That old chestnut about walking a mile in my shoes/moccasins sounds great when used but I wonder.
On my mother's side of the family they can trace ancestors back more than a couple of generations. On my father's side the brick wall is hit around my great-grandfather. Ancestor "worship" isn't part of my background. Don't get me wrong, I still examine history but perhaps with a little more detachment and objectivity.
I believe that we look back at history with our modern day sensibilities. After all, that is the filter we are stuck with.
When I look at a man's life in let's say 1860 I'm not in touch with what was going on in his psychological mindscape.
Here I sit in my nice comfortable home. I can go into the kitchen and "nuke" something in the microwave turn on a lightbulb and read about this unbknown man.
I picked 1860 for a reason. You can pick any date.
That man in 1860 for the most part was living a subsistence life. Hand to mouth. In the agrarian world he was hoping that the weather allowed his non-hybrid seed to grow. He knew little if anything about fertilizing his crops and there was no ready availability of fertilzer. He was depending on a couple of horses or mules and sons if they were old enough to help him with the crops. His wife was slogging along beside him from morning until dark and without refridgeration they were eating meals that I'd turn my nose at.
Their lives were daily graced with disease, the weather, and hard work.
They went to church on Sundays to learn that there was a reason for their suffering and if they lived a goodf life things might get better when they died.
If a couple lived in the "big city" things weren't much better. Crammed together in housing that would have made some of our dispicable projects look palatial they were exposed to open sewers, food sources that were anything but safe. They work drudge jobs with no safety concerns, no insurance, and were supposed to be happy with the wages they earned.
Most of us don't put ourselves in anything like their mindset when we wonder about some of their decisions.
They were trying to survive first.
Why didn't they care more about slaves somewhere else in he country? Because they had enough of their own problems. Why didn't they care about people in the next county? Because their own children were sick and doctors (if they could afford them) had no remedies.
Looking back we can marvel at their ignorance of the world around them. How unsensitive they were.
You know it's nice that we think we can make the world better, today. Funny thing though, most of us are so busy looking down the street and criticizing someone else for being a dolt that we miss just picking up the mail for our arthritic next-door neighbor.