We should learn from history, not just ignore it or try to change it

April 22, 2019

There was an interesting quote on a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.”  (Golda Mier)

I recalled that quote while watching the news on Easter Sunday. One of the news stories was about the so-called “Slave Bible”. The story concerned the efforts that slave owners made to change the Bible that they gave to slaves by removing any preacher-pointingpassages that they felt might ferment rebellion. The result was a Bible that was about ¼ the size of the actual Bible and one in which slaves were advised to mind their masters in Peter 2:18 “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.”

That story reminded me also of modern attempts, mainly in the South and somewhat successful, to remove the racist history of the South from school history books. Also conveniently erased from many school history books is the very poor treatment of Native Americans over time, including most references to the enforced marches to arrogant“reservations” that took place. These are ugly scars on our history, and some would just remove them from our school history books, in an attempt to protect our children from the ugliness of the truth.

Instead of just erasing or covering up those times in our nation’s history, we should be using them as teaching moments with our children to help them understand the tremendous negative impact of racism and bigotry and to make sure that history does not repeat itself. There are many examples through our history as a nation where hatred or fear drove the country’s leaders to make decisions that upon reflection were wrong. The internment of all citizens of Japanese descent during World War II was another example. The McCarthy “witch hunt hearings” to try to ferret out Communists in our midst was another.

The Civil Rights Movement in modern times provided many vivid examples that many people would like to sweep under the carpet and have us forget – but they happened and many were broadcast right into our homes on the nightly news. Today we have the “border crisis” and the plight of asylum seekers and   would-be immigrants. The pain and suffering of families torn apart at the border cannot and should not be ignored or predjuiceswritten out of our history. We also have intolerance and bigotry against those whom we somehow judge to be “different” – the LBGTQ community, those who are mentally or physically challenged, or those look or speak differently. We cannot write them our of our lives and our history.

We judge nations and the people in them using many standards, not the least of which is how they deal with inconvenient truths. Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia are two examples of nations with dark pasts that many in them would just as soon forget or re-write. There are many example today in the Middle East, South America and elsewhere of nations living through eras that someday they will wish didn’t happen.

But, it did happen. It is happening. There is/was suffering and death. We cannot just ignore it by writing it out of our history books or refusing to teach about it in our schools. Rather, we should use these unfortunate historical events as teaching examples of what not to do as a people with our children. We cannot erase the events of history. Much of the history of our country might not fit the present, but that does not change it. Some we may even have trouble explaining (or rationalizing), but we must try and we must point out what went wrong in order to teach what is right.

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History lived through has more meaning…

January 15, 2018

I started thinking this morning that Martin Luther King Day for me and others that lived through the events that are being honored today somehow has more meaning than it MLK image over DOwntown MIlforddoes for those who have just read about it or watched old new footage of the events leading up to his death. Thus who were alive in those days remember the context of the events that we now memorialize. We remember the nightly news casts showing black protest marchers being attacked by police dogs and being dragged away by police officers.  We remember the speeches and the great gathering on the Washington Mall. The memory of Martin Luther King being shot  at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968,  also provokes memories of where we were and what we were doing five years earlier on the day that President Kennedy was shot, Friday, November 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m. in Dallas, Texas. It also will be forever linked in our minds to the fatal shooting of Bobby Kennedy just two months later. Those were tumultuous times.

I’m not trying to say that those who weren’t there can’t have an appreciation of the events, the people involved and the consequences that followed; just that they will forever see it from a different perspective from those who lived through those times. It is less abstract and more personally meaningful, if one can recall how it affected us at the time.

History is also full of great breakthroughs and inventions that can leave one wondering how we ever got by before those things were available to us. Some diseases that were a fact of life back then are almost unheard of today and medical science has advanced so much that survival of what were life ending events is now possible. Even as we take these things for granted today, it is possible to look back and wonder about “the good old days.” How did we make it through those days?

Our nest big parade of the year in Milford is the Memorial Day parade in May. I have watched from my spot in the Viet Nam Veterans group of marchers as the ranks of WWII and the Korean War thinned over time. I have few, if any, personal memories of those days, although I was born during WWII. I do recall Harry Thurman and Dwight Eisenhower as the first two Presidents, of whom I was aware. I remember the glow of the short-lived Camelot Presidency of Kennedy and the turmoil of the Viet Nam War years. Those years provided the backdrop for the emergence of the civil rights movement and the leadership role that Dr. King played in that movement. They led up to my own time serving in Viet Nam at the turn of that decade.

So, Martin Luther King Day for me brings back a torrent of memories and images and emotions from my past. The day does not pass quietly by, unnoticed. It is not something abstract to me; it is something that I lived through and that has more meaning. I will go MLK Day parade in Mlfordto the MLK Day parade in Milford later today. It will be cold, as it always is this time of year. As I march, I will be reliving the memories of not just a day; but, of an era in our history at once brilliant in the ideals that it sparked and sad in the aftermath of the attempts to douse those hopes and dreams. Yes MLK’s dream is alive, but so too are the dreams of JFK and RFK and the many others of that era who envisioned a brighter future in America for all of its citizens.

Maybe I’ll see you there.


The Milford Historical Society Endowment Fund

September 26, 2015

The Milford Historical Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1973 with the mission of collecting, preserving and sharing the history of the Milford, Michigan area. We are an educational organization with theMHS Endowment Fund Logo Milford Historical Museum in Milford, Michigan serving as the primary vehicle for our efforts to educate the local community about the history of the area. An important part of or mission involves engaging local high school students to share the area history. Students volunteer at the Museum as docents (guides) over their final two years in high school. Those who complete 100 hours of service as docents by the time that they graduate are awarded $1,000 scholarships. We usually award 2 or 3 scholarships each year.

The Milford Historical Society has created a dedicated Endowment Fund which will be invested to provide income for these student scholarships, as well as supporting the operation of the Milford Historical Museum with any earnings beyond that needed for the scholarships. At the current rate of return on conservative investments, we estimate that a fund of $60,000 should be sufficient to provide for the annual scholarships. We have also provided for the naming of each scholarship on behalf of the donors, should any single donation be made at a level of $30,000 or more. Scholarships may be named for individuals or for corporations. Scholarships are awarded at the end of each school year to the graduating seniors who have completed their service requirements at the Museum.

Milfortd Historical MuseumThe Milford Historical Museum is located at 124 E. Commerce Street in Milford, Michigan 48381, and is open from 1 – 4 PM on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The museum displays historic  memorabilia that has  been donated by area residents as well as featuring a second floor that is furnished and decorated just as a turn of the century hoe might have been in Milford in the late 1800’s. In addition, the museum staff provides history research for those doing genealogical work or who want to know the background of the Milford home. The Milford Historical Society maintains at the Museum an archive of every issue of the Milford Times news weekly since its beginning in 1871 and also has an extensive photo collection of historic photos and sells reproduction prints of selected photos.

We have established a crowd funding site for this endowment fund on the Crowdrise.com web site – https://www.crowdrise.com/themilfordhistorical

Please consider supporting our mission.