Telling the complete story of America
“History has its eye on you.” You may have heard this if you watched Hamilton this past weekend on Disney+. What I find striking about this verse is how appropriate it is for what is transpiring today. Many people are watching to see what is going to happen next.
For the past few weeks, we have seen images and heard pundits discuss the merits, whether right or wrong, about removing controversial images from all across the country.
Before I go any further, please understand that I do not condone violent destruction of the statues and monuments. I believe that there is a way to do it civilly to ensure that the public discourse can focus on the rationale as to why people feel the statues or monuments should be removed. In many ways, I feel that educating people as to why needs to be further articulated and I think more people would be willing to listen if there was not the defacing or destruction.
It is important to remember that statues are commissioned and installed to honor people for who they were and what they did. For many, the removal of the specific statues has been a desire for a long time.
What I think is important to realize is that these individuals are not trying to erase the past, but rather make sure the complete history of these individuals is being told. With this in mind, I think it is important to remember how and by whom history typically is chronicled….by the “victors.” Or more specifically, by those who remain in power. Unfortunately, these individuals are rarely interested in making sure “all of the details” are kept. It is why books like Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States are so important because it shares the complete history.
History is important to remember… all parts of that history… even if we are not proud of what happened. It is why I believe we need to keep places like Manzanar in Inyo County and the Old Slave Mart in Charleston, South Carolina because they serve as reminders of our past. These historical sites are different from the statues because they tell the story of what transpired at those locations.
It is okay to be ashamed of how our ancestors acted, even knowing that we cannot change the past. However, what we can do is acknowledge that what they did was wrong…even if “everyone else was doing it.” It becomes our responsibility to right the wrongs of the past and we do that by calling them out. It is why even the efforts to remove the Confederate flag or demand that the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians change their team name need to be made. This is not being done out of political correctness, but rather, because it is the right thing to do. Tzedek, Tzedek tirdoff (Justice, justice shall you pursue.)
Just as our eyes are seeing our past, it is our children’s children, and their children’s children, who will be the one’s reading and learning about what took place during our lifetime. Will they be ashamed of their past or proud of what we have done? History has its eyes on us.