Who is telling the story?



On this date in 1620, Pilgrims set sail from England on the Mayflower. Virginia settlers, having already celebrated the real first Thanksgiving at Berkeley Plantation in 1619, watched the events unfold on CNN.

Of course, not many people know about the Thanksgiving at Berkeley.

On a side note, a couple of years ago I got to participate as a reenactor at the Berkeley Thanksgiving celebration. Schedule has thus far prevented me from returning to do it again, but it was a great experience.

Most of us grew up learning about the Pilgrims and how they had the first Thankgiving.

That’s even what we were taught in Virginia schools.

I’ve told this story before.

Growing up in Virginia schools in the, gulp, 1960s, you studied Virginia history one year, and American history the next.

Virginia history would start with Jamestown and by late May we’d be roughly up to the Civil War.

American history would start with Jamestown and by late May we’d be roughly up to the Civil War.

Sure, we’d talk about the folks in Boston and Philadelphia, but they were only supporting actors to the Virginians.

True story. I took one American history class in college. I was confused when we started in Massachuetts.

I digress.

So, why then the focus on the Pilgrims? To hear some folks around Jamestown tell it, President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation was intended to draw attention away from Virginia during the midst of the war.

No, I can’t document that.

There’s a quote often misattributed to Winston Churchill that says “History is written by the victors.”

In the limited time that I’m willing to spend Googling whilst I’m writing this, I can’t document who actually said it.

Still, the sentiment is basically true.

In politics, the winner is usually the person who controls the narrative, whether or not that narrative is true.

I write stories. I write fiction.

I’m not rewriting history as much as I’m creating some new history.

But, then again, I am most decidedly not writing textbooks.

Knowing history is important. Knowing what really happened is important.

Knowing what events led to other events is really important.

We’ve all seen the really clever memes on Facebook that make a point for one particular cause or another and bazillions of people post it with a “yeah, this” or some other comment.

But those memes are often not based in reality, and more often than not, don’t tell the whole story.

We live in a world of sound bites and news clips and rarely do any of us stop to read or watch the whole article.

Don’t get me wrong, you have to really grab my attention to get me to scroll to the bottom of the page.

Which makes me wonder how many people will make it to the end of this post.

I can’t fix the Internet. I can’t fix history. As much as I’m trying to write I can’t retell every story the correct way.

After all, who’s to say that my version is correct?

I mean, of course it is, but that’s not the point.

As a writer I have a responsiblity to get my facts right. And, when I’m making them up, for whatever reason, I need it to be clear that’s exactly what I’m doing.

I can’t fix anybody but me, and sometimes that’s questionable. I can’t truthfully tell anyone’s stories but my own, or my interpretation of someone else’s.

So, be careful what you read. Be even more careful about what you believe.

But don’t let that cause you to pass up a good story.

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