Tuesday, August 16, 2011
August 16, 2011: Me Too!
I wanted to follow up yesterday’s best-of-so-far post by making one thing very clear: I’m far from immune to the tendencies toward simplifying and mythologizing national narratives on which I often focus here, and so am just as much the audience for these posts as I am the author of them. To illustrate that point, here (in no particular order) are a few additional favorite posts to date, ones where my own narratives and perspective were explicitly part of what I was challenging:
1) Lee and Longstreet: Growing up in Virginia, I was not only a Civil War buff, but also admittedly more a fan of the Confederate generals than the Union ones. (Stonewall Jackson vs. McClellan? Not even a contest.) Even into adulthood, I’ve bought into much of the deification of Robert E. Lee. But as I wrote here, that deification is both problematic and has come at the expense of a much more fully inspiring Confederate general, James Longstreet.
2) Eisenhower: I’ve made no secret in this space of my progressive and liberal political perspective, and it can be tough not to bring that same perspective to my historical and AmericanStudies analyses. But it’s very important not to do so, at least not in any overarching or limiting way, as I hope this post on things to admire and emulate in Eisenhower’s policies and ideas makes clear.
3) Robert Penn Warren and Segregation: Robert Penn Warren is on my short list of favorite and most inspiring American authors, and so it’s tempting to find ways to rationalize or excuse even his more troubling moments (such as his contribution to the polemical and conservative Southern collection I’ll Take My Stand). But forcing myself to remember and engage with that moment is both important and, as I wrote here, ultimately even more inspiring.
4) Colonial Williamsburg and Historical Propaganda: I love reenactments of all kinds, including historic sites like Colonial Williamsburg that drop visitors directly into a reenacted past world. Learning about the 20th century and in many ways propagandistic purposes behind the creation and development of CW doesn’t diminish that love, necessarily—but it does remind me that reenactments, like any other historical narratives, are not free of such complicating and challenging contexts.
5) The West Wing, the Rosenbergs, and the Head and Heart: One of my favorite West Wing episodes and one of my favorite Don Henley songs work together to help me think through how one’s personal perspective and beliefs can influence what we understand about the past, and the necessity of admitting and working to move beyond those influences.
In case it might ever seem as if I’ve got all the answers, these five posts, like many others and (I hope) the blog as a whole, illustrate just how fully my own understanding and analyses and perspective continue to develop and grow. We’re in this together! More tomorrow,
PS. Any simplifying narratives or perspectives of your own that you’ve had to confront or challenge?