Blog 2075 – 05.31.2021
There is a usually meant to be sarcastic remark made when people stare too long or too intensely, “Take a picture, it will last longer.” Mathew Brady, the famous American Civil War Photographer, explaining why he took so many pictures of battlefields littered with horrendous human carnage, said he wanted us to remember and never allow such a thing to ever happen again.
The heartbreaking pictures on the wall of the Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana that were taken, many of them, at the direction of Allied Commanding General Dwight D. Eisenhower, of the Nazi concentration camp survivors and the ashes and bodies of so many who did not, were intended to document that those atrocities did indeed happen, with the hope that remembering would keep them from ever happening again.
I have written more than once that a life too focused on the past can cheat of us the joy of each new day and that the same can be said of lives too focused on the future. There are it seems always some who want to reinterpret events or just to leave out the parts that do not fit their views. History, they say is always written by the winners and we have a natural inclination to make ourselves the heroes of our stories. No one truly wins a war, one side just loses a little less. The tremendous loss of property in war, always in the millions if not billions of dollars, is paltry compared to the tragic loss of lives and limbs of soldiers and civilians.
And so we build memorials and decorate the graves to honor our dead and to remember their lives and their sacrifices on our behalf. We try to find a deeper meaning, depending upon our point of view, of all that carnage and destruction. The winners always claim the high ground and overlook their own war crimes while sitting in judgment of those that the losing side committed. The winners claim their cause was just and righteous and the losers strive to find other ways to preserve their culture and way of life, surrendering in name only.
I served my country in wartime in a divided Vietnam. We lost that one. Today, over forty years since I and so many others were there, Vietnam is no longer divided, but we as a nation are even more divided than we were then.
On January 6th this year a large disgruntled rabble stirred up by an American President who still refuses to believe that he lost fair and square the Presidential election last November, occupied briefly the U.S. Capital Building trying to prevent the certifying by Congress of the Electoral votes in that election and thereby prevent the new President from taking office on January 20th. Some would have us believe that never happened, that those insurrectionists were merely visitors on a tour of the nation’s Capital. Others say even so we should just get past it or forget about it. I grew up in the American South a hundred years after our Civil War where one could still see a popular symbol of that rebellion, a old Confederate soldier holding the Confederate flag with the words below, “Forget Hell.”
And so we remember, fly flags, and shed tears for the lost. But the best way to honor them is to speak truth to power and to play by the rules and not just try to change them when we lose.
Your friend and fellow traveler,
Fool Hearted Memory