Wednesday, July 11, 2012

When Does An Event Become History?

So today I saw this and it got me thinking.

Yes, the person who made this picture had a point. We are told to never forget The Titanic, 9/11 and the Holocaust.

And yes, people do tend to brush aside slavery in this land (not saying my thoughts, just what is fact).

But here is where I have to draw the line.

Let's diagnose these four events, if I may (and I may, because it is my blog).

The Titanic - ~3,300 deaths. Killed by an accident in a ship hitting an iceberg. Year: 1912. (~2,400 rich people; ~ 900 hard working crew members)

9/11 - ~3,000 deaths. Killed by terrorists. Year: 2001. (All except 19 of which were hard working people, who were in the wrong place at the wrong time)

The Holocaust - ~11million-17million. Killed by a ruthless dictator. Year: ~1930s-1940s. (~6m Jews; ~2.5m Soviet POWs; ~10,000 Homosexuals; Among others)

African Slavery in the US - ~11million. Killed through slavery and associated acts. Year: ~1519-1867. (50% mortality rate during capture and storage; 10% mortality rate during ocean travel; 50% mortality rate during 1st year)

Now again, I am not putting down slavery, because no, we should never forget it, it is a horrible thing.

But you have to take certain things into account.

Look how long ago it happened.

Slavery ended in America 145+ years ago. The Titanic is rarely mentioned anymore, as it is 100+ years ago. The Holocaust is easily forgotten by many, and not spoken about to a lot of children, although it is only ~70+ years ago. And 9/11 is the one most mentioned, because it is still fresh in our minds.

No one says "Never Forget Black Death", even though ~450million+ people died. Why? Because it happened almost 700 years ago.

With time, things aren't forgotten, but they are pushed back.

No one will ever say slavery was a good thing, or that we should forget it. But after a while, as the ones who were around when it happened die out, they become History.

A part of our past, and something to remember for the future.

Yes, I do think that within ten years, The Titanic will become an obsolete talking point (unless they make another movie...ugh, please don't).

By the year 2,075 the Holocaust will be a thing just known in History books, as it will be over 125 years old, and 3 or 4 generations in the past.

And yes, I do believe that by the year 2,125, 9/11 will be a thing for the History books. A thing that few will know about in great detail, and unless made into a National Day of Mourning, will become known only in the East Coast cities of New York, Washington D.C. and Shanksville. I proudly am one of the "United By Hope" members, who every day is reminded of what happened on 9/11. And my kids will most definitely know about it. But who is to say what will be passed to their kids, and the ones after that.

How many of you outside of Oklahoma City can tell me these three things:

  1. The year of the Oklahoma City Bombing.
  2. The date of it.
  3. The main perpetrator.

Chances are some of you will know #3, and that is all.

All horrible acts get pushed to the back, because time moves on, and those closely associated with them disappear from this world.

So no, I won't be forgetting American slavery, but like the Black Plague, it is now a thing for the History Books.


  1. Very interesting...

    I laughed at "No one says "Never Forget Black Death", even though ~450million+ people died."

    When DOES an event become history? Is yesterday part of history? Is my childhood? Or will it only be history, once I'm not longer around...

    What about the saying "the past is history", is it? well doesn't history repeat itself?

  2. If they make another Titanic movie they will have to bring Jack back and he would never have died.

    It is the past because time moves so fast, things that happen today are so 'yesterday' tomorrow. With so much exposure and so many events to focus on, things get forgotten and pushed aside. It happens.

    Soon enough, we will be history. And then we will be forgotten.

  3. It's not just that it's history, though. I think the reason events like these (and, say Chemnitski massacres) fade away is because it's part of healing.
    To carry that kind of pain around with you everyday would make it very hard to keep going. Unless it's pain caused by the Churban.

  4. To compare the Black Death to slavery or the Holocaust or 9/11 is a fallacy. The Black Death was caused by a disease, whereas the others were caused by PEOPLE.

    "Never forget" is an attempt to remind mankind that none of us are free of our darker natures.

    I was in a college class, about the Holocaust, mind you, and a girl sitting next to me says, "I'm tired of hearing about the Holocaust already." What are you doing in the this class, then?

    I also believe that as time goes on, horrors recede. Either we improve ourselves to never abuse others, or the same terrors will happen again.

    The media does pick and choose when it comes to tragedies that want to highlight. The Titanic is constantly talked about because of the extremes; it was the largest and most luxurious ship of it's time, a world wonder, and it met an untimely and grisly end.

    I am not saying we should dwell. But we shouldn't compare tragedies in terms of which one was "the worst."

    1. Princess Lea, you picked the wrong one to argue on...sure the Black Plague was a disease, and not a human caused one.

      You want a real life example? How much do you know about Darfur. Which is happening now. And not a word is spoken to children in America about it.

      And I am not trying to say which is worse. Just that a point in time comes, where we no longer refer to something as "Never Forget".

    2. As a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, it annoys me when people say "Never forget." Now they talk about survivors dying as a terrible thing strictly in terms of how there will no longer be a living testimony.

      But they are individuals, not just survivors. They don't identify themselves as strictly survivors. They should be mourned for the people they were, not just as recordable testimony.

      I don't disagree with you in terms of the overuse of "never forget." And as I mentioned, the media picks and chooses which tragedies to highlight.

      And yes, it is a disgrace that Darfur is glossed over. Because that is happening now, and there is no point to saying "never forget" if we permit it to happen again.

      I have always been fascinated by history. Last night on the evening news they were showcasing the archives for the Saturday Evening Post. The man who runs it said something along the lines of, "We think we have such new serious problems nowadays. Flip through a few of these issues and you see we've been through it all before."

      We are supposed to learn from our past. As Jews, it is "No one looks out for us, except ourselves."

    3. Why do you keep saying "The media"?

      What about you, me, and every one of us?


  6. Lots of good points. Gave me something to think about.


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