12/07/04: rewriting history

This morning at work, I overheard an older gent say, "Oh look, it's December 7th." I imagine for this older person and for others in his generation, this date resonates in his head as the September 11th date does for us today. But when three girls here didn't know the significance of December 7th, the older guy got upset and said, "Nobody should ever forget what happened on this day! Families lost their fathers and sons! Brave men gave up their lives for the freedom you take for granted today!" The girls just smiled politely and dismissed the old guy as, well, an old guy.

Back in my Arizona years, I read an article written by a Jewish man who was very upset that so many Jews (his sister included) were buying German cars. "These cars were built out of the blood and bones of our relatives!" He couldn't understand how any Jew with a conscience could drive a German car. He and his sister debated the issue, so they went to their grandmother for guidance; the same woman whose husband was killed in the holocaust. The grandmother looked at the woman and said, "Do you want the Mercedes? Does the car run well? Is it safe?" and the woman answered yes. The grandmother paused and eventually said, "Get the Mercedes. Today, we will finally move on and declare this war over."

As the years roll by, encyclopedias are going to get bigger, but history textbooks cannot since they are written to be absorbed in a typical public school year. So, what happens? Do publishers start leaving things out just to make room for the recent events? What's more important: The Inquisition or the Holocaust? Watergate or Florida chad? The Alamo or Desert Storm? Leif Erikson or Osama bin Laden? So eventually, some school textbook publisher will decide what content goes in favor for new content. And when that happens, how can we expect younger people to remember Pearl Harbor, or the Alamo or Wounded Knee?

And should we expect it?