In case you’re wondering what recent development demanded a debunking of the neo-Confederate myth that Robert E. Lee opposed slavery, the answer is: nothing. Lack of inspiration being the mother of invention, I’ve decided to try launching a new feature, Mythistory Mondays, and the Lee article is the first attempt.
The idea is to make myself take at least a little time each week and pull my nose away from the grindstone of today’s affairs, in order to talk about something no less important—that is, yesterday’s affairs, and in particular to take on some of the tall tales about yesterday that you frequently hear today. I hope that the articles will be informative, useful, and well-written for Google—making them available to anyone who needs to pull up the information. That’s the hope, anyway.
Why bother? Well, in part because it’s useful. No matter what it is we face, no matter what we are struggling with today, yesterday is always relevant; history is what we live in, and we can’t help but be affected by the stories that we live amongst, and in. Removing the misunderstandings and distortions of history that are all too pervasive in our daily lives is, therefore, something imminently relevant to what we are doing today. But it’s not just that it’s useful: historical understanding is something worthwhile in its own right. Bogus mythistory is not just an obstacle for us, but also an injustice and an insult to the people who have come before us, and standing up for telling the truth about them is no less worthwhile just because we are younger than they are. There’s no more excuse for parochialism in time than there is for parochialism in neighborhood; and if Mythistory Monday does nothing more than replace one or two lies with one or two truths, that will be enough to have made it worthwhile.