“Those outside the academy tend to think of history as settled, as a simple recounting of what events happened on what date and who was involved in those incidents. But while history is what happened, it is also, just as important, how we think about what happened and what we unearth and choose to remember about what happened.”
“History is not the past. It’s the method we’ve evolved of organizing our ignorance of the past…. It’s the record of what’s left on the record… It’s what’s left in the sieve when the centuries have run through it…. It’s no more the past than a birth certificate is a birth, or a script is a performance, or a map is a journey…. It’s no more than the best we can do. And often, it falls short of that.”
“The common denominator of so many of the strange and troubling cultural narratives coming our way is a set of assumptions about who matters, whose story it is, who deserves the pity and the treats and the presumptions of innocence, the kid gloves and the red carpet, and ultimately the kingdom, the power, and the glory. You already know who. It’s white people in general and white men in particular, and especially white Protestant men, some of whom are apparently dismayed to find out that there is going to be, as your mom might have put it, sharing. The history of this country has been written as their story, and the news sometimes still tells it this way—one of the battles of our time is about who the story is about, who matters and who decides.”
“[U]nderstanding history as a form of inquiry—not as something easy or comforting but as something demanding and exhausting—was central to the nation’s founding. This, too, was new. In the West, the oldest stories, the Iliad and the Odyssey, are odes and tales of wars and kings, of men and gods, sung and told. These stories were memorials, and so were the histories of antiquity: they were meant as monuments….
“Only by fits and starts did history become not merely a form of memory but also a form of investigation, to be disputed, like philosophy, its premises questioned, its evidence examined, its arguments countered….
“This new understanding of the past attempted to divide history from faith. The books of world religions—the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Quran—are pregnant with mysteries, truths known only by God, taken on faith. In the new history books, historians aimed to solve mysteries and to discover their own truths. The turn from reverence to inquiry, from mystery to history, was crucial to the founding of the United States. It didn’t require abdicating faith in the truths of revealed religion and it relieved no one of the obligation to judge right from wrong. But it did require subjecting the past to skepticism, to look to beginnings not to justify ends, but to question them—with evidence.
Sixty years after the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the nation still needs to be reminded of what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the fierce urgency of now.” My husband, the brilliant and thoughtful Alexis Romay, recently had the honor of translating Dr. King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech into Spanish. The book has a forward by National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, also translated by Alexis.
Tonight, Monday, January 16 (at 7PM), on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Alexis will be reading and reflecting on the experience of translating this important work at Watchung Booksellers, in Montclair, NJ. The event will be in Spanish. You can register here.
I’d like to publicly thank my son, who spent 35 minutes reading through the entire Dramatis Personae of the Pokémon universe into my phone, in a monotone, to create a soundtrack to help me fall asleep at night. At the end of the list, he even began an open-ended discussion of “cool cars,” including one with a V-12 engine —something that has reliably caused slumber when he broached the subject in the afternoon. Here’s hoping, because I have pretty much stopped sleeping at night altogether.
According to the Pokémon Super Deluxe Essential Handbook, “An important part of a Trainer’s job is to take good care of his or her Pokémon.” I feel very taken care of today!