Yet another rant about history
I take in as many news sources in a day as possible, thereby hopefully allowing me to get multiple perspectives on an issue. This includes reading a number of different newspapers in addition to the flagship for this column. One of these newspapers is a regional daily that rather heavily relies on wire feeds and syndicated content for material.
One of these features is a “today in history” column. It’s a series of historical events, with one event selected as being the highlight of the day. One would think that this would be the most important, most world-changing event that happened, correct?
To pick a random date, let’s consider July 17th. In 1821, Spain ceded Florida to the United States. In 1917, King George V issued a decree stating that the British royal family would use the name “Windsor” and abandon all German-based titles. In 1918, the Bolsheviks executed Czar Nicholas II and his family, setting the stage for the Russian Revolution. In 1936, the Spanish Civil War Started. In 1955, Disneyland opened in California. In 1975, an Apollo craft and a Soyuz craft docked for the first time.
So, which was the highlight of the day?
Neither of them.
The highlight of the day, as per the person who compiled this list, came on July 17th, 1967. What happened that day? That was when Jimi Hendrix quit his gig as the opening act for The Monkees; even though The Monkees loved what he did, the fans didn’t and Hendrix got tired of the cool reception.
Yes, Hendrix was indeed a major influence on subsequent generations of musicians the world over. And this was a somewhat important chapter in his career. But, by way of comparison, how does this stack up to the start of the Russian Revolution? Or any of the other items mentioned above?
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this piece make questionable calls concerning what the most important historical event of a day was. But sadly, things like this aren’t confined to that one column. I’ve seen far too many instances in which people either dismissed historical occurrences as happening in a vacuum or placed more emphasis on an event than another, more significant event, including one that led up to it (this coming back to “history in a vacuum”).
For example, a bit back I was reading through some publication’s “top events of the year” list when it came to religion news. Pope Benedict standing down as Pope? Oh, it was on there… at a *lower* rank than Pope Francis taking over. There was significant online discussion as to the “Huh?” factor in the publication’s ranking. A particular event being named as more significant than the event that let it happen? Eh?
Seriously folks, it’s things like this which make me say that society as a whole needs to do a better job of studying, understanding, and contemplating history. As the saying goes, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. Case in point? Evergreen State failing to learn from Mizzou. Or the people I keep seeing advocate for Communism. Or the return of bell bottoms.
However it is one wants to look at it, we need to be more mindful of history and how things lead to each other. We also need to not get distracted by personal feelings. We just need to learn, and never forget.