Selections from an Historian’s Diary

Nov 22: Talked to Bob today, and, wouldn’t you know it, he brought up that goddamn 1619 thing again. It’s all anyone wants to talk about. No, I will NOT commit career suicide. Let the rest of them fight it out.

Nov 30: Christmas party at Christine’s. Guess what EVERYONE WANTS ME TO WRITE ABOUT????  Maybe I’ll move to Tibet and become a monk.

Dec 2: Talked to my mother today. Guess what SHE had on her mind? Et Tu, mater? You’d think she, at least, would understand. If I attack the 1619 Project, the internet falls on my head, we probably lose funding, and the University puts me on the Volleyball Recruitment Committee forever.  If I defend the project, I lose all credibility as an historian.

Dec 5: Okay, no, I can do this. I’m the editor of a renowned historical journal. I’ve got mad skills.  I just need a kind of flippant, “what’s all the fuss about?” attitude, shade a few things, make a few implications.  I mean, it isn’t ignoring history, right? It’s emphasizing other things in history. Like, I’m not denying the Abolition movement existed, I just don’t happen to be talking about it in this case. Yeah.  And, oh!  I’ll make it all about me.  I’ll talk about my feelings!  The neolibs love it when people talk about their feelings, and the Trotskyists are going to hate me anyway.

Dec 8: I need to hit just the right tone on the title.  It has to be dismissive, like, “Oh, here’s this big kerfuffle about nothing,” but I can’t actually, you know, say that.

Dec 10: Started on the editorial, and it’s going all right. I gotta kinda pat myself on the back for the New York memorial bit. The neolibs will take it as saying, “see, no one in the North cared about slavery!” and people who know history can’t argue, because, hey, all I’m doing is stating what’s on the memorial. Damn I’m good.

Dec 13: Back to the editorial again. Ugh. I wonder if I can get away with pretending that the Project is saying things everyone already knew? Can I count on no one examining that too closely? Because that would make everything easier. Gonna take a shot at it.  Worst case, well, hey, I got tenure.

Jan 3: Brainstorm! If I just ignore Reed, I can say the WSWS only interviewed white people!  Now if that isn’t scoring points, what is? I just need to find a respected black historian—a black woman would be best—who they haven’t interviewed, and I can imply they didn’t ask her.  Fields will work.

Jan 4: This business of sounding like you’re saying something without actually saying anything isn’t easy at first, but it’s coming along.  Phrases like, “central to the experience of” are really useful, because what does that actually mean, right?

Jan 5: Trying to the do the summary of the WSWS position, and it’s a pain the you-know-what. If I get it wrong, I discredit myself, but if I don’t hit the right condescending tone, I’ll piss off the neolibs. And all the world knows what happens to an academic who pisses off the neolibs.

Jan 6: I have to admit I feel kinda bad about taking that cheap shot at Wood. But omelet, eggs.

Jan 7: OH! I’m going to say I’m befuddled.  Wait,  baffled?  Something like that.  Anyway, gonna say I don’t understand why there’s all the hostility to the Project! Ha ha! That way I can say it’s reasonable history without actually lying! Well, only lying a little bit.

Jan 8: Almost done.  All I need is a quote from Fredrick Douglass that implies Lincoln was a racist, and I’m there. Should be easy enough to find.

Jan 9: Dammit.

Jan 10: Dammit.

Jan 11:Well God DAMMIT.

Jan 12: What the?

Jan 13: Jesus, Fred. Help a guy out, will you?

Jan 14: BINGO.  Snip away the context, and I’ve got it! Ready for press!

Jan 16: Dammit, they interviewed another black historian. Why are they doing this to me? Well, never mind.  What’s done is done.

Jan 23: Welp, here we go.

Jan 31: WSWS responded. Currently, tickets to Tibet are running around around $1200.  I can do that.

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22 thoughts on “Selections from an Historian’s Diary”

  1. The first problem, as Bob well knows, is that journalists aren’t historians and their attempts to impersonate historians may be less than satisfactory. Kind of like the NYT opinion section as of late.

  2. This hostility toward volleyball is concerning. I am struggling to figure out how it’s racist, but we can just all agree it is while I suss the mechanics, right?

    Is there coffee in Tibet?

  3. Gonna take some work, Rafael. But I have confidence in you. And no coffee, but there’s plenty of yak butter tea.

  4. Wait, did a historian really just say that the American Civil War was “the bloodiest conflict of the nineteenth century”? Did he really just admit to never having heard of the Taiping Rebellion?

  5. Gotta love Professor Fields’s dismissal of the 1619 project. Now I want to try to get her to give a talk in my town.

    “A substantial number of white southerners fought to insure the Confederacy’s defeat.” Wow. Did not know that. Mind blown. Where can I go to read about those courageous guys and gals?

  6. As long as there has been a study of history, there have been sycophants with the agenda of pleasing the powerful, and there have also been those who were determined to look for and reveal the truth wherever it took them. We ought to know the difference and give what support we can to the latter.

  7. And it appears that a big part of the reason the Confederacy lost was desertion in truly massive numbers.

  8. Isn’t it interesting that we were all debating electoral politics in here non-stop during the run-up to 2016, but today is “Super Tuesday” (super for whom?) and it has been crickets?

  9. March 25: Learned of the nastiness out of Wuhan and the apparent difficulty of return, and was struck with a wave of homesickness such as I have never experienced. Kathmandu is a nice town, but it isn’t home.

    March 26: Checked on the availability of flights. No go. Road travel is restricted as well. How am I to… oh no.

    March 28: I cannot be considering this. Dammit Jinpa, I’m an historian, not a pioneer.

    April 1: I’m off. The die is cast, my mind is set, my body is… frail and atrophied from office hours. I swear when I get back to the university I’m going to punch the next student I see in the mouth.

    April 10: I feel like Frodo returning the one ring. That hill in Brooklyn is looking like a pimple on Christina Hendricks’ sternum.

    April 20: I feel like Frodo would feel if the Eagles never showed up.

    April 28: I feel like Frodo is going to never eat turmeric again.

    May 1: Close now. Felt that sinking feeling like one’s left the oven on. Almost ripped pack to shreds in panic looking for passport. Was in coat pocket. Yes, precious, we haves it.

    May 2: Boots are treadless, waistline’s shrunk to what it was in my 20s, sanity’s more Jack Torrance than R.P. McMurphy, but I’m at the end of my trek: I’ve arrived at the Consulate in Calcutta. After being told my story, they decided that regardless of my mental state I was still a U.S. citizen and were as accommodating as I could ask for. I fly home tomorrow. I can only hope this whole thing’s blown over. Two months is enough, right?

    May 4: Touched down late in the evening. Called mother. She’d been hitting the sauce pretty hard with dad – apparently the Star Wars marathon was cause for celebration. After the happy sobs and slurred so glad you’re homes said they’d meet me for lunch tomorrow. As we were saying our goodbyes, Ma mentioned – in what was likely supposed to be sotto voce – Walther Dundee? Hmm. Walter Duranty? No idea what that’s about. I’ll find out tomorrow.

  10. Yeah… sort of sad that the least believable part is the protagonist having the stones to make it.

  11. Steve, Do you still live in the Twin Cities? Will you be participating in Mini-Con and Fantasy Four year 2021? How is your parrot? Does he still sit on your shoulder? Can you speak and read Hungarian, in addition to English? Do you get a lot of your fantasy stories from Hungarian mythology and literature?

  12. Yes. Haven’t heard of them until now. He’s well. He never did–he’d bite my ear. Only a few phrases. Yes.

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