I saw some articles on two topics recently that made me stop and say, “Hm.”
Topic 1, how the United States military is drawing from an ever-smaller pool of soldier families and geographic regions, so there’s a growing disconnect in the public view of what the military is and does and what it ACTUALLY is and does–because fewer people in general come into contact with serving military members. (And the articles discussed that can feed prejudice and dehumanization and a wide array of other dangerous issues…)
2, how the concept of evil and what evil groups have done in the past has become so abstract, so disconnected from the daily experience and the personal narratives of whole social groups. This feeds the human tendency to create false equivalencies between groups exhibiting similar behaviors (Nazis vs anti-Fascists, for example.) Supporting false equivalencies is also Not Good.
Basically, both topics boil down to the problem of “people losing a sense of the importance of things.” Awkward phrasing, but there it is. It’s an awkward situation when things past and the distant become deniable because they don’t feel real.
I don’t know how to be that detached from the world.
I suckled history at my mother’s breast. Well, I would’ve done, if she’d breastfed me, but women didn’t much in the era when I was born. She was a history teacher, though, and an english teacher, and my father was an avid consumer of history and narratives himself, and loved to share every new discovery, yes even with his babies. History was never a school subject for any of us Morris kids. It was all around us, everywhere we went, and it connected everyone we knew.
Visiting ANY destination meant collecting fascinating tales of the local heroes, villains, any gruesome disasters, and other trivia. Meeting people resulted in stories about their backgrounds and how they came to be where we were. Learning to sing Waltzing Matilda so we could serenade the new neighbors from Down Under came with stories of Australia’s culture and founding, so we knew why there were swagmen as well as what a billabong was…just to name one of many, many such memories. And dinner conversation could turn to any old topic that struck Dad’s fancy, from apocryphal tales of obscure British monarchs to Russian folk stories that offered insight into political decisions we were seeing on the nightly news. (Because yes, we watched TV over dinner. As a family.)
I thought all families were like this until I started visiting friends’ homes for meals in fifth & sixth grade. Not so much, it turns out. Nope. Kids were seen & not heard most places, or else we were sent to eat and socialize without supervision.
Teaching moments, that’s what some people call the sharing of knowledge and life experiences as they relate to past and present. I call it conversation. Seriously, I don’t know any other way to relate to people.
I think all of us need to look closer at wherever we happen to be, ask when and what, where and who, and then share those tales for their own sake. Histories. HERstories. OURstories. This casual tale telling keeps fresh the easily-dropped point that people are people. Relating then to now through narratives brings together past and present, distant and near, them and us, so we understand better how all these things are connected.
And most importantly, it reinforces the reality that what we do now is how history happens. Or so it seems to me at the moment.
Okay, I’m done. Until next time.