beth_shulman: (Default)
The dangers of the past often seem more quaint than our own dangers. From our modern vantage point looking back, we have supernatural sight; we can see into torture chambers, across borders; we can peer into bedrooms and predict which infants are born to greatness; we can hear the whispered orders in forest camps and words of command spoken in the colonnades and cupolas of power. For this reason, people in the past seem blinded and bumbling.

And yet, the dead have their lessons to teach us, if only we'll listen.

It is worthwhile, when we read of the past, to say not just, "How did they possibly believe this was right?," but rather, "What do we do that our grandchildren and their grandchildren will look at aghast? What are we blind to?"

When we read about the inequities and atrocities of the past, we repeat, with horror, "Never again. Never again," but we cannot stop there, because genocide, cruelty, inequality, and graft are not just relics of history, but a part of our world in the present,

On April 19, in the year 1975, my parents woke me up at four in the morning. They took me down to the river and put me in the canoe. I have only the faintest memory of this. My father and mother paddled us down the Concord River to the Old North Bridge, where, in the rushes, we saw some redwing blackbirds and the President of the United States. President Gerald Ford was standing on Old North Bridge, delivering a bicentennial address.

On the one bank was a hill where, exactly two hundred years before I arrived there, down almost to the minute, the men of my town, ordinary citizens, men like my father, had come over the rise, and had marched down toward the river where I sat to engage in battle with the most powerful army in the world.

That time, those people, were not mythic; they had once been real, though now historical - just as the year 1975, the year I bobbed on the waters ten feet below the pants of the President of the United States, is now not real, but historical.

History is not a pageant arrayed for our delectation.

We are all always gathered there. We have come to the riverside to fight or to flee, we are gathered at the river, upon those shores, and the water is always moving, and the President of the United States always gesticulates silently above us, his image on the water. Nothing will cease. Nothing will stop. We ourselves are history.

The moment is always now.

M. T. Anderson

  • Jun. 7th, 2010 at 1:15 AM
beth_shulman: (violin)
On morality in writing:

I would argue, first of all, that our world-view is already wound into our narratives, whether we're aware of it or not, and that we can't help broadcasting it to our readers. Our idea of what a "happy ending" is, of who is evil and who is good, of who should triumph and who should fail (or whether anyone should do either) - all of that is played out in our writing. Just because we don't overtly talk about it doesn't mean it doesn't structure our stories, without us even thinking about it.



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