Journalism and history are about getting things right. But the past has many uses, and one of them is to inspire the present. People in my profession like to create an imaginary past, populated by the Ones Who Came Before. Sometimes, we figure these people to be narrow-minded fools and feel motivated to demonstrate our own superior tolerance and sophistication. More honorably, if not necessarily more accurately, we imagine our predecessors as nobler and braver than our small and anxious selves – as men and women who stuck up for principle and, by their righteousness, moved the world.
Louis Menand, “Seeing It Now”, The New Yorker (9&16 July 2012), 94.