Sunday, November 11, 2012

Experiencing history again

Depending on how a person uses it, YouTube is either a wonderful blessing that can bring the world to a person's fingertips or a bummer where the banal and insipid are memorialized for posterity.
In other words, YouTube is like any other creation. It can be used for good or bad just like anything else on the Internet. A primary way I enjoy YouTube is that it allows me to experience historical events as they happened.
Documentaries on significant events are often very easy to find, but they are not quite the same as living through the actual event as it happened. YouTube allows us to do this to a certain extent.
Of course, the primary limitation of this service is that video of live events in real time only goes back 70 years or so. Therefore, a huge chunk of human history must be visualized in our minds.
However, the events we have available to us is breathtaking. For example, one of the most important events to happen in the early television era was the assassination of President John Kennedy. By using the resources available on YouTube, a person can relive the initial reports of his shooting delivered by Walter Cronkite.
There are other clips that walk the viewer through the aftermath of the crime, including the shooting of the assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and the burial of the president. All of this information is there at our fingertips begging to be viewed.
For somebody like me who was not alive when those events took place, YouTube is an invaluable resource when trying to understand that time. Doing this allows us to see events unfiltered before the interpreters of history began providing their two-cents worth.
There are also plenty of clips of other momentous events. For example, the first moon landing that occurred 1969 is an extraordinary one. Incredibly, it has been more than 40 years since this happened, and it would be fascinating to see how this would be presented to us today if we went there again.
Fortunately, we have access to video that allows us to experience the thrill of Neil Armstrong first stepping on to the moon’s surface. Compared to today, the technology then appears primitive both in terms of what the astronauts used and the tools the media used to communicate it to us.
Other space agency events are chronicled including the tragic failure of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. This is one event that was burned in my heart as a 21 year old, but when I went back and reviewed the news clips from that day, they were not quite like I remembered.
Perhaps that is normal. Sometimes, when we experience something memorable, we remember events just a little bit differently than they actually occurred.
For example, one of the most oft-quoted lines from the film Casablanca is the line: “Play it again, Sam.” However, the big problem with that is the line was never uttered in the film. The song “As Time Goes By” is played so often in the film that many believe it had to be said, but it was not. The same goes with our memory when remembering shocking events; our emotion often recalls things that were not quite there.
For this reason, the ability to go back and experience them again brings order to our memories, and we remember events for what they really were. Even the most skilled observers of history have their memories fogged sometimes.
I could go on and on with examples of how this is beneficial, but I think you get the picture. YouTube can marvel us if we let it.

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