Paul Revere and what I don’t get

I am feeling rather sorry for Sarah Palin these days; it’s easy to make a bunch of dumb mistakes when the world is watching you all the time. I can’t stand to look at photos of myself or listen to myself talking, so I can’t imagine what kind of hell people like her live in.

I mean, it’s not like she’s really represented herself as a particularly educated woman. She hasn’t. She spent her young adulthood popping in and out of community colleges and competing in pageants. This is a woman who has always wanted to be in front of cameras, and not in competitions where knowing your history or being able to discuss it–whatever the issue is–matters much.

I’ve heard various defenses, but perhaps most disturbing is the “who cares” argument. History is fiction, anyway, right? There are no facts, everything is subjective, everything is interpreted, etc etc.

Honestly, is that where we are?

Here’s the problem with that: it’s not a matter of interpretation how many people died in Auschwitz. Or in Siberia. Or during the cultural revolution. Or the French revolution.

History is hard. It’s a search for truth. But it’s really worth trying to get it right. Why wouldn’t you want to know about Paul Revere enough to have read about him?

Can you imagine what Revere was thinking that night all those years ago? In the dark, spring night, horse straining beneath him on the rough roads of colonial Massachusetts, as he roused others out of their houses and watched as they, too, dispatched on horseback into the night to warn their comrades that the hour had come. Time to make their commitments to revolution–or, depending on who wins, treason–real?

Really good fiction tells us stuff that is, really, true at an emotional level. And, as they say, art is a lie that tells us the truth.

But art. Not entertainment. And art, too, is often difficult.

So to bring this ramble to an end, the Endeavor is thus: to want the truth, and to pursue it, knowing you never get really get there. Honor the chase, and don’t cheat yourself by refusing to learn the graceful approximation of truth that can emerge from real study.