No More Reminders, Please!

A short opinon, NOT MY NEWSPAPER ARTICLE:

“Without forgetting it is quite impossible to live at all.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life

The obituary sat before me, a man’s face attached staring at me, almost mocking my discomfort. This was the man who, when I was only 18, had forced himself on me. It took me over a year to remember it and the lifetime that has followed to be unable to forget. The words written about him were so complimentary — what a good father and husband and community member he had been. Nowhere in those words did they mention that he was also dark and a rapist.

I live in the South, and the discussion over the appropriateness of leaving statues that commemorate the leaders sometimes referred to as ‘heroes’, has been going strong for several years. A change in presidency didn’t cause it — it’s the change in people’s desire for us to be united here in the United States. We’ve evolved, we’ve come to understand the rightness of people being treated as equals regardless of their race or religion or sexual orientation.

What do we do with the statues, then? Do we keep them? People argue that removing statues will tear away at our history – our beautiful history that involved bloodshed, beatings, and much more ugliness. Other people argue that allowing these memories of a time when slavery was allowed is not what we should have out in public places to be admired. Knowing our history is important because it allows us to see the mistakes and successes that have occurred, and there are wonderful books (if you’ll take the time to read) available to tell us much more than a statue proudly displayed can ever convey. There are museums, like The Holocaust Museum, that give history a place to live within walls that confine the ugliness and hurt that dwells in it. History, after all, will never be erased.

Knowing our history is important because it allows us to see the mistakes and successes that have occurred, and there are wonderful books (if you’ll take the time to read) available to tell us much more than a statue proudly displayed can ever convey. There are museums, like The Holocaust Museum, that give history a place to live within walls that confine the ugliness and hurt that dwells in it. History, after all, will never be erased.

Epictetus, a Greek philosopher born a slave said, “A city is not adorned by external things, but by the virtue of those who dwell in it.” What are our cities, then, if our focus is on the external things, if we claim that only by maintaining memorials of once wicked people are we sharing our stories? Let’s look at the virtue of those who are dwelling within the boundaries of our cities and states and country and know that THIS is what speaks for us, for how we want to be known today. Be virtuous.

You might like to erect a statue, a monument to proclaim what a wonderful person a man was, and someone else might have suffered at his hands and find looking upon his face quite painful. Is your joy more important than the grief you are causing others? Out of respect for his family, I remained silent reading the words of favor for my rapist, but if there were a statue built to honor his greatness, I would have to speak because though you have a right to celebrate the good you saw in him, it would bring me so much pain. In our evolved society, not causing someone else pain seems a loftier goal than bringing ourselves pleasure.

Out of respect for his family, I remained silent reading the words of favor for the rapist, but if there were a statue built to honor his greatness, I would have to speak because though you have a right to celebrate the good you saw it would bring me so much pain.

I vote to put statues in a place where they can represent history together and tell the story of the pain that was part of the journey and honor the people who came out on the other side.

 

6 Responses to “No More Reminders, Please!”

  1. jan shapard says:

    Thank you, Susan, for sharing, and drawing a sincere conclusion on addressing historical occurances. Beautifully stated!

    • suezquesteen says:

      Thank you so much for receiving the words. It is difficult to share something so painful, but if people don’t share their pain, others can’t appreciate the other perspective.

  2. Karen Jones says:

    After much thought, I sincerely agree with you. History is often not pretty and often very painful…Susan, I am so sorry for what has happened to you. I support and agree with you.Bless you and it sounds as though you have not let a monster destroy you. Let us pray the same can be said for our country.

    • suezquesteen says:

      Karen — I truly appreciate that you gave it some thought. It’s a tough subject and dear to the hearts of southerners. If each of us can see the monster another has battled, imagine what a safer and saner nation we might have.

  3. Jean Anne Rogers says:

    Thank you for sharing your pain and making the connection to someone else’s pain. I’m SO sorry for what happened to you and so thankful for your heart, wisdom and words you share with others.

    • suezquesteen says:

      Thank you for appreciating the painfulness — I do believe there are so many connections we can make between life experiences.

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