31 March 2012

So It's Memory, Not History

Of course, most non-academics who read and study history seriously already know this. Blessedly separated from the group-think, politicized version of historiography coming from the university, non-academics are sometimes better able to approach history with common sense, rather than through the lens of "victimization and oppression" ideology. Fortunately, there are also professional historians who have written honestly about this:

. . . in these dreariest of days in Academia . . . American history has largely become a plaything for canting ideologues . . . our times call for a correct ideological line, which at its increasingly popular extreme regards the Old South as a rehearsal for Nazi Germany and calls for the eradication of all traces of the conservative voices that have loomed so large in southern history . . . [There is a] step-by-step domination of departments of history in our southern as well as northern universities by those who regard what Richard Weaver aptly called the Southern Tradition and all its works as an evil past to be exorcised by all means, fair and foul. ~ Eugene D. Genovese (The Southern Front - History and Politics in the Cultural War, page 25.)

"Memory" is the domain of the left:

Historians, like everyone else, have their own political views. But these used to be kept separate from the scholarly role, which was to interpret and explain the past . . . With each passing year, the American historians have become more and more marginalized, and more irrelevant to anyone seeking insight about our nation's past. A few decades ago, the left wing was a small group, welcomed to participate by the mainstream historians in the profession, but unable to impose their will on a majority of sane historians. Today, they control the profession, and their two major associations have become almost indistinguishable from the organizations of the far Left. (History News Network)

There is only one true history, one set of facts. Yet there are different interpretations of those facts and choices made as to how much weight to give each fact(s), as well as which fact to ignore.

Memory is life, borne by living societies founded in its name. ... History, on the other hand, is the reconstruction, always problematic and incomplete, of what is no longer. ~  Pierre Nora

Just a reminder for those academic historians who think they own history. Think again. These issues tend to ebb and flow. Your own profession will one day judge you harshly. You may escape "memory", but you won't escape history.

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