5 Historical Events and People We’re All Collectively Misremembering
Of all the subjects taught in school, history might contain the most wiggle room. The story of how everything ever went down reaches you after being filtered through about a million different midway points, including your poor, sleep-deprived Social Studies teacher. It would be nice if it was easily replicable and followed some standard rules of cause and effect, like math or science. Unfortunately, it revolves almost entirely around one of the worst variables ever included in any research: people. This leads to a couple things getting irreversibly etched into our minds with missing, misinterpreted or straight-up made-up details.
To that end, here are five events that most people remember wrong…
I think most people, buoyed by its rootin’-tootin’ reputation as a cowboy standoff, think of the Alamo as a great American triumph against the Forces of Whoever. Cigar-chomping crack shooters aiming down the barrel of an old lever-action rifle, defending said Alamo against invaders until their last breath. How dare they, after all, attempt to take away America’s precious land and expect not to be met with fierce resistance?
Except that America were the invaders here. They were attempting to colonize a piece of Mexico to form what we now know as Texas, and only ended up trapped in the Alamo when the Mexican Army tried, understandably, to get them to fuck off. Even worse, the biggest sticking point among these American settlers, the one that Mexico refused to allow on their land? Slavery. So the horrific “oppression” the fighters of the Alamo bravely stood against was their ability to oppress other people.
The Cause of Columbine
In 1999, two Columbine High School students I don’t care to give any more recognition pioneered a new brand of American tragedy. They showed up to school with firearms and committed a massacre which, at the time, was unusual. Don’t worry, we’re not taking a dark-corners-of-YouTube turn here, that’s all undeniably true. One facet, though, has gotten muddy over time in a needlessly sympathetic way.
Maybe absorbing a bit of the motive of the many copycats they spawned, people still tend to think that the Columbine shooters were lashing out against endless bullying, that it was their personal war against the varsity-jacketed jocks that had dunked their heads in the toilet. In reality, they were bullies themselves, not exactly shrinking daisies pushed to the edge. They might have been weirdos, but they sat at a figuratively full lunch table, with a solid group of close friends. They weren’t goth, either, so you can stop checking every pair of chained-up raver pants for a side-pocket bulge.
The Y2K Bug
If you’re, like me, a decrepit, creaky-kneed fart who was alive and forming memories in 1999, you’ll remember the panic over the Y2K bug. The fear being that some corner-cutting years back that resulted in tons of computer code using two-digit years would result in widespread chaos when those same computers saw the year turn from 1999 to, in their electric heads, 1900. This chaos, for the most part, never ensued.
Which might be why it’s most commonly referenced as an example of needless panic or fear-mongering. Instead of maybe what it should be, which is a top-notch campaign of preparedness by the nation’s finest nerds. No, Y2K didn’t send us into a second stone age, because the tech side of society had been retroactively future-proofing our old, lazy software for close to 10 years. You don’t spend a hundred billion dollars on a problem that solves itself.
One Nation, Under God
The Pledge of Allegiance, in most people’s minds, is old as shit. A timeless bit of hoo-rah half-poetry that was probably drafted along with the Constitution. For this reason, suggesting anyone change, or simply not recite it, is considered light treason. What’s next, cutting out a child’s organs and selling them to the Soviets for equal distribution? One especially adhesive sticking point was when the idea of removing “Under God” from the pledge.
The reality is, the pledge wasn’t carved into some stone at Plymouth Rock, but was written well into America’s history, in 1892. One other often unknown detail: The 1892 version had no references to God whatsoever, probably because of that whole separation of church and state thing. “Under God” was slipped into the pledge only roughly 70 years ago in 1954, meaning it’s young enough that it wouldn’t even be required to make withdrawals from its retirement account yet. By the way, that “In God We Trust” you see on the back of every dollar bill? That came a year later, in 1955.
I Fell Down in Target and My Pants Came All the Way Off
Spend some time around people in my immediate circle and you might hear another old chestnut. That rumored tale of the time I was at Target, and while reading the back of a deodorant stick to check for my allergies while walking, tripped over a display of hand lotions and “faceplanted” onto the floor. You might also hear that, while on the way down, a rogue display hook snagged my shorts and pulled them not only off my waist, but off my legs entirely as I crashed to the floor. You might also hear unsubstantiated rumors that, due to some sort of psychological conditioning, I yelled loudly and shrilly for my “mommy to catch me” as I fell.
This is all untrue.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.