In the vein of the usual Stories from History posts, I’m going to talk today about a bug I have up my butt. I saw a series of posts this morning on social media that showed a rampant disregard for historical realities. I’m not going to name names, but they included assertions like “Cuba historically being great for LGBT individuals because socialism” and “the USSR at its worst is better than the USA at its best”.
Now, the first of those has fewer judgment calls included within it. It is easier to determine if the situation is actually better for LGBT people based upon some readily available facts. Sure, same-sex marriage was legalized in the 70s, but within the last fifteen years LGBT organizers were the targets of police investigations for no apparent reason other than being LGBT. There’s also well-documented antipathy towards members of the LGBT community in Cuba, so things can’t be that great.
In terms of the second one – that’s got much more value statements behind it. If you declare communism/socialism to be inherently better than capitalism simply as a nature of their economic systems. That’s certainly a worldview, but there are things that I think can be more widely agreed upon: things like death rates. At the worst of times, the USSR had forced labour camps, gulags for political dissidents, and widespread famine. This certainly isn’t great. Nowhere would I suggest that the United States isn’t also subject to a plethora of historical sins, the comparisons are incredibly difficult to make and assert that original statement.
This is why history is important. In the recently marketing push for American Gods, Gaiman has talked about his own children being subject to the distortions of history. That helped to spur on his novel, in part to share a piece of history that was being lied about.
History needs to be agreed upon, we need to do our best to grapple with verifiable facts. We’ve all heard the assertion that history is written by the victors, but the truth is that we’re often able to dig up a better idea of what has actually happened. If we’re able to grapple with historical realities instead of lies, we have a better chance of improving the world and making it better.
That’s my soap box for today.