“Don’t know much about history….”
– Insipid Rock ’n’ Roll song
Of all the many subjects we were collectively subjected to in school, few were taught as stubbornly wrong as history. It was as though a group of educators and textbook writers got together to answer the cosmic question, “How can we make this subject as uninteresting as possible?” That they succeeded in their quest is evidenced by the overwhelming percentage of students for whom History was the class voted Best to Sleep Through year after year.
Names, dates and events became the lens through which all the drama in the world was filtered. Names, dates and events, taught in lockstep, linear fashion as though they were random protozoa occasionally bumping into each other but otherwise having nothing whatsoever in common. Names, dates and events were all you had to memorize to squeak past tests.
Rarely was the concept of causation touched upon, and only then in the most simplistic, black-and-white terms. The politics of the day were virtually never discussed and the personalities behind those politics were generally of the two-dimensional variety: Hitler bad; Churchill and Roosevelt good; Stalin a necessary evil. Never, was there an organized attempt to bring history alive, to place the students back in time and cast them in the role of participants instead of detached observers.
Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to understand and appreciate the massive implications of the history we’re living through right now. It hasn’t been reduced to eye-glazing names, dates and events. It’s liquid, murky, and because it’s unfolding in real time, hard to think of as historical.
But oh baby, is it ever interesting.
I never thought I’d live long enough to see a black man come so close to being President of the United States of America. I’m still not sure I’ll live long enough to see a woman — of any colour — reach that same goal but for the better part of the past year, it’s been a toss up as to which of those historical realities was likely to unfold first.
Not to crib from Senator Obama’s book, but it’s enough to give a guy hope. I’ve already given up hope for many of the things I’d once hoped for but now figure I’ll never live long enough to see. Flying cars? Given up on ’em. Robot maids? Not in my lifetime. Dishes you could eat for dessert instead of washing? Empty promises of empty calories. Sane drug policies? Lock ’em up; throw away the key. Compassionate conservatives? Don’t make me laugh.