Friday 31 October 2008

Bad history

I've nearly finished my latest writing project for the revision company, but I am having a problem getting started on the last chapter. This audiobook is all about the struggle for between the Native Americans and the white Americans for domination of the Plains, and today I've written chapters on the Battle of Little Bighorn and Wounded Knee and all the other horrific acts of genocide which were committed during the 19th century, and I've found it all quite depressing, really.

Now, I have to write a chapter about the army commanders who were responsible, and I don't want to. I don't want to give them a place in history. They were bloodthirsty, and arrogant, and they were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. They attacked camps while they were flying flags of surrender, while they were sleeping, while they were disarmed and vulnerable. And even when they lost - like Custer - they were turned into martyrs and their deaths avenged a hundred times over. Why should their story ever be told?

Something I find interesting about this feeling of outrage I am feeling - when I teach about the British Empire and all the unspeakable acts that were committed in the name of it, I have no trouble in laying bare Britain's most shameful histories, and I think it's important to do that, because I want to be sure I've done everything in my power to prevent any of those thins from happening again and education is the best way I know to do that. When it comes to the history of another country, however, I am quite squeamish about telling it.

Why is that, I wonder?

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