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Chapter12: History of the Future


Examples of history beginning to be rewritten before a revolution are common in postmortems, as witness the numerous works showing how the U. S. Civil War developed in ideas, incident, voting patterns, etc. (If only the writers and statesmen before the war had been as clever as the author afterwards!) One of the best postmortems I ever read was Daniel Mornet's Les Origines intellectuelles de la revolution francaise (Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1933). Forerunner, conscious rewriting is not so easy.

The argument over this chapter's 3-p's may become heated. No one likes to have somebody else's history shoved down his throat. He likes to eat it the way I liked eating cat during the war. Under the Impression that I was being fed lievre civet, I loved it.

There is history for every occasion, and no reason why we cannot find good history. (As the spoilsmen used to say to the civil service reformers,"no reason why we can't find good Democrats for the job.") Except to scientists and historians, "history" is a lot of scratches on innocent minds, and "we prefer the taboos of our own taboos." Just as a political order should match the social order, so the history should match both--a Platonic outlook, but milquetoast, when you think of what he asked for.


My brief history of America will probably be regarded by some as outrageous and by others as "I knew it all the time." So be it. To see whether there is more to the task than meets the eye, we might ask student volunteers--solo, duet, or trio--to write a fifteen-hundred-word history of the U.S.A. from earliest times before they read my attempt, or to rewrite my attempt, or to compare it with the article on American history in an encyclopedia. A reader, Old Government, New People, by this author, R. Eric Weise, and John Appel (Glenview, I11.: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1971), contains a part of the article from the Soviet Encyclopedia on American history, you might look at Burnette and Haygood's A Soviet View of the American Past (Glenview, I11.: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1964). Then set up a panel of judges from the class to evaluate the comparative efforts.

It would also be revealing to have the students list the six sentences of this little history to which they object most strenuously; a "most objectionable" list could be rank-ordered on the basis of the whole class. Then what? Well, who is correct and who is not? If they stop fighting amongst themselves long enough to interrupt, you might repeat the process, this time asking them to list "the five most important points that were left out of account," upon which they may then proceed to seek a consensus. When all's done, I hope that they emerge, as the final poem says, "Well-formed, full-blooded. Smiling. Telling of a clear course ahead." Maybe even waving the flag of Kalos!

Apropos the Flag of Kalos and to arm you against slurs, let me say that I asked the publisher to lay an American flag alongside the kalotic flag, just as my Boy Scout Manual taught me to do. They demurred. Oh, well, the last time I draped a book in the Red, White, and Blue (Republic in Crisis: Congress against the Executive Force; New York: Federal Legal Publications, 1965), nobody bought it.


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