a symbol, a tool
of history people find
Growing up, in my house there was a complete or near complete set of the Random House Landmark books.
If we missed any the library at my elementary school and the local branch library had the rest.
The Voyages of Christopher Columbus, The Landing of the Pilgrims, Pocahontas and Captain John Smith, Paul Revere and the Minute Men, Our Independence and the Constitution.
According to Wikipedia, Landmark Books children’s book series published by Random House from 1950 to 1970, featured stories of significant people and events.
Wikipedia states, “David Spear, writing in the American Historical Association’s news magazine, says that the series “lured an entire generation of young readers” to the history discipline, “including many of today’s professional historians.”
Sign me up for that.
Understand that a lot of history in these books was, for lack of better word, sanitized (?) or maybe, politically correct FOR 1950.
The book on Custer’s Last Stand for example presents a fairly unfair image of the Native American cause.
It also ends with the General Custer and his brother Tom as the last two men standing and that they are killed together and fall into each others arms.
As Director Raoul Walsh said of his movie, ‘They Died with Their Boots On,’ on the same topic, “It wasn’t the way it happened. But it was the way it should have happened.”
(That being said who cannot be stirred in the early scenes of the movie that takes place during Custer’s Civil War career, leading the Michigan Calvary Brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg with Errol Flynn yelling, “Ride You Woverines!”)
Those books stayed with me in my brain and some are on my bookshelf today.
One that I read several time was Captain Cortés Conquers Mexico by William Weber Johnson.
One modern review states, “Without posing the question of the rights or wrongs of the Spanish conquistadores, Mr. Johnson has presented the figure of Cortes, conqueror of Mexico, in as favorable a light as possible.”
I’ll go along with that.
I will say on my own behalf that I kept yelling at the Aztec’s to just send everybody and attack, you got them outnumbered 200 to 1.
You can just smother them.
Reading and re-reading the account of La Noche Triste I liked how the Aztecs chased Cortes out of Tenochtitlan even when I knew Cortes was coming back.
I remember that the author pointed out again and again that the conquistadores all carried swords made of the FINEST TOLEDO STEEL.
The author referred to these swords like they were wonder weapons.
The weapons that made the conquest possible.
This thought came to mind when I read this morning that “Toledo’s last swordmakers refuse to give up on their ancient craft”.
The article recounts the trials and tribulations of artisans as they strive to maintain the Toledo Sword.
The article sub title reads, “Famed since Roman times, the Spanish city’s artisans are all but extinct. But a reprieve is at hand from the TV and film.”
The article ends with a quote from one of the swordsmiths, “It’s a symbol, it will always be a symbol. It is a tool of history that people find very attractive.”
I found this interesting as the world just passed the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán.
Just last week in the same online newspaper was the article, “Don’t call us traitors: descendants of Cortés’s allies defend role in toppling Aztec empire.”
The article states, “The conquest is a singular event in Mexican history, seen both as a moment of national trauma and the founding act of the nation – and it remains deeply controversial.”
It remains deeply controversial.
I believe that was Mr. Al Gore’s movie.
Social History or the history of how people lived in their day to day lives making a living as swordsmiths versus narrative history, the history of the great road scrapper that made and remade the world every day or the history of how those swords were used.
I guess we can be happy that the craft needed to create a sword to the high standards of 500 years is kept alive.
The sword, we can recognize, as a symbol, a tool of history.
A tool that people find very attractive.
But tool that a played a key role in a deeply controversial conquest.
Two sides, maybe more to every story.
Maybe someday people will go to the Smithsonian and in the window marked 2020s there will be some face masks.
The text with the masks could read, “In the Covid Era Decade of 2020, these masks were embraced as a way to protect yourself and others from Covid and at the same time rejected as an expression of Government intrusion and over reach of authority.”
I doubt that any artisan will be making masks the way they were made in 2020.
And I am sure that a mask will be a symbol and it will always be a symbol.
I am sure it will be a tool of history that no one will find very attractive.
PS – AL Gore DID NOT invent the internet NOR did he say that. He did say that “I took the initiative in creating the internet.” Which is true so far as he was on the committee that funded early efforts of a PUBLIC INTERNET and in the big picture I got no problem with what he said so far as everyone who voted yes on the committee for funding can say the same thing. That being said saying what he said shows the fundamental lack of understanding between the internet and the world wide web.
When the first 6 or seven computers were created, scientists realized that people were up and awake at Harvard when they were asleep out on Berkeley and if the computer could be connected or ‘net worked’ or on an inter net, folks out east could use the computers out west. So the INTERNET (Hardware, computers, cables and such) has been around since day one pretty much. Back in the day when I worked at the Grand Rapids Public Library almost every library collection in the world could be connected through our terminals. When the GRPL local database went down I would tell patron’s that I could tell them what was on the shelf at the Sorbonne in Paris, I just couldn’t tell them what was on that shelf over there. I have to add that when we connected those terminals to other libraries the message PHONE RINGING would display on my screen. I loved connecting to libraries all over the world thinking there is a phone ringing in a basement in Berlin right now. If the connection was not accepted it would time out and stop. One night I was trying to connect to Oxford and the connection would not shut down. Not knowing what to do at the end of the night I turned off the terminal and weeks. It was weeks before I stopped worrying that I was going to be given a bill for a 24 hour long long distance phone call. It has to be pointed out this goofy interest and waste of time is a direct line connection to that job I have now.
The World Wide Web came around in the 1990 and its the content that LIVES on the internet.