Historical Context

I watched a video recently that explained the importance of putting things into historical context. The person who did it, Louis CK, is a comedian. Using humor and insight he put into words something that until that day had mostly escaped me. See the video here:

Louis CK explains historical context to Jay Leno

Immediately after watching the video I felt some remorse. I have said many things in my life that displayed ignorance due to not understanding a historical context.

Just as Louis claims in the video, I have taken the white people’s stance of, “I didn’t do anything!” for most of my life. Maybe I didn’t do anything, but I was also failing to acknowledge the shockingly recent history of segregation and slavery in our country. I have grumbled before things like, “Why do we need Black History Month?” without realizing that we are not at all out of the woods of racial inequality. Unfortunately I think many people think along the same terms. Fortunately, we now have a hilarious video to help us along.

But it’s not just about black and white. It’s about all people. You must respect historical context no matter where you are. And it’s incredibly hard to do at times. I failed at it in Armenia. I never really understood why the Armenians failed to let go of the past, to move on for the betterment of their country. It just didn’t make sense to me. I remember talking about it with other volunteers and saying things like, “They just need to get over it.” Looking back, I was the ridiculous one. I wish I had seen this video during my service.

In the future hopefully I can do a better job of considering the invasions, political regimes, disasters, inequalities, and other events that have a very real impact on the psyche of a people.


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