More or less some random thoughts here, maybe the start of some interesting dialog…
First, what is “history?” As with almost everything else, it doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. We are hearing every day now that the destruction of certain statues and monuments is somehow destroying history. I’ve not heard any really compelling evidence to support that idea, so I doubt it. I wonder if most of the people doing the screaming about it have any real idea who the people represented by the statues honestly were, what they actually did, or if those screaming both for and against the destruction even care about such things.
Not that I think it is good or necessary to take down statues, especially if they were paid for without theft from anyone. But these statues and monuments only REPRESENT bits and pieces of actual history, and not always accurately. The meat of history is what people remember, value, and pass on to their children.
Some people study history. Both world and American history were my minors in college. Those who wish to can study the “official” kind taught in school, or dig into personal documentation of those who lived through it, usually the second follows the first. Archaeology is a special kind of investigation into the history of people who, all too often, were not able to leave many – or even any – words to describe their experiences.
How many people today actually know about, understand or even care about the history of the ancient world? What do you remember about the waves of conquest and mixing of cultures and people in the days of the Vikings who overran the British islands, or any of the other tribes and people who clashed, mixed and formed new societies? Does anyone still fight about any of that any more? Of course there continue to be fights and arguments among those folks, but do they really understand the truth of the history they dispute? I doubt it. The myths and old grudges there serve those who wish to fight, and to control those who fight.
And isn’t that a great part of the ongoing and renewed argument over race and the past here in America? No person – of ANY race – alive today in the US was ever a chattel slave. No person – of any race – alive in the US today ever “owned” a chattel slave. So what people are fighting about is mostly old grudges and twisted history. Every person has a natural right to control their own life and property, and defend themselves from aggression by any other person, but it is disingenuous in the extreme to believe that one can punish people now for assaults and injury perpetrated by others, especially those long dead.
Not to mention the bare faced fact that every person, productive or dependent, is now a virtual slave to the non-voluntary government. How in the world is that so easy for most people to ignore? Is not this whole “race” fight thing a little too convenient for those who absolutely desire to continue in control of everyone, and everything? I think so.
Now, think about the history you were taught in “school.” All about kings, military figures, the famous movers and shakers, battles, wars, and government actions of all sorts. Not a whole lot about the ordinary people who built homes, set up shoe shine stands, farmed their 40 acres with a mule, or a lot of other things. Oh, they get mentioned from time to time, but I can’t remember any of that being presented as important “history.”
What far, far too many people ignore, or are woefully ignorant of, is the vast body of verbal history that is so seldom recorded in more permanent ways. And as our society fractures, families disintegrate or never form at all, the verbal history of individuals and families, tribes and communities is being lost completely.
Did you have the privilege as a child of being with grandparents, aunts and uncles, old family friends? Did you get to listen to them tell the stories from their own lives, the struggles they had growing up, the tall tales and the sad memories of those they lost and buried? Did you get to work with any such relatives, learning their skills and finding later that they helped to form your character, morals and standards?
That, my friends, is true history. History you can use to form a better life while you live through the trials and tribulations, joys and celebrations of your own history. And then you will have a valued history to teach to your children. Something of far, far more value than any “civil war” or race baiting nonsense, or the names and dates of the various wars of aggression fought through the last century or two.
No statue or monument can convey real history. They are being used now as one more excuse to keep people clawing at each other’s throats – and prevent them from either forming or passing on any true, personal history.
And that’s a crime that will haunt all of our histories for a long time.
What’s your take?