Reading about the past is interesting. Living history as it happens is exciting and sometimes scary. I’d rather enjoy the drama from a distance. Of the many ways to interact with history, my favorite is the process of synthesis: to gather and evaluate evidence and arrange it to tell a story. The joy of research shares elements with the joy of exploring a trail or assembling a jigsaw puzzle.
Watching the House Jan. 6 committee, I’m engrossed by how pieces of evidence come together into a riveting narrative. Of course, the pieces are already collected, selected, and arranged before we see them. I catch myself starting to envy the committee members that task, however grueling.
Then I remember that these individuals lived the history they’re investigating. On Jan.6, while I watched in shock from the safety of home, they were in the midst of the chaos. Their lives were in danger. No, I don’t envy them at all.
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.