Look what we received in the mail yesterday... eBay purchases for a few bucks per book...or maybe it was a purchase from ABEBooks, one of my favorite used book sites.
These were all books discarded by some library. For several years, I've found some fascinating titles that Unc and Mama and Gordon devour.
Some of the old discarded library books I buy are long out-of-print titles. Some are much more recent publications.
What really worries me is how much of our core history is being pulled from the shelf, "not relevant to current library patrons". What is replacing those history books? Some shiny new book from a new author who is more media savvy and marketable?
These new "historians" and authors, often from colleges where radical professors with an agenda mold impressionable young minds, are chasing that New York Times Best Seller list or Oprah's Book Club, so they write what will sell. Who will care if truth is battered in the quest for fame and fortune?
My mother was a professor at Mississippi State University for 18 years. She taught people how to be librarians on any level, from elementary school to post graduate schools, including those libraries independent from learning institutions.
The list of her successful students is long, including an archivist at the Library of Congress, responsible for archiving the voluminous papers of numerous political luminaries. Many of Mama's students are nearing retirement or have already retired.
The world of words captured in small paper packages has indeed changed since my mother taught people to evaluate the value of that collected knowledge.
So, as you can imagine, I grew up in an environment infused with reverence for true history. I was taught early that history is written by the winning side, whether that be the winning side of war or political battles, or even the winning side of the battle of surviving life's very bumpy ride. Because of this basic human instinct, one must carefully examine the writer of that history and what influences shaped the author's perspective.
Look at these titles that were pulled from some library shelves because they were out of date, no longer interesting to that library's patrons.
Conversations with Eudora Welty, a timeless, Pulitzer prize winning author. Who cares about her? She is dead and she was from Mississippi. Everyone has their media-shaped opinion of Mississippi.
Welty also wrote more uplifting fiction that did not denigrate the people of Mississippi. That positivity should be a crime since we all know how horrible Mississippi is.
(Extreme sarcasim here, folks. I don't want to be misunderstood. If you've read even a little bit of my blog, you know how proud I am of my state and how much I love her and her talented and creative people.)
I can see why some fresh-faced librarian, probably a recent graduate from a politically correct college, deemed Miss Welty an irrevelant book for the present generation. No one today can possibly learn anything from Miss Welty, who blazed new trails for women in words and photographs.
That same imagined young librarian was also probably bored with all the fuss over World War II and the Greatest Generation that emerged battle hardened and life hardened to make America the leading power on this planet. Holidays like Veterans Day (today) is just for a bunch of arthritic old guys and even more dead people. Y-a-w-n.
Stephen Ambrose, another dead guy who happened to live in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, for much of his productive writing life, just prattled away about WWII turning this country into a nation of hard-working, self-reliant big dreamers who took us to the moon and well beyond. Kids don't care about reading that drivel now.
And some old grumpy people who come in the library and take up the librarian's time with genealogy questions would be the only ones interested in how the Scottish and Irish people in another century helped build this country. We all know that every great invention and every great achievement was only accomplished because the WASPS (White Anglo Saxon Protestants) abused and mistreated and profited from the sweat of some minority group. No one will challenge the claims that every great invention or achievement was always the idea of one of those downtrodden few, right?
Just spin the wheel, pick a group that wraps itself in the mantle of minority status.... and shape history to fit one individual's perspective. One author's opinion, one publishing house and editor's bias, one librarian's view of life through her young eyes.
Hey, maybe I can be a victimized minority! I have a Huguenot line in my ancestry. That means I am adowntrodden minority. Someone drove my Estill line out of France, and we had to flee to the New World sometime before 1700. The Huguenot Settlement of Manakin in the Colony of Virginia.
Think some publisher will let me rewrite history from the perspective of a persecuted Lutheran/Episcopalian? I doubt there are many splashy, hip histories about the Manakin Huguenot's in the majority of public and school libraries, so I could jazz that history right up, put a modern twist on it, and no one will know!
Unc is the voice I hear when I search for books written just after the War Between the States for us to read and absorb that perspective. Books written by soldiers who actually served during the Battle of the Bulge, like my Uncle D. Books written by soldiers who actually were in Japan after Japan surrendered, like Unc . Published diaries of real people who lived real lives.
Sure, history has been re-written ever since history was first recorded, but when did distorting the truth become such an obsessive national pastime?
Our family collection of history books, and books of actual photographs, and published diaries is already formidable. That collection has mentally fed us for decades. Unc and Mama have always been voracious readers, and they passed that to me. Thankfully Gordon came with that same deeply embedded lust for learning.
Our Christmas presents to each other will again this year be primarily a bunch of old books. Long out of print books. Used books. Library discards, many of them. Publishing left overs.
The hours spent absorbing all that valuable history is priceless to us. Our discussions over any shared meal invariably travels through the centuries from continent to continent, pointing out circumstances similar to the developing current events in our immediate future here in America.
Why can't the people in this country read between the lines of political speak? Why can't they see that the leaders they put in office are already working in overdrive, bringing hardship and heartache to our country? Why can't we learn from history? Why is it so hard to learn the lessons of history from even the most recent generations that include our parents and grandparents?
Why? Because our myopic voters of today were taught by some history teacher on a high school or college level who opted for the flashy textbook with the sensational headline style of writing. These same growing throngs were impacted by some high school, college or community librarian who threw away the books that were not being read as often, the books not glossy with lots of pictures.
Bread and Circuses. Know what that means? Know which mighty civilization fell because the people wanted the government to pay for everything, to take care of them from cradle to grave? The citizens of that civilization wanted to be distracted from the sweaty work of actually keeping that civilization at the head of the world. Grand theater, giant columns, entertainment for many thousands of people. Keep the mindless masses distracted.
Gordon and I don't have children. There is no one to whom to leave this collection of books that have recorded a more accurate picture of history. We can't give these books to a library because many of them are already library discards.
Will there be anyone in the upcoming generation who wants to read and learn a less adulterated history of humankind?