With age, as our cultural mythology asserts, comes wisdom. I think that’s a fairly true statement, because as a person sheds the constant need for novelty and social status, they tend to find importance in things that actually have importance. They also tend to have learned a few things in life that still serves them well.
Despite my every effort to the contrary, I have learned a few things. During my years in the Corporations, I learned to speak quietly. You see, when you speak quietly, everyone will lean in to hear what you are saying. When you yell, people will only hear that you are angry. Your message, valid or not, will be lost. Well, actually, your message is, “I’m really fucking angry!”, and that message comes through loud and clear.
Mobs do not speak quietly. They have neither nuance nor context. They are just blindingly angry. This sort of group anger can lead to stupid behavior… from waving Nazi flags to vandalizing public monuments. Oddly, both groups have a similar goal…. They want to rewrite or erase certain parts of history.
Not that history doesn’t sometimes need to be rewritten or erased. For instance, Vikings did not have horns on their helmets. We need to erase that idea from our historical database. The fact that we once thought this to be true should be studied in academic circles (because it is damned interesting), but Vikings should no longer be depicted in the popular media as big murderous guys with horns on their helmets. Now, fat opera singers do indeed have horns on their helmets, but that’s a completely different story.
We old folks get nervous when we hear about anyone who wants to rewrite or erase a particular historical fact. We get nervous because we’ve lived through some of that history, and we know that it doesn’t matter which part of history is rewritten or erased, but who gets to do the rewriting and erasing. The first job of any tyrant is to rewrite and erase history. The job of rewriting or erasing history should be done with quietude and a tremendous amount of study and thought. It shouldn’t be left in the hands of angry self-righteous mobs.
Imagine, if you will, the power of rewriting or erasing history being handed to Donald Trump. I rest my case.
Of course, I’m taking the long way around the barn here. I’ve been giving some thought to the rush to erase Civil War monuments from Southern culture. I mean, I get it, but I think that it’s too soon. When my father was a little boy in Texas, he knew and talked with living Confederate Civil War veterans. I am only one generation removed from that time. It all seems like it was a long time ago, but it wasn’t. It is still fresh in the minds of Southerners, and some of them are just a bit miffed at what they see as outsiders coming in to condemn and erase their history. They are especially miffed that outsiders waving flags of hatred and racism have co-opted Southern history as somehow their own. I’m from Texas, so I’m compelled to be polite about this, but if I weren’t Texan, I’d say something like “Fuck you! Go back under whatever rock you climbed out from under.”
And then there are the folks who, in response to the White Supremacists and Nazis, have taken it upon themselves to destroy a particular part of history. Y’all should go home too. The history of America has been steeped in racism, slavery, corruption, inequality, misogyny, violence, and xenophobia for over four-hundred years. Knocking down a couple of statues my give you a little chubby, but it will make no difference whatsoever. History is what it is… not what you want it to be.
Give the South some time to live with its past, and give them the chance to make their own decision about how to present that past. It’s their culture, not yours.
Have a day.
primum vivere, deinde philosophari.