In the early 1900’s, George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This aphorism is, arguably, one of the most important sentences ever written. It reminds us that history has an ugly habit of repeating itself.
Today, we appear hellbent on removing anything from our history that might be offensive or insulting. Our society has gone to great lengths to either ban or demonize examples of the Civil War, the Swastika, Communism, KKK and the like.
We have also banned “offensive” words and ideas, labeling them as “hate speech.” The media has made sure that every unpopular utterance faces the court of public opinion and then it forms a panel to debate the results.
We are “sanitizing” ourselves to death; literally.
These words, statues, monuments and groups represent our past; good, bad whatever. The emotions that they evoke are different for each viewer, ranging from indifferent to horrified. Whether we like it or not; It’s us.
We need to stop hiding from these “symbols” and embrace the lesson. Yes, I said embrace. We should replace the objects that were taken down and talk about them with our children.
They need to see and hear ALL of the details of the civil war, of slavery and victory; everything. If a Klan rally is nearby, they should see that too. The speakers, the hoods and the protesters.
Show the children the face of evil and what it sounds like. Let them hear the bygone words of those that supported slavery as well as those who stood opposed. Let them see and hear the voices of hate spoken by today’s members of white pride. Let them hear the sounds of wisdom and peace in the soothing words of Martin Luther King.
When we remove a monument, silence a dissenter or sanitize the details of our past, we are depriving our children of history’s crucial lessons. In addition, we are also failing to adequately prepare them for an uncertain future.
Our children must be shown the whole truth, including all of it’s ugliness. History has exacted a high price from humanity in hopes that future generations may benefit from the painful lessons learned.