Heritage v. History (Redux)
The heritage syndrome, if I may call it that, almost seems to be a predictable but certainly a non-conspiratorial response–an impulse to remember what is attractive or flattering and to ignore all the rest. Heritage is composed of those aspects of history that we cherish and affirm. As an alternative to history, heritage accentuates the positive but sifts away what is problematic. One consequence is that the very pervasiveness of heritage as a phenomenon produces a beguiling sense of serenity about the well-being of history–that is, a false consciousness that historical knowledge and understanding are alive and well in the United States.
Michael Kammen, Mystic Chords of Memory, p. 626
To understand something historically is to be aware of its complexity, to have sufficient detachment to see it from multiple perspectives, to accept the ambiguities, including moral ambiguities, of protagonists’ motives and behavior.
Peter Novick, That Noble Dream