The Cost of Forgetting: Pretty Damn Pricey
George Santayana is credited with the quote: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Of course this is true. If it were not so, the first war would have been the last. Nor would there be facisim. Or Nazi’s. Who would repeat such atrocities if they had remembrance of the original sins?
When I look at the faces of those who marched in Charlottesville, under the swatiskas, the Confederate flags and other banners of hatred and indifference, I see young men. They are at an age that should be filled with promise, not debilitating anger. I must question why.
What have these youth been taught about the traditions of tragedy they seem so eager to repeat? Why here, in America, in the 21st Century, would they seek to re-enact the worst moments of history?
What aspects of slavery, war, and genocide don’t they understand? Why don’t they grasp the gravity of the ideologies they seem to have adapted? Who are their heroes and why?
Who are their teachers, their mentors, their leaders? How and where did they grow up?What kind of environment foments this level of fear, denial and hatred? What is it about equality and diversity that so threatens their sensibilities that they feel they must take up arms and march through the streets against those ideals?
These are questions we need to ask ourselves at this moment in history, not as a political exercise, but as a moral imperative. This is the time for America to rise up and slay the beast, before it tears us apart. It’s not the time to be polite, silent, or disengaged for the sake of one’s own peace of mind. Not now. Now is the time to educate.
How do you teach those who are too young to remember, the truth about such things?
Can we load them all up on buses, drive them to the nearest airport and send them off to the concentration camps for a first hand look at the relics of Hitler’s final solution? Make them sit among the piles of shoes, glasses, and other personal effects from those who died there to make it more real? Can we lock them behind the gates, under the watchful eyes of the armed guard towers and surrounded by electrified barbed wire to recreate the horror for them? Fire up the furnaces so they feel the heat, force them to breath the ashes of their loved ones? Take everything they own, starve them and make them work until they drop into shallow graves onto piles of rotting corpses, the remains of their family, friends and relatives?
Can we steal them from their homeland, wrap them in chains and load them up on boats, in fetid sweltering quarters, with insufficient water, rotten food and no sanitation, and ship them off to foreign lands? Can we sell them to the highest bidder, enslave them and their offspring for 245 years and force them to work in unforgiving conditions for the benefit of those who bought them? Can we make them non-persons? Can we discriminate against them when they finally find themselves free men? Can we make them sit at the back of the bus, bar them from eating in our establishments or using our facilities, or keep them from attending certain schools or voting in our elections? When they protest, can we spray them with fire hoses and sic the dogs on them, and beat them with clubs? Can we hurl vial insults at their little girls on their first day of school? Can we subject them to these indignities, and more, in the hopes that they might understand the struggles of those who have endured them previously?
These are, of course, rhetorical questions. But why should we need to even consider them? All of the atrocities mentioned above have been documented, adjudicated, proven. Shared in first hand accounts. Attested to by eye witnesses. Captured on film and in written record. We know these truths to be self evident. Denial of these truths doesn’t make them less true.
The reality of hatred is out there. Anyone can learn about it and be taught to understand it’s consequences. Anyone can teach truth to their progeny. Everyone should. Our youth cannot be allowed to forget the end results of hatred, bigotry and racism. America at this moment needs to be reminded. Because the cost of forgetting is not something we want to consider.
©2017 by Ilona Elliott