". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Signatures

The Daddy robin redbreast who has claimed my Eastern Shore backyard for himself and his nest-sitting Baby Mama can beat the Daddy robin redbreast who has conquered your backyard!

As perhaps the most unoriginal observation ever, here is a bird paradise. I see more robins here in a single day -- and they are the biggest robins I've ever seen -- than I've seen in all the years put together in NYC.  Here, a backyard, overflowing with varieties of birds and flowers. Cats, squirrels and foxes also.  It smells so good -- if you don't suffer from allegeries like el V, who is suffering worse than he's ever suffered, except on visits to my family farm in the Red River Valley.

Misty and damp today.  Ever greener, every day, along with the brilliant flashes of yellow, fuschia, red, violets everywhere on trees, shrubs and flower beds.  Just returned from a local journalist-historian's lecture on the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake.  It was an excellent presentation, which he and his wife do in the summers on historic replica vessel cruises here on the Chesapeake in the summers.  But ... not a word about the free people of color who were in the U.S. navy or served on other vessels, or those enslaved who assisted the British in return for their freedom.  So I had to say something afterward  during the q&a.  He said this was very important yes, but so many were sold by the British when they took them to Jamaica.  A myth that has been definitively disproved by the very laws in place by Britain at that time, as well as by primary source materials that show where these 8 - 9 thousand freedom earners ended up. But as this was in the morning, and it's only the elderly and people like us who have the leisure to sit in a library and receive a presentation there were actual gasps at this. No one here of the older generations wants to believe 1) that their ancestors' slave would be so treacherous; 2) that the Brits would have kept their promises of freedom.

Fortunately, one of my neighbors was in the audience too (she's also on the BOD of the county historical society and museum), and she jumps in and says, "O Fox, thank you for reminding us that we should stop acting as if the War of 1812 was only white people." So my bad manners squeaked out of that one. I did couch my remarks courteously. He did do a very good job of condensing a very large amount of material into the time slot. And unlike so many tour guides everything he said was correct. But it just left out the color, so to speak, and we really cannot and should not do that any more, ever, in any circumstance, and most particularly the wars of the U.S.A.

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