StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to record the voices of ordinary Americans and preserve them for future generations. The recordings consist of interviews by other ordinary people, usually a friend or family member.
So far StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 30,000 interviews. It is housed at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. This is oral history and probably the most accurate and honest way to speak to future generations.
This isn't exactly "true" history, if such a thing exists, because we are dealing with human beings, and each has his own perceptions and biases. But it is honest and accurate because it reflects what that particular human being thought and felt at the time the words were recorded.
All history starts with oral history. No matter how far back we go, history begins when one human being tells another what happened. The written word is fine, but a first-person account or an autobiography is still subject to personal bias.
The camera makes a difference, but only to a degree. It can provide independent verification of what happened, but human bias must still be factored in because a human hand decides where the camera is pointed and when the shutter is opened.
No history can escape human bias, even the most sacrosanct. Scholars debate exactly when the four books of the Gospel were written, but it appears none of the written documents came directly from an eyewitnesses to Jesus' life. Those who were with Jesus told their stories to others. When these stories were written they were copied and translated many times.
Mohammad did not write the holy Quran. His revelations were recorded by others. A good Muslim is encouraged to read it in the original Arabic. Nevertheless, many who are inspired by the Quran read it in translation. This does not make the Bible or the Quran or any other scripture less important. It only means that all scripture began when somebody told their story to someone else.
Is there ever such a thing as a true story? In one way they are all true. In another, truth is relative, like time and space. If I want to tell you my story, I first have to tell you where I stand.
I'm a writer. I'm an longtime activist who has worked on nuclear issues for more than 30 years. Here is my story.
After attending numerous workshops and writing hundreds of letters and columns, I felt the need to move on. A friend suggested I send my notes, books and other material to Georgia State University to be archived in a Special Collection somewhat similar to StoryCorp. Future generations might want to know what social activists were doing at this particular time in history.
I was honored and delighted to clean out my files and reclaim my bookshelves. The material was moved March 5. Six days later, an earthquake rocked Japan, and once again the world faced a nuclear crisis. Then within 24 hours, Netflick delivered a movie I ordered well before the earthquake. It was "The China Syndrome." Released in 1979, it's the story of a nuclear accident, the plant owners who attempt to hide it and one man's effort to tell people what happened.
I pass this story on to readers. Make of it what you will. For me, the message is clear. I can't quit. I would like to believe that nuclear technology will eventually be made safe and will solve our energy problems, but I can't.
We don't know what to do with the waste. We can't just throw a switch and turn a reactor off if there is trouble. We don't have the economic resources to plan for every possible emergency. We aren't even sure we can successfully decommission the plants we have.
No one can afford to turn their back. As for me, I'm starting a new nuclear file.
Joan King is a resident of Sautee whose columns appear biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.