Yes, I am Agent Washingtub

February 17, 2011

When doing research, reading gets you nowhere fast. There are so many books, articles and (dare I say)blogs that you can read to gather information on your subject. The more you gather, the clearer a picture becomes for your project. But just reading and not interpretting the information is the same as memorizing, and anyone who’s crammed for an exam nows how long that type of information lasts. There’s two kinds of information, though. There’s facts and figures and then there’s personal accounts. One will give you statistical data and analysis based purely on numbers, while the other gives you someone’s thoughts on the subject. To those that have read the novel, I pose this question; which affected you more, the death tolls that were rung up at the end of WWII for all the Jews that showered at the camps, or Elie Wiesel’s memoir? You can tell people all the numbers you want, but if they can’t paint a picture in their mind of what’s been going on, they won’t get the full effect. A spreadsheet of data did nothing when compared to the pictures of starved, 75-lb. Hebrews that barely seemed humanoid. But, then again, if you were to ask a Neo-Nazi about the travesties that happened in Hitler’s Germany, they would have a different opinion. That can’t be, can it?

Yesterday at the hospital, one of the physical therapy patients was a history minor who was taking a History of Battle course. To pass time while he iced his surgically repaired labrum, we discussed the Civil War. How all the fighting took place in the South, and General Sherman tore up all the tracks leading to Atlanta before he burned the city to the ground in front of the very citizens who lived there. Following the end of the war, the way of life in Dixie changed forever. Slavery was a part of Southern culture, something no plantation could be complete without. After all, one family couldn’t pick all that cotton or pay hundreds of employees to do it for them. Then came Reconstruction, which lasted over 20 years to finally get the South back on their feet. The way they see it, which is interpreted beautifully in The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” is that the North completely demoralized the South. They took away their slaves, destroyed their railroads, burned Atlanta to the ground in front of them and made the South dependent on the North for support.

In our history books, it says that we fought the Civil War and defeated the South to free the slaves. As the student told us, the South call it “The War of Northern Aggression” and paint us as the bad guys. How can the same country see the same event and register two different history lessons?

Perspective. It doesn’t matter what the events are, if you are on different sides of the war, you will view events differently.

A good example is from one of my favorite series, RedvsBlue. RvB is an online series that uses the Halo engine to present a sci-fi story about a struggle between two groups of soldiers fighting over a box canyon in the middle of nowhere. One of the characters is Caboose, a lovable blue soldier who goes from “somewhat dimwitted in season 1 to completely divorced from reality from season 3 onwards.” A few times during the series, you see inside Caboose’s head, where things are not as they seem to the rest of the world. Sarge’s Southern accent is replaced with a pirate one. Donut goes from an effiminate soldier in lightish red(pink) armor to a full blown girl. Church goes from being an asshole who berates Caboose constantly to his best friend. And Agent Washington goes from a hardened freelancer who scares Caboose to “Yes, I am Agent Washingtub. I’m going to go fight monsters and robots. Freelancer powers, activate.” But, what can you expect from a character who hates babies, has crayons instead of bullets and had the worst throw ever…of all time.

Inside of Caboose’s head, everything was different and wrong from our perspective, but to him it was how it’s always been. He saw the same events and knows the same people everyone else does, but he views it in a completely different way. But to him, it’s correct. When you deal with people who see things a completely different way from you, but you want to talk to them about something, you have to reason with them from their point of view. People rarely change their minds without good reason, so you have to find the right way to go about it. Some prefer facts and figures, some prefer pictures and personal accounts, some prefer how it impacts them directly. No matter which way you choose, you’d be fighting a losing battle trying to convince a Southener that the North was right in the Civil War if you try to present them any of that without first considering their perspective. After all, there is no right or wrong, it’s all relative. Maybe the South was right. If you don’t consider that first and attempt to make a compromise with the people you want to convince, you’ll never get any change to occur.

I’m going to go fight monsters and robots. Freelancer powers, activate.

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