I hate metaphors. That’s why my favorite book is Moby Dick.
A white man and an elderly Native man became pretty good friends, so the white guy decided to ask him: “What do you think about Indian mascots?” The Native elder responded, “Here’s what you’ve got to understand. When you look at black people, you see ghosts of all the slavery and the rapes and the hangings and the chains. When you look at Jews, you see ghosts of all those bodies piled up in death camps. And those ghosts keep you trying to do the right thing. “But when you look at us you don’t see the ghosts of the little babies with their heads smashed in by rifle butts at the Big Hole, or the old folks dying by the side of the trail on the way to Oklahoma while their families cried and tried to make them comfortable, or the dead mothers at Wounded Knee or the little kids at Sand Creek who were shot for target practice. You don’t see any ghosts at all. “Instead you see casinos and drunks and junk cars and shacks. “Well, we see those ghosts. And they make our hearts sad and they hurt our little children. And when we try to say something, you tell us, ‘Get over it. This is America. Look at the American dream.’ But as long as you’re calling us Redskins and doing tomahawk chops, we can’t look at the American dream, because those things remind us that we are not real human beings to you. And when people aren’t humans, you can turn them into slaves or kill six million of them or shoot them down with Hotchkiss guns and throw them into mass graves at Wounded Knee. “No, we’re not looking at the American dream. And why should we? We still haven’t woken up from the American nightmare.
My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in abstentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)—that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers of earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly.
(A People’s History of the United States, 9)
It’s the nature of the Internet to confuse questions and erase the original intent one had in opening a browser window within three or four clicks. The feeling of being enmeshed in an aura of perpetually unfulfilled possibility emanating from one’s laptop screen is quickly becoming one of the hallmarks of our time and place, chasing after random story threads and trivial curiosities that wipe one’s memory clean for a few minutes or hours.