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Life Arts    H4'ed 9/16/20

The 'Boston Massacre': Bring Your Milk of Amnesia

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By John Kendall Hawkins

Gotta get down to it

Soldiers are cutting us down

Should have been done long ago

What if you knew her

And found her dead on the ground

How can you run when you know?

- Neil Young, "Ohio"

It's generally true what they say about public history -- that it's easily trivialized and forgotten, so that we can soon start over again, and make the same mistakes next time, with more brio and technology-driven enthusiasm. And don't even get me started on personal memory. Ever since postmodernism came along and said that just because the Foo shits on you doesn't mean you have to wear it. We don't really know what happened, or what hit us. We're like the dinosaurs that way. F*ck, if I can remember where I left the keys, let alone my dignity. And I tell myself: if memory doesn't flatter, what good is it?

I've been reading a lot of "history" lately. And it's only made me more confused. Last year I read a book about mosquitoes the writer referred to as General Anopheles and how her bites changed the course of history. Napoleon might have ruled America, the writer claims, except that his men couldn't handle the still loo water of mosquito incubation. So he sold Louisiana, and abandoned Haiti. One reads, gobsmacked, that the General has been responsible for the deaths of "as many as half of the people who have ever lived." It's not the butterfly effect we should be worried about, but the mossie effect.

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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