(HISTORY) Not Always Factual

By Jug Varner

For many of us, history was a school subject memorized merely for the benefit of grades, but generally forgotten soon afterward…except for the life history we later helped create.

I happen to be one of a minority who think history is not only interesting, but also a guide to better understanding of how we are today. Even as a kid, I wondered about how things were in the days of my forefathers and beyond. Of course, changes were much slower before the 20th century came along and put its ever-increasing spin on the world of science and technology…and brought us constant change.

It also brought revisionist historians who today are putting their own kind of spin to change what we believed was gospel. Not that recorded history is always what really happened, but some of these modern liberals seem to be recreating it in their own image of politically correctness. Case in point is the current spin mainstream media is putting on present events, which will become recorded history in the future.

There is nothing wrong with correcting errors proved by cross-referenced research of facts. It is important to do so. And certainly it is imperative to record history that has been omitted because of racial bias, as is the case for Americans of African origin, the Native American Indians, and others. But that is entirely different than manufacturing the past (and present) to suit political belief.

What is the truth? It is generally what we believe it to be.

I once researched the history one of my adopted hometowns to write its story while its four original developers were still alive and of sound mind. They were eye-witnesses to its founding, but couldn't always agree on what happened. Interviewing each person separately and asking identical questions to all of them, seldom did I get more than three similar answers. Sometimes less. When all four agreed on something, I took it as fact; and even three out of four was considered reasonable evidence. The remainder required further consultation together to determine a consensus. What couldn't be agreed upon was omitted. Time plays tricks on memory.

Even after all of that, the final product wasn't completely free of error. I dare say that no history book is totally accurate.

About that same time I purchased a summary of 20th century events for use as a reference in my writings. Thumbing through this huge book at home, I noticed an article about Army Air Force Capt. Glenn Miller, the former bandleader of the 1930s-40s swing era, who died in a mysterious flight over the English Channel during WW II. The facts seemed correct (as I remembered them through my knowledge of the times) but the accompanying photo, captioned “Glenn Miller,” wasn't him. It was James Stewart (also a WW II Army Air Force officer), who played the starring role in the movie about Glenn's life. Obviously, whoever edited the article didn't know the difference. It made me wonder how many other stories or photos in that book (or any book, for that matter) were erroneous.

As one of my writing mentors used to say, “Don't believe anything you read, see, or hear, until you've checked it out.” He didn't mention what a long, slow process that could be!

If you would like to see an interesting history of events that occurred during your lifetime, go to this Web site and follow the directions to print out your own personal timeline.