“History is not there for you to like or dislike. It is there for you to learn from it. And if it offends you, even better. Because then you are less likely to repeat it. It’s not yours to erase or destroy.”
That was the caption under a picture of native American children that arrived via my email. There was nothing to identify its original context, but it made an impression on me because it expresses my feelings so aptly.
I am appalled at the current trend to ignore, if not try to downright erase or destroy, history that doesn’t suit us. I cringe when I hear people say certain history shouldn’t be taught in our schools because it makes students uncomfortable. I cringe when I hear people say the holocaust didn’t happen. I cringe when I see rabble-rousers like Alex Jones ranting that the Sandy Hook school shooting was all made up. I cringe when I hear someone describe the rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6 as patriots.
I cringe when yet another building or street or whatever is stripped of its name because the person it was named after owned slaves. That person also accomplished commendable and worthwhile things that benefited society. And yes, slavery was terrible, and it should not have happened, but it did, and it should be one of the lessons we learn from, and not something we try to ignore.
Looking back through history, there are many shameful events — from wars to assassinations to genocides to plagues, and on and on. I’m sure there are many that have been forgotten. But, right now, we seem to be living in a culture in which we want to shape current history to suit ourselves.
Alternative facts are an acceptable substitute for reality, and we just ignore what we don’t like, as if it never happened. There are, indeed, multiple facts, and it’s possible to choose among them. But the very definition of fact, something that is known or proven to be true, makes alternative facts impossible. An alternative fact is a falsehood, or a lie.
What we need to remember is, “History is not there for you to like or dislike … it’s not yours to erase or destroy.” It is ours to learn from and, if we do, we can live in a better world.