The History Mystery

Is it really history if nobody remembers it?

One of the most often used expressions in the English language (not a scientific poll, I just heard it so many times from my kids that it seemed to be the answer to everything!) is… wait for it…

“Oooops. I forgot.”

That seemed to serve quite well for everything from forgotten homework to missed dentist appointments and the thank you note that Aunt Minnie was supposed to get for those reallllly cooool bright red and green, hand knitted birthday socks.

But nobody can remember everything. In fact, if we remembered absolutely everything our minds would be so cluttered that we’d probably never get anything done.

So, in addition to a good memory – which I do admit can be pretty handy – we probably all need a good forgettery too. It’s like a great big broom that just keeps the floor clear in the middle of our minds so there’s a little extra room to get more important things done.

Forgettery might be a new word, for which I’m happy to take credit, but it’s certainly not a new idea. For instance, who really remembers Henry Ford? I mean who remembers him as a person… the sound of his voice, the way he smiled or the way he looked when he was too tired to play fetch with his dog? Time and forgettery have carved away much of our history.

After a while all those personal things are pretty much forgotten. There’s nobody left alive who can recall the man himself.

So did Henry Ford really disappear from history? Not at all. We remember him from what he did and what he left behind. And most of all we remember him for how we live today because of what he did.

Unfortunately, there is a darker side to this whole matter of memory and history. Sometimes we forget people because, even if they did marvelous things, we give ourselves excuses to forget them. It’s usually because we hold those people in low regard. We forget what they left for us…or worse yet, we give somebody else the credit for the forgotten person’s work.

Our history is full of people we just didn’t think enough of to remember. That’s why we sometimes create ways to undo the damage we do with our forgettery.

For example, actor and filmmaker, Leonardo DiCaprio, once told a critic, “Women have been the most persecuted people throughout all of recorded history, more than any race or religion.”

March is Women’s History Month in the United States. There was a time when we, as a nation and all across the “civilized world”, refused to remember the accomplishments of the people we made into 2nd class citizens.

In service to our forgettery, we prohibited women from exercising their rights, like voting. We invented “rules” that made higher education, business success and economic security all much harder for women to achieve.

Yet, if anyone still doubts that American women are as creative, smart and strong in character as our men, this week’s edition of the Jamestown Gazette is here to help correct at least a little part of our forgotten history.

After all, as President Eisenhower told us, the matter is entirely in our own hands. “The history of free people is never really written by chance, but by choice. Our choice!”

And while we are at it, why not let Women’s History Month remind us to think about who else deserves their place in history but got forgotten along the way? Can we afford to forget our own history? Never again.

Please enjoy a few good memories with this week’s Jamestown Gazette, and enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut