This is the last post I’ll write in response to the governor of Virginia’s recent considerations about slavery and the Civil War. The link between slavery and the Civil War has been documented enough so that the chatter made by folks related to the confederate soldiers is baseless. How a person can suggest, after so much good historical information about the antebellum period has been published, that the War was not caused by slavery is beyond my reach.
That’s not important since we all learn in different ways. We all have differences of opinion. No one interprets scholarship the way the last reader of that work did. Still, it’s beyond me.
To an extent, the governor of Virginia (and his good staff) decided to rewrite history, to revision it. I’d suggest that the following things happen to us when we do that, even in the form of proclamations:
1) We get it wrong. One of the great thinkers in my faith tradition said that faith was about seeking understanding. I think the same can be said about history. History, if it doesn’t seek understanding, provides a frame for understanding. When we tell stories in a way that omits, overlooks, or deletes the impact and presence of others, our oversights lead to misunderstanding.
2) We miseducate others. One of the meanings of education is to draw out of a person what lies inside. When a student has incorrect information settled inside his head, he will inevitably be silly or misguided or wrong when he speaks. We have a responsibility to say right things.
3) We stereotype. We develop impressions and views about others from what we know. When what we learn is misshaped history, it can’t help but produce conceptions of others that are just as unformed.
For sure there are gifts to revisioning history, but the drawbacks abound.