Please Read Carefully

August 17, 2022
I was recently shocked by email replies to a short comment I made, as what I thought was a extending out a hand of friendship with an intelligent comment.   The replies were hostile in the first case, and extremely annoyed in the second. Both replies misunderstood my intent for the comment, and misunderstood the […]

I was recently shocked by email replies to a short comment I made, as what I thought was a extending out a hand of friendship with an intelligent comment.

 

The replies were hostile in the first case, and extremely annoyed in the second. Both replies misunderstood my intent for the comment, and misunderstood the semantic for the content of the comment. Few these days have had any education in semantics, and increasingly I am finding persons flying off the handle at reading a word or a phrase without taking the most charitable reading (a principle of critical thinking).

 

Here the context of my comment is important. I did my best as an ‘American historian’ (an Australian in American studies, and thus please understand the semantic challenge!) to address the historical context, but I was grossly misunderstood by my Australian colleague in the field.

 

The heated reaction came to my comment on the basic cultural conflict in the American South, not implying, at all, that the basic cultural conflict does not exist in the American North. My actual comment (in full) was

 

“Interesting, very interesting for a Queensland historian. An invitation to attend the [named institution] in Virginia, USA. (not Virginia, Queensland).

 

I would be nervous about stepping into the State of Virginia these days, as an Australian (“foreigner”) with a moderate (social) liberal outlook, these days.

 

Perhaps, [name of colleague] (cc.) might have a few thoughts on the [name of historical figure] tradition and American politics today.

 

Kind regards,

Neville.

 

The message was only that “I” (grounding my statement) would not feel safe in any American city, in the midst of the violent American culture-history war.

 

It was an opportunity for my colleague to speak his mind, and there was no crushing in the freedom of speech. In the end my colleague and I spoke on the phone and our friendship was again strengthen. And, furthermore, I will defend to the hilt my colleague’s nuanced defense of the American South. Indeed, my own misunderstandings have been challenged (but that was not what I wrote).

 

This is very troubling, though, that persons have difficulty, these days, reading carefully what is written, and are drawn to signal words and react accordingly. It is the extremism that is growing in our midst.

 

So, knowing that persons are more drawn to popular social media images (than the capacity to read text), I offer this meme and its image title.

 

Image: The clever cat is reading fairy tales for kittens. Kittens listen to him carefully.

Photo 126259526 / Read © Iryna Kuznetsova | Dreamstime.com

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Neville Buch (Pronounced Book) Ph.D. is a certified member of the Professional Historians Association (Queensland). Since 2010 he has operated a sole trade business in history consultancy. He was a Q ANZAC 100 Fellow 2014-2015 at the State Library of Queensland. Dr Buch was the PHA (Qld) e-Bulletin, the monthly state association’s electronic publication, and was a member of its Management Committee. He is the Managing Director of the Brisbane Southside History Network.
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steve
1 month ago

What was the content of the dispute? (if possible to relate, all names, identifiers etc redacted and so on). just finished “uncle Tom’s cabin” and would like an Americans modern take on their cultural (and the rest) war. what was the objection ?

Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Neville Buch

Yes, the Northern industry benefited from the cotton as raw material for its manufacturing. and then the portrayal of Aunt Ophelia – northern moral condemnation while having a visceral repugnance to blacks, although her sterling character (of course) thrust her to overcome that. From what I understand, the establishment of the Fugitive Slave Act was a watershed moment, this compelled the northerners to actually “get their hands dirty” with dealing with slavery, which led to much soul searching

Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Neville Buch

but would be interested to hear what the “unfair attacks on the culture and intent of the American South and the hypocrisy of the American North” are now, 160 yrs later