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revisionist history

October 4, 2011

[Welcome to the latest installment of Chasing Maybes, a self-imposed challenge to live beyond my comfortable edges.  Join me on my experiential ramble through Trivial Pursuit categories.  I’m kicking off October by chasing adventures related to … History].

True confession of the day:  I have been dreading the approach of the yellow month.

The pink pie piece, entertainment, was firmly in my wheelhouse.  For the orange, I benefited from my live-in sports fanatic guide.  During the month of blue, I  moved across the country — providing ample geography lessons.

But this month’s category — history — scares me a little.

I’m not only dizzied by history’s wide expanse (do I pursue challenges related to religious history?  American history?  personal history?).  I’m not just troubled by this category’s potential to bore the pants off of both you and me.  It is more than that.  As long as I am confessing, I’ll divulge my very first thought when approaching this category:  the Japanese internment camps of World War II.

Let me explain.

I grew up the beneficiary of a good public school education.  I spent my elementary, middle, and high school years in clean, well-funded classrooms led by proficient teachers.  I spent countless hours learning about American history, world history, and literary history.

As a teenager, I read an article in the popular press that referred to the displacement of 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent to internment camps—officially called “relocation centers”—in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas.  Confused by what I’d read, I remember approaching my parents — did this really happen?  here?  in the United States?  — and learning, for the first time, the meaning of the term “revisionist history.”  I’d been betrayed by my good education, as it turned out.  I’d been betrayed by history.

by jonvoss at lookbackmaps.net via flickr

Of course, I’m now grateful for that lesson in critical thinking.  I immediately learned not to swallow whole everything I was fed, a lesson reinforced by my parents and, thankfully, my higher education.  I learned to seek the other half of the story.  Still, it stung me.
It stings me still to consider all the history that I — that we — have gotten wrong.  I’m up for the yellow pie piece, though, if you are.  I’ll let Mark Twain’s words, “The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice,” be my guide.
Today, I hope you’re sent chances to do something that scares you.  Thanks, as always, for showing up.
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Linda permalink
    October 4, 2011 9:11 am

    Anne: I was alive when the internment camps began but I didn’t learn about them until decades later. Shameful. I know you are a reader, so I have a book to suggest, if you haven’t already read it. Lies my teacher told me: Everything your American history textbook got wrong. by James W. Loewen. It’s was an incredible eye opener for me.

    Linda

    • October 4, 2011 8:32 pm

      Hi Linda:
      Thanks so much for your comment, and thanks even more for the book recommendation. It sounds like the exact thing I have been looking for. I so appreciate it!
      I’m so hoping you are doing well. I really miss seeing your smiling face every week, but things are going well here. It is wonderful to hear from you.

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