About History…

TimeThere is an awful lot of difference between reading something and actually seeing it, for you can never tell, till you see it, just how big a liar History is. —  1926 Will Rogers

I doubt if there is a thing in the world as wrong and unreliable as History. History ain’t what it is; it’s what some writer wanted it to be, and I just happened to thing I bet ours is as crooked as the rest. I bet we have started just as much devilment as was ever started against us — maybe more.  —  March 12,1932  

Will Rogers Don’t be misled by History, or any other unreliable source.  — April 14,1935 Will Rogers

It is not often that I give you three Will Roger’s quotes in one post but I wanted to make a point here.  As Will says history is just one writer’s version of what happened. So, in order to try to balance all that out you have to look at several different sources for the same events and even over different time periods.  I was just watching a show on the History Channel that show that DNA evidence among other scientific findings will likely change the history of Christopher Columbus. It seems that he was not an Italian common man but was most likely a Spanish aristocrat. Examples like this show that history is never a fixed thing.
I have done a lot of reading about Abraham Lincoln and no two books seem to treat the man the same. One of my favorite books on him was written by his partner in this Springfield law practice. It was called Herdon’s Lincoln by William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik.  When the first edition was published in 1889 it created quite a stir among historian and the public in general. The reason for that is that Herndon gave us the good side as well as the not-so-good side of Lincoln and particularly his wife. It was almost a hundred years after the book was published that it finally got the praise it deserves.

Much of the so-called history, especially recent history, is most likely a myth. It is one person or group of people giving their version of what happened. Most of the history books say that the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima was done in order to save American lives but uncovered records show that there was virtually no conversation about that reason amongst the decision makers of the time.  It was only invented as an afterthought to justify the horrendous death toll that occurred.

My attitude is that in questioning things a counter-myth may surface that could be as likely as the original. We should never take just one source for any ideas or thoughts as absolute. For instance, we should never just listen to the NRA when it comes to gun regulations. Their version of history is very biased. We should all be willing to listen to a variety of thoughts on different topics in order to get the full story.

We should stop exclusively watching Fox News or MSNBC and start seeing how other sources treat the issues of our times. We might just get a completely different perspective.

2 thoughts on “About History…

  • Ah R.J., you didn’t include that famous quote from Winston Churchill….
    “History is written by the victors.”
    Since America has always (or almost always) been the victor, it stands to reason that our history as we know it is…ahem…slanted. And we probably wouldn’t particularly like the naked truth.
    As to Fox and MSNBC, I live in a house divided. My husband wallows in the garbage Fox doles out and I can’t watch it because they are so illogical (and I can’t stand all the long legged beauty queens they parade as journalists). I prefer MSNBC because to me they make more sense. But, even I can see the bias and spinning going on there too. What to do? Shut it all off?
    What other sources are truly neutral and unbiased?

    (My husband has Fox on right now, which is why I leave the room and have so much time to read and comment on blogs!)

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    • My wife is an MSNBC hound so I am regularly exposed to them. I admit that I do like Chris Hayes on the weekend. His in depth coverage with good guests is very informative to me. Unbiased sources? Of course it depends on who you talk to. A Fox New fan will say that everything except Fox is left leaning liberal BS. I kind of like the PBS News Hour but admit that I get most of news from a half dozen or so news blogs. Maybe CSM is my favorite right now.

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