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Sunday, May 28, 2017

World History

There are events that  - even as we experience them - we're confident will be discussed in the future as history. Even as a self-centered adolescent, I was pretty sure the assassination of JFK was such an event. Few Americans alive at the time will ever be able to forget where they were when those planes struck. 

What public event from your lifetime has received less attention from a historical perspective than you think it deserves? For this thought experiment, use a distance of twenty five years, i.e. the event must have taken place before 1992. Now flip the experiment over. What pre-1992 event has - in your view- been widely over-played as living history?

When I try this experiment - in either direction - I'm struck by the way my filter has influenced and continues to shape my sense of history. For example, I knew King's assassination in 1968 was news, but when the movement for a national holiday in his honor later began, I remember being caught off guard in my white world. What King did was historical? In that same parochial vein, events from the last twenty five years that come first to mind as historical oversights - and the events that strike me as being widely oversold as important - are all US-based. It takes a rigorous and conscious effort to escape my narrow filter and think of events outside of the US.

What strategies do you find most effective for escaping a frequently myopic view of world history? Put another way, where were you on the day Anwar Sadat was assassinated? For the record, I have no clue where I was. 

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