The Genetic Component of Loving History

I am not sure what information you get when you spit into the little plastic container from Ancestry™ other than genetic stuff. Can it also find out where loving history comes from? My test didn’t say anything about that, but reading Facebook™ posts on Father’s Day certainly did. So many of our ECW writers posted images of dads at battlefields, dads at museums, dads in uniform, dads reading–in short–dads doing history!

I know moms do history as well, but it was Father’s Day, and as a woman who is also a historian, I know from experience that there are more men in this business than women. So be it. My dad, John Sessums, served in WWII as a paratrooper in the 11th Airborne, then in the Merchant Marine after the war. He always read “war books” and shared his love of the subject with the curious little girl he inherited when he married his second wife, my mother. He would never tell me the rest of the words to the song about “laughing as they poured him from his paratrooper boots” because he thought it might be too upsetting, but he shared his picture books with images of Andersonville survivors in them, and the dead of Antietam. He played those old, thick, black records of songs of the North & the South, and reminded me that Civil War soldiers called peanuts “goober peas.” Apparently, I found that highly amusing. I still do, by the way.

When I was in high school and needed a project for my history class, my dad handed me a copy of Bill Mauldin’s Willie & Joe cartoons, telling me that he thought Mauldin might still be alive. My first real research project was a phone interview with Mauldin, who was at the Chicago Sun Times in the late sixties. There is even an image of me on the phone with Mauldin in my high school yearbook. I was hooked at that point. I wanted to “do” history.

I have a deep suspicion that most of our writers here at ECW have similar stories to share. I also have a deep suspicion that most of our readers do as well. This brings me to my original thought. Much as we tend to reject (for a while, anyway) the values of our parents as we grow up and struggle to define our own values, loving history seems to be relatively immune from this period of rejection. I, therefore, think there must be something else going on.

There must be some sort of genetic anomaly that has to do with loving history. I hesitate to call it a mutation. I have called us necromancers in the past, but I hesitate at calling us “mutants.” Perhaps it is present in all humans–this genetic predisposition, if you will, to loving history. In order to flourish however, the right circumstances must occur. Luckily for those of us still reading this, we are definitely carriers of this gene. Modern science uses genetic testing for all kinds of wonderful things, and I think we owe it to the next generation of mutants historians to try to provide a nurturing environment in which this genetic anomaly can flourish and grow, giving proof to science that historians can be both born and bred.

So let’s do that. Promise me? The future is depending on it, and so is the past.

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