I’ve always read, and I like reading history. I thought I would be a historian, someday, but no. I had a great aptitude for business [and little patience with academics and academicians] and that’s where I spent my time, but I read. History could be anything from the where paper clips came from to the journey of mankind, and just about everything in between. My favorite history is biography, maybe it is because I grew up on all the lives of the saints books at Villa Cabrini, that small library off the quad, right next to the fifth grade classroom, or history is personal for me, we all have our story. The origin of history, late Middle English (also as a verb): via Latin from Greek historia ‘finding out, narrative, history,’ from histōr ‘learned, wise man,’ And, because it is our stories, together, that make up who we are and what we are.
When we first moved to North Carolina I read the just published Taylor Branch series about Martin Luther King. I knew the MLK story, but this time I was struck by where I was during the story, a freshman in high school while civil rights were being challenged in Greensboro, North Carolina. And it felt a lot like living that history and I understood how memory works, the whats and whos and hows of history can be funneled through a lens not of your making, but of your living.
And, on Saturday I read a recent review in the WSJ of Isaac and Isaiah, about the back and forth of what followed the World War II: East versus West, Capitalism versus Communism, and Freedom versus Oppression. It dawned on me how much we’ve been losing in the decades since the mid-twentith century. We lost the intellectual battlefield, the high concept discussion about philosophical difference, the ability to shape cogent arguments about our belief systems, be they religious, political, economic or ethnic. We’ve sunk to invectives, slurs, name-calling, rallies and protest.
A powerful article is a case in point to one side of the argument of the issue of race. Shelby Steele on The Decline of the Civil Rights Establishment points to the how much progress has been made and yet how many victims still exist, and not necessarily the victims you suspect you know.