Friday, July 6, 2018
We Need To Remember
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" - George Santayana
I try so hard not to inject my feelings into this blog. It is for my family. I am pleased that anyone else is interested. It is supposed to be about family history and anecdotes.
Something happens from time to time that worries me. It is the destruction of the past.
I fully support the righting of wrongs. For instance if a group has been discriminated against we need to make things right. As humans we have no right to treat others as 'less than'.
Wars are terrible actions. Men and women and children lose their lives unnecessarily.
In the daily course of life people die. The causes of death vary. Those people are loved and mourned by their loved ones.
There are monuments of all kinds erected to commemorate the past. They are as simple as headstones on a grave or as elaborate as Mount Rushmore with its sculpting of some American presidents into the side of a mountain. They are reminders of the past.
Historical books have been written to record the things that happened in the past. Some are personal recollections while others are written by authors who research and come to their own conclusions about the facts. Other authors have written fiction about the way things were at a certain point in history.
Artists paint, sculpt, draw, act, write and build to preserve important times in the lives of humans.
So there are a lot of ways that the memories of times past have been perpetuated.
My concern is the destruction of these memories.
The Amir Mohammed Braighi mosque was destroyed in an uprising in Bahrain in 2011. It was done in the name of religion and intended to erase the beliefs of some people.
More than 3,000 Medieval manuscripts along with hundreds of thousands of ancient pamphlets and books were destroyed in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war when the church they were in was destroyed by shelling. Other items lost were stained glass windows, paintings, and archaeological findings.
Of the original 7 Wonders of the World only the Great Pyramid of Giza still stands. Some were destroyed by natural disasters and some were destroyed by people. They are gone.
Throughout history there have been book burnings. Writings that did not fit into the political or religious (often the same) teachings were deemed evil and done away with.
Wars all though time have seen statues and buildings demolished to show dominance.
In the United States alone we have monuments depicting historical people and events. Some of the events are what we consider bravery. But even the bravery is controversial.
My brother's name is one of the 57,939 etched into the VietNam Wall. They are the names of service members who lost their lives defending our country. I am proud of my brother and all the others. I call them heroes. Some call them murderers. Controversy.
Because of the controversy and the people who are offended should the Wall be destroyed? I think not. If the Wall comes down the horrors of that war and the division caused in our country may be forgotten. If we forget we may not be more careful than to get into a similar war and mismanage it the same way.
In downtown Detroit there is a statue of a horseman in uniform. It is Count Casimir Pulaski of Poland who bravely fought to help the United States attain freedom. He was not from this country. Should his statue come down? I think not. He was insrumental to our cause. It a piece of history that should be remembered. Not everyone who fought on the side of our rebellion was a citizen of our land.
President Andrew Jackson wanted to make more land available for white settlers. Much of the land was home to Native Americans. He authorized the Tail of Tears which was a forced relocation. Under the Indian Removal Act these people were forced to walk hundreds of miles to new places to live. More than 16,000 Cherokee died. Should President Jackson be removed from the list of presidents? I think not.
Lord help us all if we forget what atrocities we committed in just this single incident. However he was a main founder of the present Democratic Party leading to greater denocracy for the common man. He also greatly reduced governmental corruption.
Mark Twain wrote stories about life along the Mississippi River Some of the terms he used are now repugnant to us. Should we ban his books? I think not. If we have no stories that demonstrate how people lived then, we cannot understand why things need to be better now.
Stephen Foster wrote songs in the vernacular of the slaves. Should we ban his songs? I think not. Many of his songs spoke to the fact that the slaves had feelings about family as did the rest of the population. Even if the vernacular is incorrect the sentiments are beautiful.
The American Civil War was perhaps the most ghastly time in our country. Families were so divided about which side was right. Members of a family might be found on either side. There were attrocities committed on both sides. Right now memorials of all kinds are at risk.
All people who owned slaves are vilified. We know slavery was wrong. There is no question about that.
The question is do we pull down all the monuments dedicated to slave owners or generals from one side or the other? I think not.
This time in our history cannot be forgotten. General Forrest with the Confederacy was responsible for terrible actions during the war. He is presented in history books as a bloodthirsty killer. General Sherman of the Union Army laid waste to the South in order to make them concede the war. Is one worse than the other?
If we forget the lessons we should have learned from the Civil War. we run the risk of it happening again. A better way might be to teach and remember what really happened. If the monuments are removed it becomes out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
I know that some of these representations are repulsive to some. Then let's remember and learn. Teach our children. Do whatever it takes to keep it from happening again.