Sunday, April 20, 2008

American historical memory: We have none

Case in point:

Taken at a pro-Tibet rally in San Francisco. From here, via Andrew Sullivan.

Or, alternately, propose a caption in comments.

[Update: Somewhat linked to this post's topic is a fascinating discussion in the comments over at Edge of the American West concerning the efficacy, if any, of counterfactuals for history teachers and students. It makes for lengthy reading, but if you're interested in this sort of thing, it's heady stuff. Bonus for R. Sherman: a grad student shows up making an argument that St. Louis is "the counterfactual Chicago."]

10 comments:

John B. said...

I'm fond of "D'oh heil!" myself . . .

R. Sherman said...

Sigh.

I wish I could think of something amusing, but I'm too busy weeping for several generations of Americans.

John B. said...

Well. As I tell my students, we can fix ignorance. Which is true. But one reading of American cultural history is that something inherent in our collective psyche compels us to "forget" history, in the sense of setting it aside, of thinking/believing that past events cannot provide us with insight regarding future ones. This is not all to the bad, I hasten to add, but I do think, on balance, that it's wiser for us to "remember" a bit of history before deciding to "forget" it.

I remember mentioning to a friend in Mexico, "I read somewhere that in all of Mexico, there's no monument to Santa Anna"--to which he replied, "Texas is a monument to Santa Anna." Now there's a historical memory.

Doc said...

you know, the older i get the harder it is to keep my mouth shut about such idiocy; i had an abbreviated discussion over at another blog sometime back. the blog's author was arguing the position that 'knowledge' as well as those who decry its lack today, is overrated.

i wish i had known of this pic then.

John B. said...

Hmm, Doc.
I detect a whiff of postmodernity in that fellow's sentiment--but that stance has less to do with the devaluing of knowledge per se than of the devaluing of the authority traditionally granted to those who have knowledge. At least, I hope that's what he's talking about. But you're right: it doesn't (or shouldn't) follow that Knowing Stuff has thus somehow become devalued. Weird.

Doc said...

yeah, maybe, John...

but that argument is fairly specious in its own right.

John B. said...

Agreed, Doc. There's a difference between having access to information and knowing what to do with it--or, for that matter, having access to it but somehow presuming that THAT grants one authority. I'm with you. My only point is that, though I don't ultimately agree with it, my awareness of the abuses to which the traditional Knowledge=Power equation has been put makes me tolerant of those who point out that sort of thing.

R. Sherman said...

Interesting link to the counterfactual discussion. How do we learn from mistakes without posing counterfactuals. Isn't that one of the purposes of studying history?

Cheers.

~Easy said...

...I have not the words.

archshrk said...

I find the "no U-turn" sign strangely appropriate for this protest image.