Forgetting History

History is ugly! If one looks closely at each and every age and time, you will find things that are abhorrent to today’s society and understanding of what should be. Yet, if we fail to look back at those previous times and events, we are unlikely to learn from them or appreciate the lives of our forebears. That is a sad commentary on what is happening in today’s society. A society that claims to be superior to previous generations yet illiterate as to the facts of other eras. The events of the last several weeks reflect that.

It started with those who protested the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hand of a police officer. That death has led to the vandalism, destruction, official removal of statues of those who fought for the South in the Civil War. We can disagree about where such statues are located or even if they should be on public display at all, but we should be careful about believing that their removal will change history. According to some, the existence of these statues is condoning everything that person said and did in their lives, as if their lives had no redeeming value.

A greater issue is this: Can eliminating them heal the evils of a different place and time? Does their mere existence indicate that we would ever return to the evils of the past?

When the Isis took over much of Syria, they destroyed the Buddhist statues that had been built over 2000 years ago. Interestingly, their existence did not prevent the Islamic faith from becoming the predominate faith of that entire region. Likewise, in this country, statues of another age will not change our future, standing or removed. Their removal, however, might well take away a flicker of interest among young people about learning from those who preceded us on this earth. Clearly that learning is needed!

The anarchists that have been let loose on our streets across the country have not stopped with tearing down Confederate memorials. In Richmond, Columbus, Ohio, Boston, Massachusetts, and St Paul, Minnesota statues of Christopher Columbus have been destroyed. In other cities they have been vandalized. In still other cities with weak mayors or governors, those and other statues have been removed rather than protected.

Vandals have defaced the statues of Arthur Ashe, Francis Scott Key, Oliver Hill, Ulysses S. Grant, as well as a Polish officer who fought beside us during the Revolutionary War. There can be only two possible reasons for this. One is that they are so poorly educated that they have no idea who these people were. The second, and more likely, is that they are simply focused on creating anarchy, trying to create hate and distrust among Americans. We all must do all we can to not fall into their tit for tat game. That which may be in vogue today may well be the target for tomorrow.

We should all focus, not on the past, but rather how can we build on a stronger future. One in which all are respected for their unique skills and personalities. As Martin Luther King stated in his I Have A Dream speech “judge not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”. That is the responsibility for each of us today as much as it was when King delivered that speech.

At all times we must not only encourage that way of thinking, but, at the same time, push all young people to be the best people they can. When the demonstrations and protest began, there were people of all races. Yet when the Molotov cocktails were being thrown it was young Caucasians that were caught on camera, as they were destroying or trying to destroy public property and businesses. Many of those small businesses were owned by minorities. Their hopes, dreams, and livelihood destroyed by those who lacked the needed “content of character” that is so very important in a civilized society. A society that respects hard work. A society that respects the rights of others. A society that looks at police brutality with disdain; the same disdain they have for those who would attack police officers.

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