I asked a not-so-random teenager if she happened to know what December 7, 1941, signified. No, but she did know the magnitude of the bombing of Pearl Harbor as the entry of the United States into World War II.
I’m constantly reminded why some folks keep chanting, “Never forget.” And as the generations pass, people WILL forget. I mean, these may be events that are marked in the history books, but it just won’t have the same resonance to another generation. 1776 and 1861 and 1941 all signify ancient history.
Born a little over a decade after Pearl Harbor, I can still hear in my mind’s ear not only the words of FDR’s address to Congress on December 8 but his speaking pattern. But I was learning this a mere quarter-century after the consequential event, as opposed to 75 or 80 years later. December 7, 1941, for many, I surmise, will not always be “a date which will live in infamy.”
It is inevitable that elements of history fall through the cracks. But it troubles me that history can be so distorted. I’m thinking of the Holocaust both-sides-ing debacle, in Texas, unsurprisingly.
One can analyze the Why. For instance, the Germans could not accept they had been defeated in World War I. They needed convenient scapegoats. The Holocaust was partly a result of that.
Surely, one may analyze what other countries, such as the United States, could have done to avert some of the slaughter. But what IS the “other side” that suggests that the events did not take place at all?
This is not to say that ‘history” is inviolate. In my lifetime, I’ve learned a great deal, from the NASA women immortalized in the movie Hidden Figures to Tulsa 1921. These were not stories that were in my history books growing up. Invariably we will recontextualize what we learn.
But denial of facts troubles me greatly. I came across this article from 2012. “No, you’re not entitled to your opinion,” a philosophy professor wrote. “No one can stop you saying that vaccines cause autism, no matter how many times that claim has been disproven. But if ‘entitled to an opinion’ means ‘entitled to have your views treated as serious candidates for the truth’ then it’s pretty clearly false. And this… is a distinction that tends to get blurred.”