". . . 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, February 10, 2016

Reading Wednesday -- George Washington's Journey: The President Forges A New Nation

George Washington's Journey: The President Forges A New Nation (2016) by T.H. Breen.

It's a commonly expressed belief that histories are at least as much about the time in which they are written as about the past period being written about.

This slim book is a good example of what that means.  Breen's argument in George Washington's Journey is that the new president of the new nation deliberately marshalled his many theatrical / political talents during the tours of the states he made in his first administration to present an image of himself as the worthy example of the benefits of the strong, central federal government in which he believed. Without a central overarching authority, there was no way for the states' rights states to either hang together as a fully functioning independent nation, or to protect the democracy's declared intention of religious tolerance (i.e. the diversity / minority rights of the day) and other less majority groups.

One sees Breen's argument, which he makes at least once on every page, directed deliberately at those elements of our national political life who have been expressing for years contempt and hatred for central government of the U.S.A.

It's heartening to see this argument so sincerely presented by a member of the insider U.S. History scholars.  His book is endorsed by both Gordon Wood and Douglas Bradburn, a librarian at Mount Vernon.

When looking at the fate of the CSA, it's impossible not to conclude that those who despise government can neither govern nor create a functioning government.  That's the lesson we need to get out there, quite a few of us believe.

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