Rendered Fat Content


Hermann Vogel: Alexander in peril of his life 1885

" … what it must have meant … "

Writing history seems much more risky than writing my usual Philosophical, Autobiographical, Historical Fiction in the same way fantasy seems less exacting than fact. In fantasy, space wars rely upon thrusters and explosions spouting blossoms of flame that, in reality, simply could never happen. Real space battles would seem dull in comparison. Lest history seem tedious, the seduction to embellish hovers nearby. Who wouldn't want to characterize their forebears as noble? The inherent ambiguity present in any history leaves plenty of room for interpretation. Should I explain that the displaced local natives referred to my great great great grand pops as "a good white man," or am I indulging myself in whitewashing if I mention this, however much truth it might hold? I find myself surrounded by such judgment calls, each a dilemma with no entirely defensible resolution.

I choose. I feel forced to choose blindly.
I do not want to piss on my own family's history, but neither do I want to proliferate the sense of divine destiny many of my forebears undoubtedly embraced. I must, it seems, describe what might have been their motives without mistaking their notions with any absolute explanation. I can admit that my sixth great-grandfather sounds as if he was a genuine son-of-a-bitch without necessarily diminishing his stature in either his own story or our nation's. The governor of Florida might have no idea how to walk that fine line history projects, but nobody really could. I suspect he's embraced the only totally incorrect way to walk it, which involves bleaching it and denying even the obviously ugliest pieces. Life was, indeed, much shorter and more brutish in prior centuries. Nobody improves anything by rewriting it.

It's all fiction, however carefully anyone might attempt to transcribe. My sources range from suspect forebears to public records, each subject to their own unique corruptions. The dead always carry an
aura noblise, a sense that because they died, their life actions and legacy must somehow be sacred. I'm tempted to shine the finest possible light on whatever happened, if only because of the glow that light might reflect on me and my family. I won't mind associating myself with nobility even if no crowned heads were involved. And from the spare dozen or so valid plotlines we've learned to recognize, choosing one of the more grandiose ones for this work seems more than tempting. Don't we each deserve that much, at least?

I suspect that history never once offered its future any authentically crisp resolutions. Questions always remain, and meanings might forever seem suspect. The reader of history must draw their own conclusions. If my readers conclude that I'm the product of corrupted seed, that story's on them because another reader might find redemption lurking there. My challenge seems to be to keep my fat thumb off the scale and just tell the story. I think every goddamned one of my ancestors were heroes, even those who were so obviously louts. Everyone lost their race against their inevitable fate, some in more colorful and tragic ways than others. Still, each seems to scream for an ounce of respect, if not necessarily an explanation, for I cannot hold myself responsible for how anything happened. They might not have deserved what they got, but I need to do my due diligence and try hard to describe what this life gave them in return for whatever they gave it.

I feel more aware of my creation of my own history while crafting these stories. I might not make much grist for my progeny's future stories or the conclusions their more advanced sensibilities might draw about me. I remain hopeful that my chroniclers might find me well-intended if occasionally inept and that my many attempts to describe my manner of living somehow helped them understand my contexts, without which I unavoidably wrestled. I remain frustrated that my forebears left so few clues to how they lived. They left dates, accomplishments, and offspring in their wake. The rest, I interpolate. I follow threads to gain some deeper understanding of what was happening in their world. Who was president, and what it must have meant for them to vote the straight democratic ticket then, when democrat most likely meant "definitely NOT Republican," when Lincoln, the noblest Republican, was president."

©2024 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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