Earlier this week I found myself on Mulholland Drive on a road trip with some friends. Recognizing the name, I realized that this street was named after the man who masterminded the creation of the Los Angeles aqueduct. While William Mulholland was a very accomplished man, many of his accomplishments were at best morally gray. The construction of the aqueduct cost the homes and livelihoods of hundreds of citizens, and made Mulholland and his associates a hefty profit. Additionally, Mulholland’s name was tarnished temporarily by the collapse of a dam he had worked on. However, his name has become a part of California’s culture in a distinctly positive way.
The fact that this man is now celebrated is a true example of how history is written by the victors, and how people are often willing to toss aside their principles for things which benefit them. Because Mulholland’s actions ultimately benefited Los Angeles and allowed for its growth and rise to prominence, the citizens of Los Angeles are able to overlook the incredible damage the man did to so many. The damage that was caused to Owen’s Valley and its residents is rarely even discussed anymore, and their story is all but forgotten in the minds of the masses.
While its understandable for people to view history through the lens of their own biases and interests, it is important for us to strive for more than that. Being able to step outside of yourself and view history the way it truly happened, or even through the eyes of the losers and victims, can be a rewarding and enlightening experience. The people of Owen’s Valley deserve to be remembered, and we should all put in the effort to learn about history from all perspectives.