By T. F. Williams
I have been watching everything going on with the protests and intermingled riots/violence; I am asking what are the changes the protestors want? I haven’t heard a clear call for any change which I could accept save for a way to change police training to do a better job of de-escalation of the situations to which they respond. Nothing else passes the logic test, though I understand logic isn’t the basis for their issues. The basis for their issues is emotion, which they have been ill trained to parse as either legitimate or illegitimate. And yes, right or wrong. All emotions are not valid for a given situation.
For example, if a friend and you are having a private conversation about real issues in each of your lives (as friends are wont to do) and your friend points out an issue you are having and how a decision you made either led to or exacerbated the issue and you become offended your friend would even point that out. Well, the problem is yours and your emotional response. Inherent in the friend relationship and your participation in the conversation is the premise truth will be told to each participant. If that truth is causing you pain then you need to have a very straight conversation with the individual in the mirror. Your emotional, vice intellectual response, is not a legitimate response as a friend will tell you when you are making bad choices and decisions for your own benefit. It is called maturing.
We don’t let people do that anymore; we want to wrap them in a protective bubble so their feelings don’t get hurt. We are reaping the results of those wrong headed decisions with the rise of the “cancel culture”. Art, no matter the medium, is an expression of speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution and is supposed to make you feel something and explore those feelings in a way which leads to personal growth. When you want to destroy or hide a work of art, as Christians did with “Piss Christ” or those removing statues now, you are displaying your lack of emotional control and maturity.
Those statues you are tearing down are of fallible human beings who accomplished some great and not so great things. Some even committed what we today would term as atrocities or attempted genocide; in their time they were at the forefront of world events and political discussions. We are judging people from another time, another culture, and a whole different paradigm of thought by our mores, ethics and paradigm of thought. We are not contextualizing their deeds. Slavery, as an example, is abhorrent today but is still being practiced in parts of the world. You are concerned about a statue of a dead person as opposed to the actual deeds of those presently living?
Why not take the chance to stand in front of that statue and use it as a teaching tool of the history of the time and the lessons we learned from the decisions, good and bad, and how they shaped the time in which we now live. Why not tell of the poor decisions the person portrayed by the statue made and the results of those decisions? Why not put them in the context of the time which they lived and how their thought reflected the culture in which they lived? Why not explain how their lives reflected the competing ideologies present in the world they lived and juxtapose them with our world now? You know, as mature adults would do.
We fault the colonists for not standing up to slave owners or those who practiced indentured servitude; yet, we do not recognize the courage and bravery it took for them to stand up to the strongest empire of their day to demand and fight for their independence and freedom. Yes, it was hypocritical to allow slavery to exist; but, what would you and I have done in their place when trying to ensure a strong enough force to gain independence? What would we have compromised to ensure we could fight and have a chance to win?
I would hope I could have stood against slavery, as many abolitionists at the time did, but I am honest enough to say I don’t know that I would. I would have fought for independence no matter what, but would I be of strong enough moral fiber to risk not having the force necessary to carry the day against the British to fight slavery? I know where I have compromised in the past and made poor decisions; so, I have to acknowledge I wouldn’t know until placed in that situation. It is easy to stand in moral superiority after the passage of over 200 years while enjoying the liberty to express those ideas with the rights won by those we are judging.
Now, before I start this next part I will state for the record I am of Native American descent. Native Americans at the time the first Europeans set foot on this continent were nomadic, raided fellow Native American tribes, took slaves in those raids, counted coup, scalped their victims, took women to be their wives as part of the raids. They were not these “noble savages” so often written of in novels. They arrived here by crossing the land bridge between what is today Russia and Alaska.
There is no ethnic group better than another, all have committed what we today would consider atrocities. I am not here to pass judgement on any of them, just making a point we cannot start coming up with a “this atrocity is better than that atrocity so you are the worse ethnic group and must carry the blame for those previous generations” type of mindset. I refuse to take part in that type of discussion. I am not responsible for anything I personally did not do. I will not apologize for the misdeeds of previous generations. I will not pay for the misdeeds of previous generations.