Tuesday, May 15, 2018

History is Ugly. Can't We Accept That and Move On?

by Heather Blanton

Next month I am attending Wild Deadwood Reads, a reader/author mixer you could say. While I have traveled the West extensively, somehow I have missed South Dakota. I am pretty excited about this trip. Especially since my older sister is going with me.

In preparation for this excursion, I've been doing a lot of research (because, like, I'm such a geek). I do a lot of research in general, but I'm certainly lumping more of it together for this and I'm starting to get annoyed at something. I keep running into "apologies" for history. 

Here is an example from the city of Deadwood's online newspaper archive project:  ...remember that political correctness did not exist in 19th-century Deadwood - many terms used are now considered derogatory or slanderous but are a true reflection of our history.

Ooooh, beware, fellow history geek, here there be monsters.

Seriously, history can't be white-washed no matter how you play with the words. Too many of the building blocks of this nation are literally murder, massacres, and mayhem. Not to mention lies, betrayal, and embezzlement. But such is human nature. 

Greed is bad but if not for greed, you could argue the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads would not have ever met in Utah.

If Europeans hadn't rolled over the Native Americans in the east like Ebola, the settling of the rest of this nation could have been delayed for centuries. 

If not for the blood-and-gore of Civil War, would African Americans still be in chains?

From these exhibitions of man at his absolute worst, dominoes fell into place. America became the superpower that stopped a madman from exterminating the Jews. We gave the world the vaccine for polio. Heck, we gave the world the United States Constitution.

I hope I'm making the point that history was often blood-curdlingly ugly, but it does not behoove us to forget it. Look, instead, for the beauty that has come from the ashes; find the good in the scorched earth. That is what, I think, good fiction can do--build a story of hope no matter the backdrop. It doesn't excuse the bad behavior. It accepts it as fact and highlights the places from where inspiration, education, and experience can come.

What's your take on this issue? Do you want mean words and terrible stories scrubbed from history? 


Sandy Soldner Sorola said...

I don't agree with removing anything from History. It needs to be told as it was. Our Country didn't become what it is today without the things that happened. You cannot erase the Era of the Civil war by removing statues, the Confederate Flag or changing subtle things about it. It breaks my heart to see the way the country is treating history.
We did in fact have that war. We also had a way of removing the Native American People to reservations. Ambushing their villages, wiping them out totally in some cases. We were "retaliating for the massacre's" when they would attack Wagon Trains, scalp women and men, enslave women and torture them. But it is still a huge part of this countries History and I am saddened by the removal of some of these things from our culture.

Heather Blanton said...

I agree totally. The statues for example move from being monuments to reminders of things we don't want to repeat. These activists can't see that.
Thanks for the comment!!!

Robyn Echols said...

Not scrubbed from history. Not glorfied, either. Excellent, thoughtful post.