let’s pretend there’s a university. there’s three history courses. all of them are about the American Revolution.
the first one, HIST 2015, is basically a brighter version of Hamilton, one that plays up the strengths of the American experiment. Taught by the bright-eyed, eccentric, and talented (if mildly derivative) Professor Abrams, it hits all the positive hallmarks, calls back to names all the students know, and even introduces a few new ones. It’s not challenging, it’s familiar, and it’s basically just AP US History again, but hey, Abrams is fun and it works, even if sometimes it gets a bit too celebratory for its own good. Everyone leaves the course pretty satisfied.
but HIST 2017 is different. The head of this class, Professor Johnson, has a wildly radical approach to his subject matter. Instead of going on and on about the wonders of the American experiment, he asks questions about the ethics and morals of it. Like, hey, didn’t these founding fathers own slaves? Isn’t this country built on the backs of those slaves? Built on a legacy of systematic slaughter and bloodshed? Is this a legacy even worth upholding?
It’s a depressing re-evaluation of the American history, but it’s not inaccurate by any means. However, even though Professor Johnson looks at America without the rose-tinted glasses (wink!), he takes great pride and joy in what America represents and what it can be. Most of his class focuses on the American Revolutionary leaders and their friends, a group of scrappy rebels who came from nothing and banded together in the face of adversity, not tied to any legacy before them, only dedicated towards the one ahead. It’s a rejection of nearly everything the kids have been taught about America before, but in a lot of ways, an embracing of what it can be. Johnson’s belief that anyone can be important in this story pumps through the class and makes it feel alive and unique. It’s flawed structurally in a couple ways, and gets away with asking a lot of questions it doesn’t have to answer, but in that, it’s almost beautiful.
Students loved HIST 2017. They got a lot out of it, too - new world views, more empathetic outlooks on cultures, the works. But when they come back home for the holidays to their families, the parents don’t like it. Not one bit. And they react viciously. Cries of “That’s not the America I remember! Not MY America!” pepper dinner time arguments all over the country. HIST 2017 is so divisive that it sends the University into a frenzy as it gets bogged down with complaints from angry, conservative parents afraid of change.
So the university decides to make a new course. HIST 2019.
HIST 2019 is... Also different. The university didn’t have a lot of time to develop the course. A professor who specialized in history about the Jurassic period was supposed to teach it, but the university decided in the end to go with Professor Abrams again. And to be fair, it’s a tough position to be in for sure - with all the audiences he has to appease, and the University’s reputation hanging in the balance, this is easily the most important class he’s ever taught. In his crunch for time, he looks over Professor Johnson’s course and sees that it’s basically undone everything his original course set up. And in a moment of self-reflection, he stops and thinks about what that means. He asks whether the America that Johnson sees and the America he sees can be reconciled, completely oblivious to the fact that they’re the same America. And he decides that they can’t coexist - not in a coherent way, at least.
So he decides to walk it all back.
This team of rebels that everyone cared about so deeply? He makes sure to reinforce their place as mere cogs in the machine of the legacy that everything in America is in service to. He takes what his and Johnson’s class were building to, a way to undo the sins of the father by first reinforcing what America is and then deconstructing it, and bastardizes it. He ends up walking back some of Johnson’s positions so hard that he actually ends up reinforcing problematic elements of America that even his original class didn’t. The limited time he had to prepare the class gives the entire thing a rushed, slapped together feel, sometimes feeling as if Professor Abrams is talking just to check off boxes on the syllabus. Certain days of class feel like Abrams is literally pulling random facts out of his ass to make his retcons to the previous class fit. And he makes some of the critical information for the final available on Fortnite. Yknow, for the kids.
In the end, the class spells the beginning of the end of the History program at the university, leaving the students angry and confused about what the point of the courses even were in the first place, and more worried about the future of America than ever before. If HIST 2015 was about how cycles exist and repeat, and HIST 2017 was about how those cycles can be toxic and need to be broken, all 2019 did was prove that regardless of the broken nature of those cycles, they’ll nihilistically continue, no matter what you do, and whether you want them to or not, all at the behest of villains that continue to rise up and never really die.
The night before class starts, Abrams nervously looks over his lesson plans for the year, afraid of the backlash, trying to do his best with a subject he’s loved ever since he was a little kid. He looks to the university committee for help - they merely shrug, hoping it’ll get the complainers off their backs, so afraid of rocking the boat that they’ll do anything to steady it again. Abrams thinks about these complainers, and he cocks his head, wondering if these people so resistant to change truly ever understood the thing they were criticizing in the first place. Maybe he doesn’t himself.
But it’s a fleeting thought. He waves it away, hops into bed, clicking off his lens flare night light as he does so.
“Showtime,” he says to himself in the dark.
But no one is listening. Not anymore.
anyway now that we’re done pretending: “The dead speak!”? get the fuck outta here man