example goes something like “And I ask myself: SHALL I buy these people?”

    And oh the joys of very occasional outside reading! It’s exciting now poring through a part of the essay on Peak Oil, “Apocalypsis Petrolearia”, by “Brennus Americanus” (Brian the American) at
    A good line from his essay: “Paulatim grassabitur nova et perpetua aetas obscura” - “Little by little, there will encroach a new and perpetual dark age.”

    One feels grounded amd anchored on studying this stuff. It’s not that the Romans were nice. Quite the reverse: as a Catholic, I think what they did to the Jewish nation - I think, for instance, of that menorah carried in triumph in the freize in the triumphal arch in the Forum, that you can see on a tourist visit to Rome - and I shiver. But their fall is instructive. It would be bad if in our own fall, ready access to Latin textbooks were to disappear.


    Tom Karmo
    verbum at interlog dot com

  3. Sarahon 10 Apr 2008 at 7:16 am

    Tom — one of the example sentences in my Latin textbook translated as “You were seeing the women in the streets, but you were not shouting about their beauty. You must be punished”. My favorite was “He was the only man in Rome who did not know what his daughter was doing.”

  4. MEAon 10 Apr 2008 at 7:58 am

    There has never been, alas, a golden age. There have, however, been times when we had higher ideals about what we should be striving for (i.e. universal sufferage) and lower (i.e. the third reich). I can only hope that we go into this new era with high ideals.

  5. Rogeron 11 Apr 2008 at 2:10 pm

    I just read the entire article. If anyone has not yet read it, do read Howard Zinn’s People’s History of The US .
    Thank you Sharon for bringing this article to my attention. My question is, what swell parts of our history do you anchor to? I will say that as a white male, I have a sweet deal here in the good ol’US of A. In fact, most of us white educated folks of both genders do. But what do the people of color cling to in our glorious history? The conquest of the Phillipines, the theft of Hawaii? The holocaust of 10-15 000,000 indigenous people.
    Hmmmmm, seems like we are doomed to being anchorless or delusional.

  6. Pratimokshaon 13 Apr 2008 at 8:19 pm

    While I fully sympathize with those serving in the military for what they see as a worthy cause (and with their families waiting at home) - I cannot begin to imagine how frightening and difficult this must be - I always feel uncomfortable reading articles on Iraq mentioning the now more than 4000 deaths in Iraq. What about the hundreds of thousands of deaths? What kind of people only count US lives lost?

    I don’t actually live in the US, so I cannot tell firsthand, but I wonder if this is a common way of seeing things. Do many people - even those fully in support of a speedy pullout from Iraq - primarily value the lives of the US soldiers? If not, why then is that how discussions are so often framed? How many hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis have died as a result of the US invasion?

    Wendy, you mention things we may or may not be able to keep going if a serious social disruption is to materialize. One of my big fears that we won’t have access to asthma medicine for my son. Such a mundane, simple thing, and yet it has such an impact on the quality of his life. In fact, I don’t know what would happen if access to such medicines were permanently cut off.

    I cannot really grasp the whole picture of an economic, political and social collapse - the full picture is too much to hold - but it hits me on a gut level when I think of little details like that. Asthma is a minor problem in my son’s life - just something that makes P.E. class a bit harder, and he tends to get a cold more easily - but would perhaps not cope very well with life if he no longer got the medicine.

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