Friday, July 21, 2006

Everyone has an opinion

"Heck, I could do your job."

Every once in a while a ranger hears those words from a visitor. It usually means that the person knows a lot about the Civil War in general or Antietam in particular and that's just their way of letting you know that they're very hip to the subject.

As in:

"You don't have to tell me, y'see I've been studying this battle for 15 years now, heck, I could do your job!"

"Thank you sir, enjoy your visit."

Sometimes it comes from a doting parent of a bright 5th grader:

"Tyler had the Civil War last year in 4th grade. He's an expert on the subject. Heck, he could do your job!"

"That's wonderful ma'am. Tyler, keep up the good work. Enjoy your visit."

It certainly keeps this ranger humble. Sometimes humility seems a rare commodity among specialists, authorities, fifth graders, and other experts. So I've recently started to routinely inject some humility into all of my ranger presentations. Look, I figure if everyone told the story of the Civil War in the same way there'd be only one or two books out there on the subject: The Civil War by Bruce Catton, or perhaps the grumpy man's Civil War by Shelby Foote. But with literally thousands of books in and out of print on the subject it's pretty clear to me that there are an awful lot of ways to tell the same story.

That should keep any historian, writer, expert, fifth grader, or ranger pretty humble. Everyone seems to have their own opinions, which is how we keep bookstores and libraries chugging along.

So now, I end all of my presentations thus:

..."and ladies and gentlemen that's my version of the battle of Antietam."

It's just a happy disclaimer, a way of admitting that I'm just another learner, like everybody else, hopefully learning new things about the battle every live-long day. Its pleasant, its open-ended, its full of the potential and promise of discovery and growth. And, it makes me a much smaller target for the sharp-shooters, and we've all met THEM.

When one proclaims oneself as an expert one also becomes vulnerable to every other expert with a beef, an opinion, or a whacky idea. And heck...

my daughter could do their jobs.

Keep your head down...Ranger Mannie's got yer back!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I WISH I could do your job Ranger. Keep up the good work, both in the field and on the web!