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Revising History Part I: The Meaning of Denial

Revising History Part I: The Meaning of Denial

History, as a gestalt, is preciously, uniquely human (I’m assuming here that dolphins, crows and cockroaches don’t fool with time as we perceive it).  We are able to experience our lives, and their contexts, only in retrospect – as each moment passes instantly into memory it’s the recollection of things past that forms the basis of whatever understanding we might have of continuity and meaning.

Like any human endeavor, the process of recording historical occurrences is not flawless – it’s fallible, subject to interpretation and misinterpretation.  However, the purpose of creating histories should be to promote the acknowledgment that facts exist outside our own desires.  History, as a discipline, recognizes that past actions not only happened but also have consequences.  History is the record of those reverberations rippling through time.  Whether on a personal or national level, history asserts: I (we) did this…that happened…and something developed from it.  History is the ultimate accountability – the record of human choices. 

Remember pre-Photoshop photographs?  Few doubted that those images — the napalm-drenched Vietnamese girl, the stills of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald, Walker Evans’s poverty-stunned sharecroppers – told the truth.  By ‘truth’ I mean that people believed that they represented something objectively factual, real beyond the manipulations of the photographer.

Written history, since its medium (writing) doesn’t create a direct record of events, is more prone to construal.  Nevertheless, history (individual or societal) is the best thing we’ve got for determining what, in terms of actions, is true.  One can argue that truth is, by its very nature, subjective, but hey: things happen.  The invasion of Iraq was planned well in advance of 9/11.  The Khmer Rouge murdered millions of people.  Bill Clinton did have sex with “that woman.”  Wishing won’t make it not so.

One motivation for altering history is to deny that something in fact occurred.  Several recent notable instances come to mind.  Who can forget the smearing of John Kerry’s Vietnam War record by the partisan and thoroughly discredited “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth“?  Who didn’t shudder when Iran’s Mahmūd Ahmadinezhād (who seriously needs a personal shopper) called the Holocaust a “lie” and a “hoax”?  

In a book just out by Marc A. Thiessen, this former Bush speechwriter makes a number of claims against an overwhelming body of evidence to the contrary.  In his eagerness to portray Obama as weak and naïve, and to serve as apologist for the Bush agenda, he asserts that not only was the Bush Administration uninformed about Al Qaeda prior to 9/11, but that “enhanced interrogation techniques” (which, BTW, are NOT torture) provided information that thwarted a host of post-9/11 attacks.

A little benign denial is a temporary coping mechanism that has its uses.  We all know what can transpire in the dentist’s chair, but telling yourself “that root canal really won’t hurt much” might get you through the door.

One, however, is in denial when the facts contradict one’s beliefs, such as: Since the earth is 6000 years old, dinosaurs and people must have coexisted. To be in denial is to make a wholesale claim with a much more interesting, and often obscured, subtext — that to acknowledge the reality, the truth of what one is denying, is to face the moral necessity of reexamining one’s beliefs. 

The consequences of being in denial can range from the personal – that lump is just a cyst – to who we are as human beings – the Holocaust didn’t really happen.  To be in denial about something that presents itself as a moral imperative is an act of spiritual cowardice.  Much better that denial be in the service of personal courage — to use a dash of delusion to propel oneself into facing up, and standing up.

Of course some history needs revising.  The Caucasian-male-centric version of our own national trajectory not only neglects many of the contributions of minority groups, including women and African Americans, but, perhaps worse, whitewashes atrocities like slavery, the ethnic/cultural cleansing of native peoples, war crimes, the exploitation of the environment, to name but a few.  Realizing that the winners write history can be the first step toward reinterpreting facts through the lens of wisdom and a more inclusive perspective.  However, such reconsideration of scope or meaning doesn’t transpire into permission to twist facts to suit an agenda.  There’s a better word for that: it’s called lying.

 

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photo credit: www.foghlaim.ie/Staffpage.htm

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142 comments

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2:52AM PDT on Jun 20, 2010

Thank you!

9:26PM PDT on Apr 18, 2010

I'M AGREED WITH MARK LLOYD.

11:24AM PDT on Apr 14, 2010

History can never be value free, The trick is to acknowledge how these values impact on historiography.

