President Obama and Marilynne Robinson on #history

The President: [L]ook, America is famously ahistorical. That’s one of our strengths – we forget things. You go to other countries, they’re still having arguments from four hundred years ago, and with serious consequences, right? They’re bloody arguments. In the Middle East right now, you’ve got arguments dating back to the seventh century that are live today…. But this point you made about us caring enough about the blood, sweat and tears involved in maintaining a democracy is vital and important. But it is also the reason why I think those who have much more of an “us” versus “them,” fearful, conspiratorial brand of politics can thrive sometimes is because they can ignore that history…

Robinson: … I think a lot of the history that is taught is a sort of short-hand that’s not representative of much of anything.

(President Obama & Marilynne Robinson: a conversation in Iowa, NYRB 19.11.15)

History Bar Resina (Herculaneum) 411.JPG

(History Bar, Herculaneum, 2011)

I studied history. I still haven’t worked out in my mind if it is really any use or if I just want to believe that it is.

What happens, though, is if I go to a place and don’t know anything about its history, I feel I am experiencing it in one dimension less. Think of the walkers’ refuges in the Vosges that were founded by francophone walkers from Strasbourg in the last nineteenth century.

Published by

Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "EnergyEfficiency" at European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy

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