Purposes of History
Sali Cosford Parker
We are days away from the 10th anniversary of 9/11. For the past few weeks, America’s attention has been subtly directed back in history to that horrific, emotionally charged event – and away from the greed and faithlessness currently dismantling life as we know it. I object! The purpose of history is not to distract – it is to learn; to recognize patterns, events and behaviors we must avoid repeating.
Yes! By all means remember 9/11! But Americans would do well to also remember the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire where 146 women lost their lives to greed. To remember the 362 men and boys killed in the 1906 Monongah Mining Disaster. Remembering the 1889 Johnstown Flood where the nonchalance of the wealthy toward maintaining their summer playground resulted in 2,000 lost men, women and children, and $17,000,000 in property damage.
Think Society won’t ever come to that again? In 2008, the solidly profitable American Axle & Manufacturing made history by demanding it’s work force take a permanent cut in pay. Not the CEO, CFO, COO or any other senior level manager. Not even middle management. The production and skilled trade workers took it on the chin, losing as much as 60 percent of their hourly wage. Lives weren’t lost, but livelihoods were. Similar events take place with conscienceless regularity in factories, mines, foundries, offices and school districts across America.
I guess we don’t really need to look back; history is staring us in the face – child labor, unsafe working conditions, dawn to dark hours, subsistence wages, grinding poverty, illiteracy, epidemics. Question is, after remembering 9/11, will we do what’s necessary to avert terrorist threats as well as a return to the Victorian caste system?