It was a horrible day. Charles Whitman ascended to the top of the bell tower at University of Texas and began shooting people down below. Ultimately he had killed seventeen and wounded thirty-two innocent bystanders. He then took his own life. In just over an hour, he had done more damage than he could ever know. What do we do with this?
Rosa A. Eberly writes an article about the significance of this event and the trends we have as a society in terms of dealing with history. The big question is how does history affect our lives after the fact. She goes through and looks at the shootings at Texas University as an example of people sweeping feelings and facts under the metaphorical rug. Eberly also explores the idea of univocality. The students in her class became dissatisfied because it seemed that any attempt to bring up Whitman in a cultural context would somehow be twisted into praise. Among other mediums, online forums and blogs glorified and poked fun at the events of August 1, 1966. The harsh juxtaposition of these twisted sites and the conversation between a radio host and a widow of the incident were astounding. A possible reason could have been the fact that the University of Texas did a lot to try and sweep it under the rug. They did not try to do anything for the community besides pretend it never happened. Another idea presented in this article is the difference between public and individual memory. These all play a role in how we remember events in the past; in fact, not only how we remember them, but also how we act upon them in the future.
As I was searching Web 2.0 for ideas about an object to use, I was presented with an article from NPR (National Public Radio). This article is entitled, “What Do We Forget When We Remember History?” by Joella Straley. This article explains something that NPR has been doing lately. NPR employees have created a Twitter account that tweets real events based on history as if it were happening this very moment. This object was so interesting to me because the goal of this Twitter account was to fill in the gaps in history. The article claims that as we look back to history we look at the proverbial headlines and miss the filler content. The article even repeats the idea that indiviudal memory is almost always going to differ from public memory because of the way the media shapes it.
For the Twitter account (@todayin1963), they are using old newspaper headlines for the information that you can click through and see the original text. Although there are only a few people running the Twitter account, this platform allows people to respond and give their individual memories as well. This combination of public and individual memory allows for a collaborative environment which solves some of the problems that both articles talks about.
In my opinion sweeping memories under the rug because they are negative or bad is the worst thing we can do. Although it is perfectly understandable that the widow of the late police officer tried to cope with her husbands death by repressing the memory, I think it only leads to more hardship down the road. Although looking at this Twitter account and seeing things like, “Birmingham mayor says that he will never bow to pressure from civil rights to hire Negro police officers,” is difficult, we cannot simply turn the other way because it makes us temporarily feel better. Dealing with a problem face on is easier said than done, but necessary for goodness and history’s sake.
Looking at these problems that occurred years ago, it is easy to get up on our high horse and say how we would have done things differently. I think a big part of that is because we have a bad example of how to deal with horrific situations right in front of us. As I was reading through the articles, I was struck with a terrible sense of pride. During things like this, I think it is important that we learn from our predecessors along with giving them grace.