I have watch the first three installments of the Stone Series, “The Untold History of the United States”. I find it very interesting and powerful but somehow I don’t think it really was that way although I am sure many of the points are correct I read a lot of reviews of the show. The reviews really depend on the political point of view of the reviewer it seems.
I often have discussions on Facebook with someone that worked for me at Intel and whom I consider a friend. I think of him as a very thoughtful, intelligent and caring person who apparently disagrees with most things I believe politically and economically. He puts a lot of effort and research into his comments on my FB posts. I will refer to him by his initials, DM. Recently, we have had a go around regarding the suitability of John Kerry to be Secitary of State. My friend thinks he is unsuitable because of his actions during and after then Vietnam War. He thinks that he and people like Jane Fonda are pretty much traitors. While I think they are heroes because the risked a great deal to speak out about an unjust war. That does not mean I agree with everything they said or did. Nor does it mean that I think that everything the US Government did was bad.
I feel strongly about the Vietnam War because I was an early active anti war protestor. This was before it was “popular” to be against the war. We did not have the internet back then. The information that most americans were getting came from the major media. Our protest group was getting other information which made us believe that the war was not just. By the way, we were being tracked by the FBI and they would follow us and take our photos and even tap our phone lines. I still have to use the Freedom of Information Act to get my file. I was particularly concerned about the use of Napalm and would protest the loading of that material by Dow Chemical. I did not serve in the war. I was classified 4F for medical reasons but would not have served in that war even if it meant prision. I am particularly appalled by those that could have served but did not like Romney but who took strong pro Vietnam war positions before heading off for missionary work in France. The point of this blog is not to judicate the Vietnam War. I am just trying to explain how I feel.
Now we have so much information, you would think we could get to the “truth” but with so much information, there is always more. Everyone picks the things that support their already held views. I am sure I do that too. But much of the stuff we read on the net is distorted. In fact my recent discussion with DM started with a photo that he posted on Facebook showing Jane Fonda and John Kerry together. It turns out this photo is not real. It was photo shopped during the 2004 presidential campaign. I assume that DM does not realize that. And when I point it out to him, I hope he does not say ” it might has well be real”.
I constantly run into the issue of agreeing on history when talking with Palestinian friends about the history of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. In fact, I think the only way that progress can be made is if both sides agree not to discuss the past.
Recently, I read a book called 1491 which describes the Americas before Columbus. In reading it, I realized that everything I had been thought about the history of the America’s before Columbus was wrong. Frankly, I was in shock. I can also recommend Lies My Teacher Told Me.
I agree with you. Our understanding of the past is very subjective. That was one of the really powerful things about the work of the Shoah Foundation — beyond the important mission of making sure that the memory and lessons of the Holocaust were never forgotten, the fact that historical events were told from the perspective of over 50,000 individual witnesses means that it’s almost impossible for one simple narrative to be told. But it gets messier when you realize that 50,000 eyewitnesses ultimately amount to 50,000 very subjective experiences. There is no one true history.
To me, it’s not necessarily about avoiding discussion of the past because there is such disagreement (particularly around things like Israel/Palestine) about what happened, it’s about all parties recognizing that history is the sum of ALL perspectives. What is factually true — fortunately or unfortunately — is not really the question. It’s what people believe to be true.