In 2007, Andrew Sullivan wrote a cover essay for The Atlantic in which he argued that the rise of Barack Obama to the national stage meant an end to the divisive cultural politics that defined American politics since 1968. Sullivan argued at the time, “he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us.” Reflecting on the events of the last eight years, it now seems this assumption about Obama’s rise was naïve and misplaced. Now, as we transition from an “Age of Obama” to an “Age of Trump” everyone has spilled much ink—both real and digital—trying to explain how we got here.
[Editorial note: the following essay is a guest post by documentary film producer Kerry Candaele]
Time, History, and Loss
By Kerry Candaele
I lived in New York City for eight years during the late 80s to the mid 90s. I was in a Ph.D. program in history at Columbia University, which means I had spent the better part of two decades reading about dead people. Reading about the dead does, I think, more than is usual, give one a sense that the reader—the student, the scholar, the digger in the archives—will also die, although when one is young or youngish (I was an “older” grad student), the fact of mortality is somewhat remote. Archives are in fact cemeteries, deposits left accidentally by the unknowing, or often curated before presentation to the undertakers by those interested in curating the remains.
But whether the dead were ancient Greek or Roman, 19th Century statesmen or lowly labor organizers, high born or bit players, the fact is that a recognition that we would all join them soon enough allowed me to walk the streets of Manhattan not only with a sense of passionate embrace of what was before my eyes and below my feet, but also with a sense of melancholy (that’s just me, okay?), an understanding that my presence would be lost at some point in the very near future, relatively speaking. Time waits for no one, or waits impatiently, as any number of rock songs and symphonies point out with subtle insistence or with exclamation points.
The following post comes from Rebecca Denne and Rachel Fulk. Denne is a first year graduate student in IUPUI’s Departments of History and Library Science. She is interested in public history and archives. Fulk is a first year graduate student in IUPUI’s Department of History. She is a teaching assistant with interests in post-1945 American history and women’s history. They were both students in Ray Haberski’s spring semester course on post-1945 United States history.
Immediately after the Cold War came to a surprisingly quiet end, many conservatives (and not a few liberals) attempted to cement the Cold War as a “good war” in the minds of the American public and proclaim a specific place for it in American collective memory. But the American people did not buy into this historical narrative. Instead of acceptance, the public condemned and questioned Cold War decisions and strategies. As a result, historical sites around the United States with the job of explaining the Cold War often apologize for actions of a nation that, at least in the conservative view, “won” the Cold War. Continue reading