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History rewritten


Fri, Apr 10th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

I'd like to pretend that nothing interesting happened in the world prior to my entrance but there is evidence to the contrary. I can argue, however, that there was no color at all- I've seen the photos.

Being born just after WWII, my public education system was in a frenzy to speak of almost nothing else. We had lessons on George Washington and Abe Lincoln since their birthdays were in red on the calendar and the schools and banks were closed in their honor. By the way, youngsters, those two men really did have separate birthdays before efficiency declared this hybrid "president's day" and diminished them both.

History simply cannot write itself or it wouldn't be history. We have a collective project to consider. Recent decades, which will coalesce into our history, could look pretty dismal to the kids of the 22nd century. We need to all start writing epic diaries for them to find later. Like The Dead Sea Scrolls or the Shroud of Turin, these documents can have them scrambling for an alternative perspective.

• We could create a fiction about George W. Bush being intelligent and maybe something of a benevolent dictator. Or, that he and Cheney were like Abbott and Costello and we hired them for eight years of entertainment.

• Let's say how we marched into Baghdad and asked Saddam to hang himself, like a gentleman, and he did.

• That the economy went through a readjustment period and the poor became rich and the rich had to tend their gardens for them.

• That we discovered that rats, cockroaches and Japanese beetles were a clean energy source and no corporation could own them but New York City and S.E. Minnesota became energy providers for the whole world.

• That human beings were not vulnerable to gun shots or knife wounds and would have to be talked to death to resolve conflicts.

• That schools became Curiosity Centers and kids understood that all the answers to all their questions were available in the library.

• That divorces and abortions became obsolete because we had magical "do over" powers like the undo key on the computer.

• That plastic surgeons were all retrained as pediatricians because our vision became so keen that we all looked "just fine" to ourselves and others.

If such a writing project strikes you as too ambitious, you go ahead and change history your own way. Involve yourself locally around issues that matter to you; read books and articles to become informed beyond the evening news headline; have meaningful and respectful conversations with people who know, or pretend to know, things that interest you. Don't lose your sense of wonder and curiosity along with your hair and your hearing. We still have time to leave some good news behind but we have to pay attention.

As for me, I am going to write that New History of the 21st Century and instead of Columbus Day they'll close the post office for Youngdahl Day because I offered up this world of perfection and those living in that world will give us, well, me, credit for all of that promise. At that point, they will be instructed to look up "megalomania" and even see a picture of me! And, I'll look "just fine".

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