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 passages 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 “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 written 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.