We start our five day stint with the grandkids today. So much has been going on that I am putting the review of Colson Whitehead's Underground Railroad aside for now. I will look at what others have said about the book.
One thing I am picking up is the idea of accepting a broken and discontinuous history as the real past of this country. I am reminded of Walter Benjamin's vision of the European past as a rubble field behind and people being pushed into a terrifying future. Benjamin, a Jew, hit the wall and killed himself when he was trying to flee Nazi Germany. There was no hope for European Jews, no future at all there. They left or they died.
In America, blacks and other minorities survived but at the cost of losing their past or understanding it only in fragmented ways or in illuminations or dramatic events. Destroying the past has always been a feature of the dominant ideology, which in the case of this country is one of triumph over adversity. Coming from nowhere, we have prevailed over the enemies of material progress.
But what if we accepted failure. Look around at the abandoned projects all over the American landscape. Those are facts on the ground but ones we don't want to look at, nor do we want to think about the broken lives of American losers. We prefer the cleaned up, sanitized, "museumized' depictions of U.S. history so in vogue now. We like stories with clean plot lines, taking us from adversity to triumph with some acknowledgement of the wrongs committed on and/or perpetrated by our forebears.
We had better understand that we are all in this together, as the Trump train barrels down on us.