Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hey that's no way to say goodbye.

well today I made a complete ninny out of myself. In class we were discussing slavery in antebellum America and pre-communist Russia and my prof asks in a long, roundabout way why it is important to study history. And since I am half asleep and stopped listening to his question halfway through he decides to ask me directly my opinion. Definetly not sitting across from him next class. Anyway I stutter through something or other and end by saying basically that I didn't know how to put it into words.

And of course since I am just like that, the question has been bothering me ever since. "WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO STUDY HISTORY?," sings my heartbeat in chorus. I'll tell you friends and lovers, now that I've had time to think about it.
Concerning slavery in particular: the only other exposure I have had to slavery (especially American) before reading certain articles assigned was in reading Gone with the Wind as a thirteen year old (1018 pages, remains the longest book I have ever read. I was that earnest little girl staring at the tiny print in the hospital waiting room while her brother got his appendix pulled out upstairs). I came to wonder what the big deal was, plantation owners loved their workers and vice versa, how were they supposed to live without each other? At the end of the Civil War in this book the South lay in tatters and black and whites alike wandered the countryside in destitution. Thanks a lot Northern States. This is not to imply that I am proslavery in anyway. I am only saying that evrything depends on your perspective. We study history to shed light on cultural biases and to learn from our own faults, as a nation and an individual. The antebellum South is seen as the "bad guys" now only because they lost the war. They had it coming anyway.

From a different angle, the kwakwak'wakh people of the northwest coast (a First Nations group who's art I have recently been admiring) also held slaves. But this is not often acknowledged, nor are they seen as ignorant or brutal for having them, maybe because it is not a commonly known fact, maybe because they themselves were vanquished. I feel like if history tells us anything it is that the Little Guy always wins, in the end.

1 comment:

Miles said...

Unless the big guy happens to have a nuclear bomb. Then HE writes history (at least for the time being)