I started out with a few comments on facebook today. Really I should probably have known better. But for better or worse what follows is what started out as a comment to someone who responded to a post I put up. My answer started to grow legs so I thought I might as well make it into a blog post altogether. Here it is.
I feel your angst and I am not on one side or the other because I think if we are to survive what is going on globally and have our humanity survive we need to try to keep our balance.
As an outsider looking at the history of the American Civil War and from doing my family tree I can see I have family who fought for both sides.
I will just take you up on your words because words are important = they bring war or they bring peace.
You said the confederacy fought to own black people. Yes they did but was it not more than that?
Were they not fighting to keep their way of life also? That would be the reaction of every one of us suddenly faced with losing everything.
I repeat here now…I am not defending the confederacy – I am trying to understand the minds and hearts of people in those times, just as I try today to see all sides of stories and events.
Statues don’t just celebrate people, or one aspect of a person’s life. They are markers of time and history just as buildings are. As we go through the next 10 years should we trawl the world and take down every building that housed a person, or establishment who oppressed any particular section of society? If so, better start with the White House in Washington, the Kremlin in Moscow, the British Parliament, Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Palace of Versailles…do I need to go on?
We criticise the Nazi and other regimes through history for burning books. Now we are deleting George Orwell? We are allowing Facebook and YouTube to censor not only hate speech (which I agree with) but we are allowing censorship of opinions that disagree with government opinion. That may be fine if you are in government, but not so fine if you disagree with them or their actions. Who is in power today may not be tomorrow.
Did you know (and it’s a bit spooky that it’s within a few years of being 1000 year ago) that prior to the year 1070 AD the Caliph’s Library in Cairo contained between 1.6 and 2 million priceless books covering all the sciences? Did you know that wherever the Arabs found old manuscripts and books from around the world they copied them. Many of the books they copied no longer exists outside of the Arab world because of wars and book burnings. And today we travel around the globe looking for ancient secret knowledge! Funny that!
Anyway in 1070 there was what is called the Great Crisis in Egypt – economic disaster. History tells us that the foreigners and slaves (note here slaves in the Arab world were more than a bit different to slaves in America – that’s another story) in 1070 raided the library – one account says 25 camels carried away books and priceless manuscripts to light fires in the Turkish officers’ houses. The bindings of the books were used to make shoes for the feet of their slaves. Just for the sake of it much of the books were taken outside and covered over with dirt – they became known as the book hills.
Should every statue in every museum of a dictator, king or queen be taken out and smashed to pieces? Yes, according to some e.g. the Taliban. Where do you stop? You can’t stop a mob so that is one reason I am calling for calm and reason. Right now you are pointing to slave owners, well, following that line of thought next should come Capitol Hill and all other US government monuments because they all sanctioned the demise of the Native American Indians – you know all about that.
Then, let’s turn to the Australians and their historic treatment of the Aboriginals – lets not forget the treatment of the Irish prisoners transported there, not all dreadful criminals, no just poor starving people stealing chickens or eggs – oh and the Irish children sold off by the Irish Government. That would bring us to the need to burn down Dublin Castle, The Four Courts, National Library and Dail Eireann.
You see – I could really go on forever and what are we left with then? Let’s not forget the current buildings that house current injustice systems, beliefs and make laws that oppress – or fail to repeal old laws to bring equality of ALL. That would be every police station, court house (look all the miscarriages of justice, the FBI building (their recent debacle under Alex whatever his name is of trying to hide the sex trafficker of minors – Jeffrey Epstein. Well, God alone knows whose house should burn for that – yet, the offices of the CIA, every government building right across the United States of America and Europe. Let’s face it. We were not perfect then and we are not perfect now.
When we finish with all those – remember the French Revolution? Well, that’s when the real fun begins. That is when we start looking at each other, our family members who disagree with us, our neighbors who don’t conform to the “new norm”. O.k gonna cut right to the chase here and give two quotes “whoever is without sin, let him cast the first stone” and “if they come for me in the morning, they will come for you in the evening“. Time to wake up, recognise, acknowledge and ALLOW everyone else to have their own opinion and their own life choices. Stop trying to erase a history you don’t want to acknowledge – your ancestors lived those days – don’t negate their existence because without them you would not be here today.
If you think you (reader) are without sin then here are a few conscious prickers – we are guilty of injustice, cowardice and abuse as much by inaction as action:
- have you ever passed a person in the street with his hand out asking for help (money) and not helped?
- have you passed an injured animal or seen an animal being mistreated and done nothing?
- have you ever suspected someone was being beaten or abused and stayed silent?
- what have you done (forget about facebook and you clicking finger) anything concrete in the interests of promoting help or equality for lesbian, gay, transexual, transgender, autistic, mentally challenged, emigrant, substance abuse victims, sexual abuse victims, evicted families who can’t pay the rent or mortgage, kids expelled from school because the “don’t fit in”, GMO production, abuse in the production of poultry, fish, meat (remember ultimately we eat this, so technically these are crimes against humanity also).
- Are you planting trees, sorting your rubbish properly, asking where your rubbish goes, asking where your food is coming from?
- Have you ever written to or contacted your nearest local government rep to complain about an inequality or mistreatment of anyone?
I’m stopping there. My point is we are ALL still making mistakes today, we are ALL guilty of not taking the right action. And it remains to be see where current riots about distant and recent past events are going to end. There is positive, healing and correct action. There is destructive and damaging action and who knows how history will view that?
Let’s all just take a deep breath before advocating for the next piece of destruction and push other people’s buttons – other people who may not be able to ever stop the road they are now being pointed towards by our approval on social media or otherwise. Words are the most powerful weapon on earth.
End of Lecture.