Someone, somewhere, some time else. Other people’s stories and pleasures, and other people’s triumphs and pain, I find infinitely more moving and attention-grabbing than my own. All the action and decision-making, the betrayals and gestures of profound affection happen over there. Military History magazine has had a pretty good track record when it comes to lifting my spirits or simply diverting my introspection from the self to people and events over there. I went to the Starbux at the Avenue Forsyth today to do some reading. Among the materials was the March 2010 issue of Military History.
The Letter from Military History opens with these lines:
When President Ronald Reagan repeated his favorite bit of wisdom, ‘Trust, but verify,’ he was quoting an old Russian aphorism also favored by Vladimir Lenin. Reagan used the expression wryly as a sign of his skepticism when negotiating with Cold War counterparts. The comment has a commonsense wisdom about it — Chicago humorist Finley Peter Dunne…coined a folksier version: ‘Trust everybody, but cut the cards.’ It is a cautionary note that writers, editors and readers of history would do well to heed, especially when dealing with oral history.
In the context of the March issue, that Reagan quote is an introduction to an article about faking military enlistment and awarded medals. With respect to engaging with one’s fellow man, how much might you insist on cutting the cards? How easily or eagerly do you trust situations and people without verifying their deserving of your trust? Are there certain circumstances in which you prefer not to trust without verifying, whereas, in other instances, you are perfectly willing to let whomever else cut the cards?
“Believe me, when I say you are the most mesmerizing creature I’ve ever had the pleasure to look upon” ?
“If only you would permit me, I would make you the happiest person in all the land” ?
“Sign with us, and you’ll have yourself a guarantee to get into the pro’s” ?
“Buy today and you’ll never go hungry again” ?
And as for the someone, somewhere, and sometime else, it refers to Mitch Lerner’s article about what happened to the USS Pueblo off the coast of North Korea back in 1968. After I was done reading it, that which was gnawing at my psychological innards beforehand and rendering me highly irritable had dissipated.
It’s not a sudden appreciation for one’s own being or for the difference between over there and here. It’s simply a relocation of cerebral energy.