To us and through us

History classes mistake what happened for what people cared about.

NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership might be the most significant and widely impactful international agreements of our generation. And I have no idea what they do.

I say this because people who study economics and globalism say things like this. It’s entirely possible that they are correct; NAFTA and TPP could alter the course of human industry and events in ways it will take centuries to fully understand.

Yet, if a time-traveler from 200 years in the future appeared on my doorstep and asked me to teach them about what was important to people of the early 21st century, trade tariffs would be among the last of topics that I would cover. Far better to tell them about Beyonce, Harry Potter, Fox News, The Wire, and Dave Chappelle: the voices that spoke to us and through us. Even better, I’d open up my Macbook Air (they’d no doubt gasp at seeing the ancient device outside of a museum) and show them the stories and the songs we sing to each other.

No, the time traveler might say. What do you think about NAFTA? We learned all about NAFTA in seventh grade.

I would regretfully inform my friend from the future that their history class has failed to teach them anything about the past.

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