Forgetting Your Dark Past vs Celebrating It

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

Most Americans think recognizing the country’s flaws makes the U.S. stronger, not weaker - The Washington Post

“So we’re not going to tear down monuments and forget the people who built our great nation,” he continued. “Instead, we will learn from our past so we don’t repeat any mistakes.”
Trump Jr.’s assertion about the left is broadly untrue, attributing to a large group a belief held by a tiny participating minority. Some in the Black Lives Matter movement have pushed for the removal of monuments to Confederate leaders or former enslavers. A much, much smaller subset believes that historical figures like George Washington should be included in that latter group.
The broad majority of those targeting public monuments instead focus on people like Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who is not fairly described as a person “who built our great nation.” Quite the opposite, in fact. There’s also an important distinction to be drawn between “removing a statue of a guy” and “erasing any memory of that person’s existence.”

This is exactly it, and it what drives me so crazy about talking to people who quite to go to, “well you just want to tear it all down and forget the past.”

Consider this:

I’m of German heritage (you already know where I’m going here), so what if I decided to fly a Nazi flag outside my house? Maybe I have a bust of Adolf Hitler by my door as well. Would you drive by my home and think, “oh, that person cares about history, cares about the Jewish people, and feels it’s important to recognize the flaws of German history so we don’t repeat it”? No, you would see it as a celebration of Nazi rule and a slap in the face of…well basically everyone.

Flying the Confederate flag isn’t any different from that, nor is building giant monuments to the generals of an insurgent, treasonous faction that tried to break this country in two for…wait for it…the right to keep slavery alive and well.

We absolutely should not forget these people and events. “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it” and whatnot, of course. But there are avenues for remembering the past, even it’s darker figures, but statues and flags in public spaces is not how we do that, that’s how we celebrate. And we can choose what we celebrate, and what we choose to celebrate can change over time.