(This is a public service announcement brought to you by History is Interesting :)
Unless you’re outside the US, or are off the grid, you’ve probably heard a constant bombardment of news revolving around subjects such as President Trump, racial tensions, international turmoil, refugee crises, etc… No matter what side you’re on, you’ve also probably observed that many organizations and groups, from schools, media outlets, professional associations, and personal blogs and social media to name a few, have taken a public stance on many of these issues. Many from all sides say something along the lines of, “we cannot stay silent”, or “silence is complacency” or whatever else. Some who did not publish a public stance feel that such heated and polarized topics are either inappropriate to address for their group, or may alienate people, such as potential customers or employers. However, some may wonder why a history blog would not want to comment on such an exciting and tumultuous time in our own history. While I do not shy away from taking sides when backed up with a strong argument and strong evidence, and feel that intellectual freedom should allow people to openly debate issues relevant to them not in fear of “offending” others, I chose not to comment on today’s issues for three reasons:
One, I feel it is actually inappropriate for me to have a stance on these current issues through this blog. While this will certainly be a chapter in our future history books, it’s not history yet! Yes, this is a tumultuous time for the US and much of the nation is polarized on these issues, however, that does not make it history. Sure, you can argue that “history” can span a time of millennia ago, to this past morning. There are singular days so important they are history in themselves, but the key premise I’m getting at here, is history, whatever the time span, is in the past. These events going on now, are going on now. This means to me as a historian, that I can’t have the impartiality that a scholar of history should have when analyzing and critiquing what went on. I’m currently immersed in the situation, not as a detached observer, but as a participant. Now, this does not mean I am being politically active at all, I am not, but I am “participating” by simply being a member of this society and absorbing the attitudes of everyone around me as well as being bombarded by many conflicting accounts of what’s going on. This makes it impossible to get the impartiality I want to address the situation.
This works for all history as well. Primary sources are indeed valuable assets to the historian who wants to get a better picture of what was going on at the time, and bias can be welcomed, as it shows how people of the time perceived what was going on. However, one must always take such accounts with a grain of salt when one wants to research what actually transpired because of their inherent bias. One may get a better picture of what happened in the Civil War by reading something researched by a historian in an academic paper, than in a contemporary northern or southern newspaper, for example. Yes, they do contribute to the bigger picture for sure, but have an inherent bias. If I take a stance now, analyzing what is happening in my current world, I’m creating a primary source, not a scholarly analysis for history. Future historians would like to know what the average American thought of the Trump administration, but my aim is to be the observer, not the studied! Maybe 20 years from now, we could step back from this era and look with a more impartial and level headed eye, but from the looks of it now, that’s not happening any time soon ;)
This is not to say that we can’t make connections from our past to the present, of course we can! History often does repeat itself in patterns and we can compare to an extent, that is, the present with the past, but that’s not what those other sources are doing when they take a stance nowadays. The past does affect the present, and we should all be aware of how it does impact us today, but taking a stance as others are doing does not help that goal either.
Secondly, I am not one for just jumping on the bandwagon just because everyone else is. I actually find many of the organizations that release public statements on either side are being inappropriate by doing so as their aim in general is not directly involved with such issues they’re taking sides on. Schools, for example should be impartial and let students form their own opinions. News organizations should report impartially too. Other organizations just have little or nothing to do with these issues in general. I understand that personal bloggers and social media are more free to have opinions like that, since it’s personal, and everyone does have an opinion! But this is not a personal blog. I have opinions, which I overtly label “opinion pieces” so to not be taken as unalterable fact, but this blog is not about every personal whim I have! I also feel that many of the others listed above take a stance simply because everyone else is without thinking it through. They feel if they don’t, it’s some competition they’re losing out on. It’s not. I don’t like that group think mindset, of everyone else is doing this, so I have to as well. If I feel it’s appropriate to take a stance, then fine, I’m on board, but not without thinking long and hard about how it makes me look. That decision must be mine and mine alone. This is why if you know me, I have never done all those social media memes and Facebook profile pic frames related to different issues.
Lastly, I want people reading this to draw their own conclusions. It’s not for my history blog to take a stance on what is not history yet. This is not a contemporary political blog, or a humanitarian blog, or a social activism blog, but a history blog and should stick to history. I always advocate for critical thinking in all areas of life, past and present, and my views don’t need to be yours. All I ask is you have thought your stance through and have strong arguments and solid evidence to back it up and I can respect that even if we don’t agree. I’m not out to alienate people over unfounded petty squabbles. I want everyone to feel welcome to read my blog and engage with it. There are views where I do take sides, that may sound offensive or threatening, and I’m not afraid to stand firm on them and stand by my reasoning. However, this is not a blog exclusively for one group of people. There are two sides (or more!) to a debate. So my stance will be this one:
Think for yourself!!!