Saturday, February 9, 2013

You Cannot Change History (just because you don't like it)

You Cannot Change the Past
(just because you don’t like it)

          It is often said that the victorious are the ones to write history from their point of view.
This is true in that, as the old saying goes, “To the victors go the spoils.”
In this case, the spoils could be spinning the facts to favor a certain way of thinking.
In the news today, there is controversy over the renaming of three Confederate themed parks in Memphis, Tenn.
The names are considered to be inconsiderate
and  / or racist to African Americans.
Forrest Park, specifically, was deemed offensive
as Nathan Bedford Forrest was an owner of slaves and the first Grand Wizard of the KKK.
There are protests planned by the Ku Klux Klan, et al even though the name changes have already passed Memphis City Council.
Memphis Councilwoman, Janis Fullilove, left the Council’s meeting that passed the name changes in tears as fellow Council Member Boyd defended Nathan Bedford Forrest for whom one park was named.
Ms. Fullilove was quoted as saying, “I was just upset about Boyd talking about Nathan Bedford Forrest being a friend of black people. That is a lie and history shows to us that’s a lie.”
Boyd was later quoted; “I think they need to read the history of that person. I think it is much ado about nothing.”
In an article written by Jeff Black, staff writer of NBC news, a person named Katherine Blalock was quoted as saying, “They are trying to get rid of history. They are trying to rewrite it.”
Becky Muska, a resident of Shelby County, TN was quoted from an article from as saying,
“This is going on all over the country, revisionist history. It’s the thing to do.”
The article did not elaborate as to whether Ms. Muska was in agreement of this practice or not.
“Revisionist history” is a very handy thing, I would think.
If it is to be accepted as common practice, it could be applied to my history as well.
A short outline of my true history is:
I was born in Virginia to educated parents. (A chemical engineer and a school teacher)
We later moved to North Carolina when I was two.
I went to public school until the third grade.
My parents transferred me to a private school where I graduated with a diploma and went on to higher education.
Using revisionist history it could read as follows:
I was born the same day as John F. Kennedy Jr., in the same hospital. My Mother and Jackie Kennedy were maternity ward roommates and became best friends.
Until I was two, I crawled around with the Kennedy children. I often played in the oval office with John John.
We moved to New York City when the former First Lady sold her properties in Washington D.C. We bought an apartment there to be near her and my very best friends, John and Caroline.
I attended private classes with the Kennedy’s in the most prestigious school in New York. I was awarded my high school diploma with John Kennedy Jr. in a private ceremony. Ronald Regan was there along with other famous government officials.
I went to Cambridge in England and my famous classmate went to Texas A & M and graduated as an agronomist first class.
This is purely fiction, or is it?
As the reader was not there, they cannot say for sure.
Many accounts have been written about the former First Family, but these facts are recorded by historians. Beyond birth and education records, there are few truly verifiable personal facts.
Revisionist history changed the entire course of my life. It is completely untrue, but one hundred years from now, who could really say if it was a good account or not?
The undeniable facts are that John F. Kennedy was assassinated while holding the highest office in the land. Jackie Kennedy was a widow and she had two children.
Can we use revisionist history on JFK?
It was very nasty and disturbing how he was killed.
We don’t like this fact. Using revisionist history, we change it to something more palatable.
Poor President Kennedy collapsed due to overwork and excessive travel due to the duties of office.
There, now there was no shot, no trauma, no unpleasantness, just that a great man passed as he performed his elected duty.
Does tidying up things we don’t like or agree with make it a true history?
The answer is no.
It is unfortunate that we are human beings and we all make mistakes.
We try to learn and grow as a society and reassess our positions on social behavior and issues. Changing how we feel about the events of past doesn’t make them go away or alter them in any way.
Here are the facts:
1)    Many of the key figures in the history of the United States owned slaves.
2)    Right or wrong, it was a common practice at the time. If at some point it becomes morally undesirable to own a car, do we pretend NASCAR never existed?
3)    Slavery was a divisive issue, but was not the reason for the Civil War.
4)    The reason for the secession of the Southern states was the infringement of state’s rights by the federal government. Slavery became an issue in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln penned the Emancipation Proclamation.
5)    This document was written and delivered as a way to encourage the Union troops to continue to fight. This document made the war a moral concern as many soldiers felt the Civil War was a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” This opinion was coupled with the fact that the North was taking many defeats as the South had most of the good West Point educated generals.
6)    Many good men fought and died for their own personal beliefs. Many fought and died against their own family members as the Civil War caused brother to go against brother as opinions varied.
7)    The North (Union) blamed the South for the assassination of Lincoln and the war. The South was placed under martial law.
8)    Lawlessness prevailed as the courts were biased against the citizens of the South. Many came from the North with the intention of taking their spoils of war and bringing the South and her people to heel. Lawlessness and violence were no more appealing than they are today. Men felt helpless to protect their families through the court of law. The Klan was started.
9)    Nathan Bedford Forrest was the original Grand Wizard but he was not the founder of the Klan. Several other men named John Lester, James Crowe, John Kennedy, Calvin Jones, Richard Reed and Frank McCord were the founders. It was formed as a prank in the style of college fraternities.
10)           Nathan Bedford Forrest did eventually leave the Klan. The original Klan had been adulterated by violent copycat groups that were not interested in the purpose of restoring order and safety. Later in life, he came to change his ideas as is our rights as human beings to rethink our paths and alter them as necessary.
11)           None of these facts can be changed because we do not like or agree with the customs of society in the 1800’s.
General Sherman was quoted as saying, “War is Hell,” and so it is.
If we forget our past, we run the risk of our future. The past mistakes will be forgotten and could be repeated.
The United States has a past. You have one and so do I.
I doubt that few could be 100% proud of everything we have ever done.
The United States had human leaders. Humans will almost always make their decisions based on what is good for them personally at that time.
Our past is full of both good and bad people. It is a fact.
The Civil War happened.
It is a part of our history. We can’t revise it because we wanted things to be different in a world we were not part of while history happened.
The good news is that in spite of our differences, in spite of the good and bad choices, the United States grew to become the standard of the world.
Let us not forget. Let us not revise. Let us rebuild with that pioneer spirit that made our country what it is today.

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