Like to change history? Try writing it

How’d you like to go back in time and correct mistakes made in the past? No, you couldn’t go back to the moment before you were conceived, or any other time in your far distant past. Go back to more recent moments – say in the past year or two — when you believed you knew so much about life and how to live it without doing harm to others.

I made some poor decisions as a story-teller, writing things I never should have revealed and sharing thoughts that served no purpose than to make me look good at the expense of someone else. I regret it, and want to tell the world that I am sorry. Better, yet, I can do something about it. When you create stories you have the advantage of controlling them. They spring forth from a writer’s mind and somehow appear on canvas in attempts by an author to share some “thing” with another person you hope would take the time to read it. There are as many topics to write about as there are people in the world, but I always believed the best were the more authentic ones. I tried to write authentically, sharing how I felt in a given situation or reflections of a past occurrence.

To make it more “real,” I kept the actual names of people intact. Why would someone do such an insane thing? Particularly, someone who professes to have a few smarts?

I can only say that I’ve worked as a journalist, and, except for some fanciful “creative writing” which is more like fiction than non-fiction, I’ve tried to stay true to the facts. I wanted to share my reality with others and I believed the best way that I could stay true, was to name the names of people.

In the back of my mind, I wanted to preserve something for history. I’m serious. When I studied history in graduate school, I found that “social history” was sorely lacking. We know history from a “great man” point of view, that is from people like a George Washington, a Frederick Douglas, a Susan B. Anthony. We learn of “great” moments they participated in and helped to shape. But what about the nitty-gritty moments, those that occupy the majority of our daily lives? The best social history, I believe, was presented by Ken Burns in his Civil War series for PBS. In between the battles, he brought people to life through the journals of soldiers facing everyday challenges, be it the lack of meat in their daily rations, or their plans for farming upon discharge from military service. It is their story that moved me. It is what I wanted to give to another generation who’d want to read about some first generation Greek American kid growing up in a tough section of an industrial city in the mid to later part of the 20th century.

So what does this have to do with correcting past mistakes? I can alter what I wrote, and take out any and all stories where I said something in haste that might have offended someone. No, I won’t change my dislike for certain judges in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court or the ill will I still hold for a superior officer whose own men tried to frag him while in Vietnam. I’ll withhold the last name of the nun who knocked me down the steps. I’ll alter the names of the girls I “crushed on” during my teenage years. I’ll remove deragatory remarks of non-public figures and erase anything bad said about anyone whose child or loved one would not feel good in reading about him or her once they passed away.

I owe it to some future researcher not to think less of someone of whom I never should have written something unfair about to begin with. It’ll still be the truth, but it will be written with something closer to what may be called “right speech.”

6 comments on “Like to change history? Try writing it

  1. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve truly enjoyed browsing
    your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!


  2. Serafina says:

    I like the idea of right speech. I read a few other posts on your blog, and I like the ideas you have of leaving things for future generations to find and learn about from.


    • contoveros says:

      I like to think of it as “gifting” my great-great-grandchild with an honest look at how I dealt with the challenges of today.

      Thank you for your “right speech.”


  3. livvy1234 says:

    I applaud your emotional honesty.


    • contoveros says:

      I hope to exercise “right speech” by correcting some “wrong speech” in my past. Perhaps, it will improve in what you call “emotional honesty.”


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