OPINION – Erasing History

    Following the killing of George Floyd, the internet was ablaze with what can only be likened to a war … a North American war between those that felt they had been victimized and those who were charged with upholding the law. In the end, the victims were in fact just that—specifically George Floyd and others that met the same fate as he did—and those upholding the law were shown to have deep incisions in what was thought to be the very fabric of a just entity of power and protection.

    Yet despite being justified in their anger and their plight, still, the victims’ collective plight diverged in many different directions—as it so often does—in that old fork on the proverbial road, diluting the original intent and message; that message heard loud and clear the world over: SOMETHING WENT VERY WRONG WITHIN THE SYSTEM (and unfortunately on both sides of the spectrum).

    Finding growth in pain

    It isn’t painless to grow and change from where we’ve been. That’s why they call them growing pains.

    It was Friedrich Nietzsche that once said: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” The quote has been repeated many times over since it’s unearthing by the wise philosopher and great thinker, but I often wonder if the true meaning of this quote is as globally understood these days as it was originally intended.

    It is in Oświęcim, Poland that the Auschwitz concentration camp sits, seemingly forgotten and ominous, if one were to look upon it as it stands today. It was the location of one of the vastest concentration camps operated by Nazi Germany during World War II. It is said that it had over 35 (perhaps even 40) crematoriums and as many as 1.1 of the 1.3 million prisoners there were killed during the Holocaust.

    The location is owned by the state treasury now and millions of tourists have visited the site and still do, being captivated by its history. All that transpired behind those many walls and chambers lives on in the memories of those that were there, and of course in the many documents and texts detailing what happened there during the world’s second Great War.

    But imagine if you will, if all the great books of the era, like Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl and others like it were to have been discarded of, and if the camp itself would have been torn down soon after the war, like many would have wanted. We wonder if these things came to pass, would the plight of the Jews have been regarded and thoroughly understood; at least as it is understood today?

    A global understanding

    Myself, I went to Catholic school as a youth and even there, we learned about the Holocaust. We learned to have compassion for those that suffered at the hands of Nazi Germany and its leaders. And we also learned that some of our own ancestors were held captive in the many concentration camps during that terrible and trying time.

    And what did we think of these poor souls … these men, women, and children? We conjured up images of heroes, trying to stay alive even in captivity; we held the Jews that survived in high regard; we looked upon them as those that had suffered a terrible ordeal and had overcome. And they did, they overcame; they moved on from something that was once thought to have been an unimaginable experience.

    The term: “Lest we forget,” is a term used for the memorial of war. It was pulled from a poem entitled: Recessional by Rudyard Kipling and it more than encompasses the feeling that we must remember what we’ve been through, as it will always remind us of what we’re capable of overcoming.

    The Death of George Floyd

    The death of George Floyd shocked the world when it happened on May 25th, 2020. In essence, it seemingly turned back the proverbial clock back thirty years or more, and for the black community, that was the greatest shock of all. For that particular community, it signified that all they had worked for in the decades since the Rodney King fiasco in California, and the turmoil the black community suffered in the sixties and earlier in the US was for naught. In one fell swoop, the community was made to feel like once again, they were victimized and for the sole reason that they were black.

    More than anything we understand that concept, and it is in that concept that we understand their need for action, and we band together with them to seek that justice and that equality that they felt they lost on that fateful day.

    The Riots

    What ensued were a fusillade of riots—some needless riots—where in cities all over North America the energy was ill-placed because of this need for change; where the need for change, or rather the call for a change was blended in with this want to violate the overall machine as opposed to nipping the real problem in the bud—essentially attacking the whole system as opposed to the single incident and those responsible.  

    Of course there are many sentiments of change that have come from that first shot fired, that first drawing of blood, just as there were many similar sentiments that followed other huge disasters like the falling of the two towers in New York City on September 11th, 2001; the reason being: It is at such times that the shift in the paradigm, or even the change in the equilibrium is felt most … in moments of utter despair and betrayal; despite the fact that it’s happening all around us and all the time progressively.

    And now in the end, a justified fight for Black Lives Matter and that aforementioned call for change became a meager attempt at getting an actual change, and it thus became more of a retaliation instead … one perhaps aimed at the wrong adversary.  

    Erasing History

    Which brings us here ….

    The things that our ancestors lived through—both good and terrible—have shaped who we are today. Strength, power, the overcoming of obstacles … and yes, even the controversial moments of our history as a people cannot be simply erased. It is in all of these aforementioned things that we will remember how we got to where we are today. To attack history, I feel is a misplacement of energy now. We can only change our future, or rather the direction in which our future is going, by changing our present and learning from where we’ve been before.

    Columbus … General Stonewall Jackson … Jefferson Davis … and the list goes on. It is no doubt, both to this writer and most of you out there that the actions these men are responsible for taking in the past are wrong by today’s standards—unequivocally so—but erasing their existence is like trying to ignore the ice age.

    All those that have written harsh and racist words in literature, or rather depicted such ideals on screen in the past to be common … it’s obvious today after all we’ve learned, that those methods, manners of speaking and political views were all archaic and now deemed rightfully inappropriate. Yet to forget that these actions existed in the first place is a crucial mistake.

    As time passes, those memories will be diluted until they are forgotten by future generations. The tearing down of monuments and statues can only further blur the lines of fact and reality for future generations (an effect that social media and fake news has already brought to the doorstep of our youth), thus dissolving a history that needs to be remembered forever.

    The black community in North America suffered greatly. The proof, the footage, it’s all there. It is in these instances that today’s society can be reminded of what this community overcame, what they had to do to fight for equality in this world, and still fight for. As far as I’m concerned, by keeping history intact, their future generations will always remember what their ancestors went through, and so will the rest of society, which is possibly more important.

    Don’t change the past. Change your present and your future and always remember, friends … always remember what persecuted you, what prevented you from achieving your goals … even if it was simply peace and freedom, because once you attain that freedom, you can always look back proudly.

    It’s through remembrance that we can best move forward and never repeat what has already come to pass. And if it ever does, like the case of George Floyd … we’ll all be ready for it together.

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