The power of accurate, clearly written history writing is not the same kind of power as that threatening blunderbuss-style of power wielded by an unaccountable maniac with a childish view of life and a sadist’s keen delight in the suffering of others, but it is powerful. It cannot literally take food out of the mouths of hungry children, or a week’s pay away from their parents, as can randomly flexed presidential power when POTUS pouts and golfs while protesting the unfairness of things like the proposed name changes of military bases now honoring traitorous Confederate generals, not that it would want to. A president so inclined can mandate a national curriculum of denial of history, a historian with a conscience writes serving the opposite inclination.
A detailed, honestly told history is a powerful force in the world. Here is a prime example of it, written last night by Heather Cox Richardson, who ends with this inspiring observation:
One of the curses of history is that we cannot go back and change the course leading to disasters, no matter how much we might wish to. The past has its own terrible inevitability.
But it is never too late to change the future.
A friend sent me the recent NY Times business piece about the historian’s amazing and well-earned viral internet success and her sudden wealth. The reason so many subscribe to her nightly newsletter is that she has emerged as a clear, mostly calm voice, giving the perspective of history to shed light on this horrific moment in time. Forwarding this piece to my friend last night all I could add was “WOW”. All he needed to write was “Agree”. A short read, well worth your time, particularly if you think history is a bunch of boring and irrelevant busy-work with no relevance to our current predicaments and no clues to offer about a way to a better future.