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GLINT


Today, I’d like to talk about history. Having just spent time in a small, rapidly shrinking area sandwiched between Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia I like to call “nature,” let me make one thing clear: I cannot stand people that take an interest in the past waaay too far in a fetishistic and sick way. These are the people who do things like look at a tree or the side of a mountain or a frog and get off on it, usually because they know some random factoids that I don’t. I do like the results of all this type of development, much as I enjoy my own large cerebral cortex and upright position, but I just can’t get into the process side of things. Like, Carlsbad Caverns rocks so damn hard. What else do you need to know? (Actually a lot. No rocks in those caves! Nope. Those are all calcium deposits. Slap me.) Far worse are the people who look up and get all goopy over the history of the cosmos and the whole origin of life. Please. As if anyone will ever figure that one the fuck out. Actually, I get completely flustered when someone even says the word “universe.” It ruins my whole day, sending everything I feel sort of secure about lurching out from under me and spinning off into…well, who knows what? Day to day living and mention of the universe do not mix.

I mean to talk about REAL history that involves men and power and money. History happens. Or happened. It just did. It is inevitable. What is not inevitable is the way that it is remembered. In history there are no facts, merely interpretation. But, like anything else that is left unattended to for a really long time and is not remembered until it has to be, history can tend to loose its appeal altogether. At times, history itself appears archaic. Sometimes those panicky stats. that get issued have the desired effect on me. What if it is true that 172.4% of our pot-addled teenagers really don’t know who Benedict Arnold was? Good golly! Here is the question that plagued me during my years devoted to the study of history, particularly that of other countries: How is it that I was incapable of committing dates and names to memory after meticulously crafting timelines, devising strange and circuitous mnemonic systems, and cramming all-nighters buoyed by No-Doze and Diet Pepsi, yet, seemingly without effort, I could recite ¾’s of ‘The Breakfast Club’ unprompted? (Actually, truth be told, I rocked AP US History something fierce and could really do ALL of Molly Ringwald’s lines from the BC. Would I lie about that? In public? No revisionist history here.)

History is only good when it is something that we might actually have a ghost of a chance of getting a handle on. And this provides the answer to the age-old question, "War! What is it good for?" War gives history a chance to make it in the here and now. Nothing brings the past alive like mass death and destruction. As far as American history goes, growing up on the eastern seaboard is particularly conducive to military history buffing as our domestic experiences of war were concentrated in these parts. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to be tripping merrily along the trail this weekend on one of those day-hikes where you feel like a weightless moonwalker (no, silly, don’t even think of MJ) because your pack is FINALLY off your back and suddenly you emerge from the forest into a pleasant meadow. Nice, you think, and gambol about happily until…what’s this? A plaque at the edge of the meadow identifying the little country lane in front of you as Bloody Lane? Naturally.

Fucking Bloody Lane?!?!? A redundancy if I were a Brit, but clearly I am not because I am about to tell you how Civil War crap sends me over the fucking moon, full-tilt, multi-o, blissfully over the stupid moon. I have no idea why. I have no historical connection to the shit at all. My peeps had not yet made the scene in the 1860’s. Be that as it may. Bloody Lane is one of the sites the Battle of Antietam rolled past in 1862. Today, historians like to think of it as a bloodbath of epic proportions—the deadliest day of the whole war. Yick. And yet, so neat. To be able to look down this quiet, shady lane and imagine the carnage it saw…is something I simply cannot do. Having not ever been in/witnessed a war or warlike conditions myself, I’d have no idea where to start. And war is grotesque, war is hell, war is war—but the fact that it is history makes me want to try to imagine it. I dunno. Either that or people are all naturally drawn to the grisly, putrid underbelly of humanity. Am I just a rubbernecker with a particularly long attention span?

No matter. History is history and they teach it at school so it must be safe and good.

I guess it would be nicest if we didn’t have to keep fucking things up with more war. I think the ones we’ve had are more than sufficient to hold everybody’s attention for a good long while. Peace and chicken grease.


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