Don't Know Much About History

Dear Idiots:

Please, for the love of Zeus -- who's already not happy with his current low-profile, god-wise -- knock it off.

The nine of us all have our problems. My sisters and I all have accounts we'd rather fob off on someone else. Look at poor Euterpe. She gets handed flute playing, an easy one-shot portfolio, and then she has to spend all of the 1970s watching over Jethro Tull. (She finally gave up after "Thick As A Brick," which she found indulgent, and that was about the time we all quit smoking dope anyway.) Then there was Erato, watching over love poetry, and everything was fine until somebody dropped Kahlil Gibran in her lap, poor dear. She wound up writing dirty limericks on the wall until we got her help. Thaleia got such a kick out of watching over comedy, and then Adam Sandler started making movies. Just this month, Urania, who'd had astronomy pretty well under control since that Galileo business blew over, had to go all the way to the Underworld to tell them down there that Pluto wasn't a planet any more. You think that's easy? You try it. You'll be swimming back across the Styx, I'll tell you that. Only Polyrhymnia seems completely happy. Of course, she's out touring with George Clinton again this fall.

Then there's me.

This has been a terrible month for me. I value my work very highly. I pride myself on maintaining control over all my accounts. And, frankly, I don't appreciate what you all have been up to with it. I've had to watch up here while the president of the United States compared an international band of criminal terrorists to fascism, Nazism, and Communism and the Secretary of State threw in a comparison of the current state of domestic political dissent to the conflict over slavery. Newt Gingrich -- we have his picture at the security desk outside my office, just in case he shows up -- chimed in and agreed with both of them. The Neville Chamberlain and 1938 files from our archives were tossed up in the air in front of electric fans, and their contents were arranged in whatever order it was that they happened to hit the floor. There were Cheetos bags and Mountain Dew cans all over the stacks. Frankly, you left the place a mess, and who do you think is going to clean it up? I have better things to do than pick up after the likes of you.

And now, as if you all weren't trouble enough, there's this ABC thingamawhatsis about September 11, and in it are things that didn't happen.

Do you have any appreciation for the kind of trouble this causes up here? That scene where the Afghans are going to hand over Osama bin Laden but Sandy Berger hangs up the phone on them? If that didn't actually happen, it's not my problem, but to whom do I hand it off? Do I give it to Melpomene, who handles Tragedies for the firm? She's got a fulltime job monitoring "The Young and the Restless," Lifetime TV movies, and Very Special Episodes of "Seventh Heaven." She wouldn't be able to get to it until after the October sweeps, at the earliest.

Look, I'm not a difficult muse. I'm pretty open about the uses to which my material can be put. You want to film Field Of Dreams and have Shoeless Joe Jackson batting from the wrong side of the plate? Hey, magical realism and all. I'm down with that. Alternative histories, the ones where Gettysburg goes the other way? Have at it. You want Anthony Hopkins as Nixon, or Jim Garrison as a Capraesque seeker of truth? No problem, Oliver.

I even let that earlier film treatment of the 9/11 events -- the one where George Bush starts intoning about meeting "tinhorn terrorists" back at the White House -- slide without comment. (I know where all the bunkers are, buster.) In fact, I had a good laugh over that one with poor Thaleia, but she's no fun now because she has to explain why Dane Cook has a career.

As I said, I don't make too much trouble for anyone. But, honestly, now, you simply can't have Custer killed by Vikings. Columbus can't sail to Tibet. Pompeii was not destroyed in a blizzard. Abraham Lincoln's running mate was not Chuck Berry, and Ansel Adams did not sign the Declaration of Independence. There was no queen of England named Doreen II and there has never been a pope named Tyler, Courtney, or Spike. But, over the past month or so, you've made my life such a living Hades over this kind of thing that I felt it was time to slap you around a little.

I don't often step into the marble alcove and come out in my Marvel super-hero identity as The Proclaimer (!), but there doesn't seem to be any other way to get through your thick heads. Stop making comparisons that sound good as a 30-second clip on the idiot cable shows and then float out the window as soon as the red light goes off on the camera. Everything that sounds similar is not the same. Everything that happened before is not going to happen again. Dammit, stop using history like it was a hammer and your thumb was a nail.

Those who remember history are not necessarily condemned to repeat it, over and over, to Joe Scarborough.

Best Wishes,

Clio, Muse of History

also d/b/a The Proclaimer (!)

Charles P. Pierce is a staff writer at The Boston Globe Magazine and a contributing writer for Esquire. He also is heard regularly on National Public Radio.

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