Tuesday, April 15, 2014

US History 1973 - 2014 Commonplace Book: Lecture 2, 1973 - 1974: "America's Nervous Breakdown"

There is already some talk about what "the historians will say" — the historians, those unknown people who in the future will have the franchise to interpret what is going on now. We tend to assume that out of their years of accumulation of fact they will sift the truth—a truer truth than any we can hope to grasp. They will have many more facts. And they will have what is called "perspective" (which means they will not be trapped in the biases of our day and can freely write in the biases of their day—can find what they are looking for). But I wonder if they will really understand what it was like. Will they know how it felt to go through what we have gone through? Will they know how it felt to be stunned—again and again—as we learned what had been done by people in power? Will they know how it felt to be shocked, ashamed, amused by the revelations—will they understand the difficulty of sorting out the madcap from the macabre? (What, for example, was one really to think about someone in the pay of the White House putting on a red wig and traveling across the country to visit a sick, disgraced lobbyist?) Can they conceivably understand how it felt as we watched on our television screen, our President say, "I am not a crook"? Will they be able to understand why, almost two years ago, some very sensible people wondered whether it was the last election? Will they understand how it felt—as it did last fall at the time the President fired Special Prosecutor Cox, and on several later occasions—when it seemed that there were no checks on power? Will they understand how degrading it was to watch a President being run to ground? Will they know how it was to feel in the thrall of this strange man, who seemed to answer only to himself? Knowing the conclusion, as they will, will they understand how difficult, frightening, and fumbling the struggle really was?

— Elizabeth Drew, "A Reporter in Washington D.C. III-Summer Notes"
The New Yorker, October 28, 1974 (in an entry dated August 8, 1974)
Introduction to (and explanation of) this quote series can be found here.  Read this tag to see all of them.

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