One of my favorite movies is “Jurassic Park.” Actually, that’s not true. One of my 6-year-old nephew’s favorite movies is “Jurassic Park,” which means we watch it on a loop, which means that unless I want to engage a therapist, I embrace my inner Tyrannosaurus rex and pretend it was entirely my own idea.
Right around the point of my 82nd viewing of the movie, it occurred to me that technology can sometimes be a dangerous thing. Resurrecting dinosaurs, assuming that were even possible, is not a great idea if the poor creatures would be coexisting with humans (and truly unfair to the dinosaurs if some of those humans were members of the Kardashian genus). But bringing the past into the present is less problematic, at least to my mind, than imposing the present on the past.
I’m thinking specifically of how different historical events would appear to us if the technologies that exist today were available back then. In particular, I’m referring to how we report and otherwise present the news. Frankly, it’s a prospect that frightens me considerably more than the dinosaurs.
Take, for example, the Gettysburg Address. Abraham Lincoln arrived on the battlefield and in the shadow of blood and destruction delivered a speech that gave hope to the hopeless and inspired the despairing. His somber words and stoicism have passed into legend. But imagine what would have happened had Al Sharpton emerged from the swamp of his MSNBC studio and barged onto the scene. Can you hear his stentorian voice, thrust rudely into the sacred air? “MISTER President, WHY are you only interested in the lives of these DEAD WHITE MEN? WHY have you ignored the fact that BLACK LIVES MATTER too, and that your concern for these DEAD WHITE MEN, who probably and most assuredly HARRASSED my brothers, is disrespectful to people of COLOR?”
And then there would be a cutaway to the studio, where a panel of women wearing sleeveless dresses and constipated expressions would talk among themselves about how this could affect Abe in the polls.
Or perhaps you’re a devotee of revolutionary history.
The struggles for independence that resulted in a courageous and radical document were raucous and sometimes bitter, and you can believe that some of the more anemic critics of the declaration had a grudge against its author, Thomas Jefferson. Imagine, then, if the journalists of that time had gotten whiff of Tom’s proclivity for the ladies. A lovely, powdered-wig Megyn Kelly could have shoved a mic in his face and said, “One of the things people love about you is that you speak — and then write — your mind, you don’t use a politician’s filter. But that has its downsides, in particular when it comes to women. You call women you don’t like (I’m assuming there are at least a few) ‘wench,’ ‘swine’ and ‘annoying little Quaker.’ How would you answer the question, from Abigail Adams no less, that you are part of the war on women?”
And when he retorted with “Megyn, you bimbo, why not vacation at Valley Forge this Christmas?” she could come back with some pointed inquiry into whether he’d ever registered with that scurrilous infidelity website, Dolley Madison. She could also throw in some innuendo about Gen. Washington and his lady biographer that we could all sink our (wooden) teeth into.
But if politics isn’t your cup of tea, so to speak, how about some natural disasters?
For example, the saga of the Titanic has been reported to us through firsthand accounts of survivors and in the forensic treasure trove unearthed when the watery tomb of a vessel was located many decades later. There has also been a slew of fanciful movies about doomed lovers and misplaced jewelry. But can you imagine what would have happened if, say, our local ABC, CBS or NBC affiliate had been dispatched to the scene of the tragedy?
There, clinging to the iceberg with an umbrella that clearly displays the station logo, is the lovely weather lady of the moment, this one preferably not eight months pregnant so as not to compete with the glacier for attention. She would talk about how, even though your city has never in its long history encountered an ice formation, there is indeed a local connection to the tragedy. And then, looking solemnly into the camera, she would explain that several of the deck chairs falling at that moment into the North Atlantic had been crafted by an artisan from the hip part of town.
Yes, we are fortunate that dinosaurs no longer roam the earth. We are equally fortunate that the founding of our nation, its consecration in the blood of patriots, and some unique human tragedies, were spared the harsh and bitter distortions of a 21st century lens.
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Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may send her email at [email protected]