“Sleepwalking through history”

3 May

Today is the last day of classes here at NWC. As I think through the last class of History of the United States from 1865, one of the documents in today’s reading is the late Senator Robert C. Byrd’s 2003 speech against the impending U.S. “preemptive” invasion of Iraq. “We stand passively mute in the United States Senate,” he said.

It is another phrase in the speech, though, that has set me thinking: “We are truly ‘sleepwalking through history.'”

The phrase is in quotation marks. He does not give his source for the phrase (perhaps others know?). Yet the phrase resonates in a fortuitous way with a metaphor and ideal we will return to in class today: the American dream.

Dream: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Nightmare: the flip side of dream. Sleepwalking through history. Descriptive, perhaps, of what can happen when dreaming “captures” us. Useful interpretive tools for U.S. history? For contemporary American society and culture?

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