There is a quote from Louis Brandeis from a 1913 Harper’s Weekly article, titled “What Publicity Can Do” that has me thinking. In this article, he made the statement that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants”. We hear so much today in the media about transparency in policy. But what about in how we allow history to be portrayed? I think we need to push to view history through a transparent lens vs. a rose colored one. Even in historical fiction, we tend to either glamorize the past, such as the “mammy mythology” of slavery; or else we vilify the men and women who committed acts that are deemed evil by today’s standards– even though they were considered acceptable at the time.
There has been much written regarding the censorship of Google and other search engines in China and Germany as well as many other nations. One example of such censorship is China banning Google searches regarding Tiananmen Square. Obviously it was a very dark day in Chinese history, but what good comes from hiding it away from the people of China? What about a German student who wishes to search “Nazi Party” on Google? Will he or she be able to access all of the information available? According to many written accounts, the answer would be “no”. This method tends to backfire I’m afraid. The more leaders of a country wish to keep something hidden in the dark, the more determined its people become to uncover it. It isn’t just those two countries that petition Google to block sites. Check out the company’s annual transparency report to see more specifics.
I am currently researching for a novel that I plan to write about a dark period of American history. I’m not proud of what occurred, but I am not willing to hide from it either. Just as when I wrote about slavery in my most recent novel, Burning Prospects, I plan to shine a light on what happened in the most honest and open way I can. As an author, I hope to give a voice to people from the past who were deprived of their own. I value tremendously the fact that I live in a free country where I still have a voice to speak the truth about events of the past. I’ll be writing more about my new project once it is further along, but for now I will only say that I want to write this work of historical fiction with the full rays of sunlight shining down upon it.
What are your comments on this? I’d love to hear from you.