Cultural Amnesia: America's Future and the Crisis of Memory

Cultural Amnesia: America's Future and the Crisis of Memory

Cultural Amnesia: America's Future and the Crisis of Memory

Cultural Amnesia: America's Future and the Crisis of Memory

Synopsis

According to Bertman, just as an individual needs memories to maintain a sense of personal identity, so does a nation need them in order to survive. Like Alzheimer victims, however, today's Americans are rapidly losing a consciousness of history, and with it, a sense of national identity and direction.

Excerpt

Each of us has our odysseys. Three years ago, my wife--convulsed by violent seizures and unconscious--was taken to emergency by ambulance. She had suffered a severe withdrawal reaction to a dangerous prescription drug.

In the middle of the night as I sat by her hospital bed, she awakened and asked me what had happened. I told her in great detail. She reached out her hand to mine and said, "I love you," closed her eyes and slept.

The next morning she awoke and asked me what had happened to her. I explained again in the same detail, realizing this time that she had forgotten everything I had told her the night before.

It was not the last time she would ask, nor the last time I would answer. Like a magnetic tape erased by an electrical charge, my wife's short-term memory had been wiped clean by the seizures that had sent bursts of neural energy surging through her brain.

For days she did not know what year it was or the name of the current president of the United States. After she left the hospital, we learned that there would be much more that she did not recall or would ever remember. Events that had occurred, intimate experiences that had been shared, places that had been visited in the weeks and even months before the attack were simply gone as though they had never happened. With repeated association and by patient effort, some memories returned. Others are irrevocably lost. Life goes on.

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