A petrified object is one that’s made of stone, but looks just like the tree or animal that used to exist before being filled in. The object looks just the same, but it’s hard and heavy and unchanging. In other words, in some very important ways, it’s completely unlike the original tree or animal.
I think the same thing happens to our perceptions of historical opinion. We look back and it feels as though there were clear sides to the issues and it’s obvious who believed what.
This feeling gets challenged as we learn that a significant minority of early Americans were against independence, or that some Jews supported the Nazi party.
I’m reading Aristocrats (no relation to the movie), about the lives of four sisters, daughters to a duke and great-granddaughters to a king.
They were exceptionally well-connected (one sister was head bridesmaid at King George III’s wedding) and wealthy (the “poor” relation only had one house in the country and one in the city. The richest was married to the richest man in Ireland).
It’s a small part of the book, but each of the four sisters felt that the “rebels” were right and the king was wrong in 1776 and onwards. Throughout the war, they and their relatives considered the King’s position to be against liberty.
It reminds me again that that war was unpopular over there, and that the rebels won partly because so many people in England wanted to stop fighting. When thinking superficially, I just think about England being the bad guys and the Americans being the good guys. Of course, it’s never that simple.