Remembering v. Honoring
I’m a little surprised by the wide spread, apparent confusion between remembering history and honoring that history. How are we getting those things confused? I don’t want us to forget the dark parts of history because they are such fertile grounds for learning. And to pretend they didn’t happen dishonors those who were the victims of the darkness. That said, I also do not want to honor the shameful or evil parts of our past by suggesting there is something noble about those who gathered fame and renown for their part in the evil.
I’m not sure why those concepts are now being so closely conflated unless it is to hide a more nefarious perspective that the darkness should be not only remembered but celebrated. There are no statues in public squares of Timothy McVeigh or the gunmen from Orlando or Newtown, not because we want to pretend that their despicable terrorist acts didn’t happen, but because we do not wish to honor them or their role in them.
The truth is that we must stomach our own hypocrisy whenever we immortalize a man or woman as we are all flawed and you cannot place a person on a permanent pedestal without honoring the good and bad of that person. Perhaps we should question the prudence of immortalizing mortals in the first place. But it is fundamental to progress in a society that we can learn from our past and reject as evil what was once considered honorable.
When liberated Iraqis toppled Saddam Hussein’s statue or the German people tore down the wall that had divided them for 40 years, were they attempting to rewrite their past or were they expressing a higher ideal to refuse to elevate their demons to a place of honor? I remember my mistakes. Sometimes I make a record of them so I never forget. But I don’t build a shrine in celebration of them or infer to the people whom I’ve hurt that I am proud of those moments.
I find myself forced to question the motives of anyone suggesting that the concepts of remembering and honoring are the same, when they are so patently different. If you find yourself deeply troubled by the removal of icons that exist to honor our past evil, I implore you to examine yourself and consider whether that which troubles you is a darkness you ought not honor in yourself.