7:44PM PDT on Apr 13, 2010

As I always say, on the one hand you have the Truth, and on the other hand you have Reality. The Truth is equivalent to history; it is the record of events as told by the winners. Reality is the actual events as told by all observers; the summation of all points of view.

The saying is so true: Each story has three sides: my side, your side, and the truth.

12:22PM PDT on Apr 13, 2010

I believe the reason certain people want to rewrite history and say certain things never happen is for many reasons. One they believe they can get away with it. (2). People are too stupid to remember.(3). The perpetrator is too coy and sly to be noticed. (4) New people are growing up or being born, who either did not pay attention, did not pay attention to the news to know what happened and are letting the liars re writie history to paint themselves as good guys when they were not; while the older ones are dying off. They are setting themselves up to be in positions to commit crimes against humanity again unless some one calls them on it. They/perpitrators are counting on our silence and pat on their heads claiming them as good little kids, all forgiven go rape and kill again, we've turned a deaf eye to you. Get my point?

7:03AM PDT on Apr 13, 2010

That is one reson we should fight Texas on redoing those History books that will go out all over the United States. Maligning Jefferson (yes he had faults but was one of our founders of this country) and installing as great their Republican ------. This is the biggest lie of all that will effect our children in school if it goes through.

3:06AM PDT on Apr 13, 2010

history is history and should be told as it was not as some people want it to be.It would be wonderful to read about a perfect world where people were kind and caring to each other and the animal kingdom but,as we know, it was,nt like that in days gone by and it certainly is'nt any better today, in fact I think life is cruler today because we are supposed to be a civilised world which is not the case.I think the truth should be told and it might make furture generations act in a more caring and responsible way towards other countries, fellow human beings and our wonderful animals all over the world.

1:39AM PDT on Apr 13, 2010

It is so, yet is there not a cure for human perfidy?
A paradigm shift in consciousness for example?
Not as long as the perpeTraitors of the 911 psy-op succeed
and are protected by govt agencies and republican & democrat accessories before and after the fact of mass murder (and the practice of systematic torture). Yet still the propaganda lies about foreign terrorists is touted by the very organisations and individuals complicite in the crime of the millenium... the september eleven attacks by some US citizens preying upon other US citizens! When the cloak of national security is used to aid and abet such criminals then it's time to go with a public audit of the 'secret services' and the so called leaders of society whom the forensic evidence clearly implicates. The only loony 911 conspiracy theory is the one that a bunch of religious extremists in caves in afghanistan did it.

8:34PM PDT on Apr 12, 2010

I dare anyone to examine the evidence of Holocaust Revisionism with a minimum of objectivity! FYI, I oppose racism and support genetic improvement of the human species. I hope humanity becomes one mixed race, which we all are anyway. As a "pale" southern boy in the 1970s, I saw racism only among the genetic low life "white trash". In fact, my 8th grade history book mentioned how the former slaves looked down on the white trash. I also hope humanity becomes smart enough not to be so easily deceived by political subterfuge. If you have the intellectual courage, I recommend the videos at: http://www.holocaustdenialvideos.com/
The Auschwitz videos were my conversion. They were made by a young Jewish lad, David Cole. He has lived in hiding, with a price on his head, for 15 years.
Even if the 6 million figure was true, the fact that Hitler was a Rothschild cancels its significance! US intelligence services knew, during WW2. There are several books available at online retailers. Free online information is available at : http://www.reformation.org/adolf-hitler.html
My ISP server blocks me from acquiring the most significant information at: www.threeworldwars.com/world-war-2/adolf-hitler.htm. I have to use an anonymous proxy.
Don't you want to find out if your children are going to kill and/or die for a lie? Will you be more comfortable visiting their graves, believing that lie? The other lie that will get them killed is global warming, when Russian oil supplies China in 10 years.

7:37PM PDT on Apr 12, 2010

The worse of this countries erroneous histories is the killing of millions of native people, mostly intentional, some because of disease spread intentionally and unintentionally. Killing the buffalo to starve them out and actually denying us a healthy food if you eat meat, was also done. History books say very little about stealing their land and sending them to land they could not survive on, and humiliate and deny their own cultures. Indians have had a hard time coming back with self respect and self directed live goals, much as what was done to the blacks, and yet the denial goes on, blaming them for their difficulty in overcoming their prosecution.

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