History — you know, the subject you loved to hate in school — is often criticized with scorching descriptions like: “History is written by the winners” and “History is not actually written, it’s re-written.” Lot of truth to these accusations. True or not, you and I are guilty. We can’t help seeing and shaping our memory of past events in ways most comfortable to us. For example, if you’re a Babe Ruth fan you will always remember the historic day at Wrigley Field when he “called the shot” by pointing to the bleachers in which he intended to slam the next pitch.
Almost a century later, this is “myth” to many, and yet “history” to the true believers. Examples of this — from the Battle of Troy to the Battle of Britain — persist, and all the history teachers in all the world cannot prevail against it.
As a History teacher once myself, I decided long ago people think with their heart, and sometimes it would be cruel to try changing it. Indeed, the mythologists may be closer to the truth than the historians.
There is a second way to own your own history. All it takes is living long enough to outlive the people who were there. For instance, listen to a World War II vet tell you about the Battle of Normandy or Midway. As one of the few survivors, at least in the room, how dare anyone contradict their version? It becomes, by sheer right of survivorship, the authentic truth. I know the feeling whenever I am MC-ing a reunion where my recollection of the events becomes the collective truth, at least for that night.
So there it is my friends. Two tested ways to jolly well own your very own piece of history. Begone any purist who dares challenge you. Finally– history made interesting!
Filed under: Uncategorized