Chapter 15: The Whole Story
“What is it that makes facing mistakes, weaknesses, or regrets so terrible that they must be completely and utterly denied?”
The author highlights how we create stories from a single perspective, which comes from, reinforces, and becomes our baseline for judging things that relate to it. She gives the example of believing that her husband was “not raised as well as she was” because he didn’t do things the way she expected and defined as “right.” Rather than making the all-too-obvious connection with how this informs our judgement of people and groups of people (that we like to think is based in their race), she connects this to our understanding of American history as a whole, ultimately asking:
“How [do we change ]the dominant narrative…so that American history becomes a collection of short stories, as opposed to an epic told by a single author?”
The Study Question
Think of a historical event in American history, perhaps the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the arrival of the Statue of Liberty, or any one of the wars Americans have fought. Where have you learned what you know about this event? Whose perspective did you learn? If you went in search of a fuller story, whose viewpoint would you seek?
Gosh, just one? I’d like to go to England and ask the Puritans’ neighbors what that situation looked like to them before the Puritans decided they were being persecuted and took off across the sea. To South America and ask the Mayas what how many people were in their nation in 1450, and then 1495, to understand whether these ‘mighty’ Europeans really had that much advantage, even with their weapons and technology – or if a population decimated by early explorers’ germs was simply insufficiently recover to kick their butts. The people who signed treaty after successive treaty, to ask if they really believed this would be the contract the Americans finally kept, or if they simply figured that not signing would get them wiped out, so it was better to let their world be killed slowly, on the hope that they might take it back in future.