I watched the end of Independence Day the other evening. I’ve seen the movie at least twenty times and I still get all verklempt when they defeat the aliens. (Sorry if this spoils the ending for the two of you who haven’t seen it yet.) What happened?  Jerry and I saw this 1996 movie the first time in a theater where there was a packed crowd.  When the president gave his speech before taking off with the rag-tag bunch of civilian flyers, the world’s last resort, the audience cheered and applauded.  When victory was established the audience went wild and stood up and cheered.  Some actually cried. A feel-good movie that showed the best of people regardless of their color, religion or sexual orientation; where they came from didn’t matter, that they all came together, did.

People in this country are going crazy!  Nothing seems to be good anymore; everything is bad or causing emotional upheaval to someone’s psyche and the only way things will be fixed is to remove these bad things from our sight and memory.  Statues and memorials related to long deceased, slave holding individuals are under fire. Some groups want the names of schools to be changed, street signs, etc.  Did you hear about the USC mascot?  Their mascot is a white horse named Traveler which, spelled with an additional l, is the same name as Robert E. Lee’s horse.  How about the nerve of Hobby Lobby, selling fake raw cotton! How many enslaved people toiled in fake cotton fields, picking that stuff? Where is this going to end; or will it ever?   

During the buildup to World War Two, German shepherd breeders changed the name of the dogs to Alsatians because of anti-German sentiment.  In a more relatable era for some, the late 1940s and 1950s, Americans lost their livelihood, friends and their good name just because they “might” be a Communist sympathizer since they were seen talking to or at the same social function as an alleged Communist.  Can you remember the uproar caused when ISIS started destroying mosques and ancient statues in Iraq and Syria just a short time ago? It seemed that the entire world was shocked.  ISIS claimed that they were only doing it to cleanse the area of idolatry, reinstating monotheism. Some found it interesting though, that what artifacts were not destroyed, were instead looted, and sold to further their own group’s activities.

The ancient Egyptians were notorious for removing names from all their records of pharaohs that fell from favor, defacing their statues, even tearing them down.  The Romans were into this also.  Both cultures considered names very important and to be lost to the annals of history was a terrible punishment.  Even some unpopular Catholic Popes disappeared from official church records in the same manner. 

You have to be able to know the past in order to understand the present.  The world has always been inhabited by both saints and sinners; some would insist, more sinners.  We must remember that life is not lived entirely in black and white.  What saint has lived without a least a few spots of gray clouding an otherwise faultless existence?  What sinner never felt a spark of compassion toward another individual?

Should I feel guilt because my ancestors came from Germany?  Think of all the deaths caused by Germany’s lust for expansion.  But, didn’t a German also give us a printed Bible and Silent Night? The Spanish Conquistadors killed and pillaged entire civilizations across most parts of the world, in their lust for gold, land and trade routes, spreading infectious diseases along the way.  Spain also gave us Picasso, Don Quixote, foosball and sherry.  George Washington was indeed a slave owner.  He was known for his compassion and his willingness to consider the ideas and opinions of others, regardless of their station in life.  He fought to give us a nation to call our own at the cost of his personal life and health.

Maybe instead of finding fault with the past which we can’t change, we should look to ourselves to see how we will be perceived by future generations.  Will we be known as the ones who found a way of uniting a diverse population or the ones who tore us apart?  Maybe still, we will not be mentioned at all because we’ve become just useless information.

BTW:  I attended a large, annual Fall Festival last weekend.  It was held on the site of a former campground used by both the Creek and Cherokee.  Back in the seventeen hundreds it was declared a no-kill zone by both tribes, which included hunting the local fauna. It later became a white settlement, the location of the first church in the county, etc.  Later still, the property housed a grist mill and cotton gin.  In modern times, historical buildings, such as churches, log cabins, barns, a smokehouse and even a privy have been donated and moved to the area so people can see firsthand how others lived before today’s modern conveniences.  More land was acquired and through the hard work and devotion of many volunteers, the park is now a place to go for a family day of picnicking, water play and fun.

Beside the usual arts and craft booths, food trucks and demonstrations of “what life was like before electricity,” there were scheduled Civil War battle enactments.  Men on horseback, many more on foot, showed the large crowds gathered how the battles were fought; smoke bellowing from the cannon and the muskets the men carried, and bodies falling upon pre-determined spots on the ground.  We saw no protest signs nor heard cries of dissent.  We stood and watched history.



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