Remembering a Past that Didn’t Happen

It’s hard to know what to make of revelations that Senator Clinton’s 1996 arrival at Tuzla Air Base was caught on video, and features a smiling Clinton walking across the apron and being greeted by an 8-year-old Bosnian girl.  Nary a sign of a hasty scramble, under sniper fire, to bullet-resistant vehicles.  One can take the cynical view and call her an inveterate liar.  I’m open to the possibility that she genuinely remembers some trip that had an element of danger and fear, but wasn’t Tuzla specifically.  Or perhaps an overzealous Secret Service overbriefed her on the expected dangers, and in her mind she imagined snipers taking aim while she and Chelsea bravely walked out onto the apron with pasted-on smiles.

I’m no Clinton apologist, but I do know that people sometimes remember events that didn’t actually occur, or at least didn’t occur the way they remember it.

I have two good friends who have mirthful memories of me a particular party, and can even recall specific lines of dialogue which I apparently uttered.  Problem is, I was ill that day, and I know for certain I wasn’t there.  Photographs of the dozen or so party guests corroborate this, I am nowhere to be seen in any of them.  But if you ask these fellas, they will insist I was there.  Their memories are vivid, but entirely mistaken.  They certainly remember somebody, but that particular somebody, on that particular night, was not me.  The curious thing is how two people who know me well could be under the impression that I was someplace that I am 100% certain I wasn’t.

I have had some particularly vivid dreams which were astounding in detail and clarity, but nonetheless did not happen.  In the bygones days of academia I had quite realistic dreams of studying for exams and agonising over writing papers, which seemed to take hours.  The downer was that, upon waking up, one finds that the material was not actually studied, nor papers written.  So you have to go and repeat the exercise again, in real time.

Many years ago I had a particularly realistic dream of being out on maneuvers with an infantry platoon at a well-known exercise area in this province.  I could smell the dirt when we used our entrenching tools to dig in.  I could feel the cool evening breeze bringing relief from midsummer humidity.  When posted to night sentry duty, I assumed my post but was surprised by very stealthy enemy opponents.  Who turned out to be actual enemies (and not merely another CF force playing OPFOR in the exercise).  The dream ended with my helmeted head being yanked back and my throat slit, staring up at the twinkling stars that were slowly fading to black.  My last thought in dreamland was “Fuck , I failed my platoon.  They are going to get killed in their sleep”.  I woke up immediately afterward, and to my surprise, my throat actually hurt.  But nonetheless, however realistic this dream may have appeared, I am fairly certain it did not actually occur.  I’m still walking around, after all.

Only Senator Clinton knows for certain what her own recollections are from that 1996 trip to Bosnia. All of us from our own experience can vouch that the human mind can be deceptive in its recollection and experiences, which is why police work is so difficult.  Eyewitness testimony is sometimes liable to suggestion and can be horribly unreliable.  I hope for the Senator’s sake that this is, indeed, her own faulty memory and not a deliberate effort to mislead.

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