Tag Archives: History

So What About the Why?

So the podcast has been out for about twelve weeks now, and I’ve gotten a couple of scattered comments and responses on two different subjects that I think, in the end, come to the same thing.

And I think they’re valid and I think they’re important.

So I’m going to talk about them.

This is me
Big surprise, right?

The first suggestion is that I ought to make an effort, in the podcast, to avoid offending listeners who might come from somewhere further to the right on the political spectrum. And the second is that I ought to be getting more into why all this happened, why the government of the United States was somehow invested in these terrible goings-on in Guatemala. It’ll take a while for my responses to come back around and meet each other, but bear with me.

In response to the first thing, I guess I’d ask a question. Is it that the show is partisan? Or could it be that listeners are coming to the show with a pre-existing and  implicitly partisan complaint?

Because the only way that the show could immediately turn you off is if you were under the impression that the US could do literally no wrong.

Credit NBC — Safe for Democracy
Which is tough, right?

I could try to emphasize at the beginning of every episode that Democratic presidents were just as culpable as Republican ones or vice-versa, but that would put the show in the “fairness” business, and it’s not in the fairness business. It’s in the history business.

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Historical Optimism

Part of what I want to get at in this blog and in the cast is why we as a country, culture, people do what we do abroad. Why and how we can continue seeding these disasters overseas. Part of the answer, unavoidably, is that we don’t see foreigners as people, not in the most important sense. Trying to overcome that barrier to human feeling was part of the post I wrote on Looking at History from the Outside.

Another element, I think, is optimism. Historical optimism. I don’t know exactly when the US as a country acquired that outlook, whether it came to us at some point or whether it was baked in from the beginning, but it’s thoroughly ours. One of the many definitions of the American Dream is providing better for your kids than your parents did for you. America, especially once we’d left the gold standard and gotten into Breton Woods, had a hand in creating a global economic system whose goal is year-over-year growth, forever. There’s a philosophy behind both those ideas and many other aspects of American life, which is that things are getting better, in the long run.

Things are getting better in the long run. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it curves toward justice. Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. The idea that things are, in the long run, getting better, has a long pedigree.

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