Whose Story Gets Told?
Whose voice tells the stories we hear about the past? What responsibility do we have to make sure lost voices are heard?
One of my favourite parts of editing episodes is choosing the quote we feature in the intro.
Often, I know the quote I'll use as soon as our guest says it.
It’s something that stops my breath for a moment. That feels so true, my heart swells as I hear it.
And I carry it with me as I edit. Using it to frame the mood and energy of the episode.
But sometimes, a guest has so many profound things to say, it’s hard to pick just one.
This was the case with Rachael Simpson.
As a writer, Rachael chooses her words carefully.
She takes her time as she talks, considering the meaning of each word she uses.
And her words are packed with emotion. So you understand what she's saying on a deep level, even as you hear it for the first time.
So it was hard to pick which quote of hers to feature – so many felt profound, beautifully described and wise.
And while I eventually chose a quote about her relationship with writing, this one was in the running right to the end.
“I just really enjoy history as a pastime… We can learn so much from other people’s stories and how they lived their lives. So why wouldn’t you want to compare notes at times?”
As long as I've known Rachael, she’s been interested in history.
She hunts for treasures in it.
Like a detective in search of overlooked purpose and meaning.
Finding sparks of wisdom left behind by those who've come before us.
Sometimes, this means literally digging in the dirt of her family farm. Uncovering old pieces of pottery, china, tools and kitchen utensils.
All things that point to the land's past.
Other times it’s research.
Digging into the history of a place from records or stories passed down through generations.
Like the stories that inspired her 2012 poetry work, Eiderdown, about the Willard Asylum in NY.
All the time asking important questions about whose voice tells the stories we hear.
And the responsibility we have to make sure lost voices are heard.
These questions have become even more important as how we record and store information changes.
Yes, it’s easy to upload 100s of photos and documents to the cloud. But it’s just as easy to delete them.
All it takes is a click of a button.
Our politicians make sweeping policy announcements on Twitter. Only to delete them minutes later.
Experts give advice on national TV. Only to deny what they said in the next interview.
What version gets saved for the history books?
How do we make sure the truth doesn’t get lost or deleted?
In many ways, technology has made it easier for more people to be part of the public conversation.
There’s more access. More ability to reach a broad audience - no matter where you are in the world.
But it’s also created more noise.
Elevated more falsehoods.
Made space for misleading statements we have to dig into and root out.
And all this noise can drown out the voices that need to be heard. Stories that need to be remembered.
So we can correct the mistakes of the past. And make sure we don’t repeat them.
It’s shocking to read this 2018 article in the Washington Post about a study that found that 66% of millennials cannot identify what Auschwitz was.
And 22% percent had not or were not sure if they’d heard of the Holocaust.
(If you’re not sure of what either of these things are, please read the article!)
These stories are being lost. This history's being drowned out because we’re not talking about it anymore.
It’s a terrifying thought.
But I’m heartened by this.
That same article reported 68% of respondents believed anti-Semitism was present in America today. Over half saying there were “a great deal” of Neo-Nazis present in the US.
And after learning about it, 58% believed something like the Holocaust could happen again.
We may not all know the full history.
But we’re not blind to what’s happening in front of our eyes. Right here, right now.
And we’re talking about it.
May we never stop.
May we make sure these stories get told.
And may we ensure these voices never get lost.
Whose story do you think isn’t being told? What voices do you think need to be elevated?
Share your thoughts with us – they might end up on this blog or our social media!
Here’s how – write 500 words or less in a doc (Word or Pages) or make a 1 min voice recording on your phone of your thoughts on this post. Then email it to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’d love to hear your personal perspective on how you’re working through these big questions. Don’t forget to tell us your name and where you’re from!
(If you want to stay anonymous, that’s ok too. Just let us know.)