A Tribute to the Terrible

While I’ve been holding my tongue for months as a DC resident, feeling apathetic to political tides, a rant today is necessary.

I think it’s worth noting that Nikki Haley took a step forward by removing the battle flag from the state capital. It has no place there. It is part of the past, and represents a set of ideals in line with where we came from, not where we are going. Progress is progress, despite it clearly being too late to prevent this from being a symbol of hate in the killing of nine innocent church-goers.

While I am appalled by any act of racism or prejudice committed against a fellow human being, I don’t think destroying pieces of history will fix this problem. I cannot abide by the idea of taking down statues of confederate leaders, or any historical figures for that matter.

Does anyone remember that line about how those who forget history are doomed to repeat it? These statues, these pieces of history, serve as a reminder of the darkest hours in American history — a necessary reminder.

We need to remember the bad, not just memorialize the good. These monuments remind us all of a place our country was, and a place it should solemnly vow never to return.

But erasing history erases progress. How can we know where we need to go if we erase where we came from?

If we are only interested in memorializing good things, then I suppose we should burn down most of the nation’s museums. Exhibits on world conquerors should be ransacked because those men oppressed and killed millions of people on their quests for glory. All those WWII monuments should probably go too, because they perpetuate the darkest years in world history. Concentration camps? It’s only right seal those off so no one ever has to think of the millions who were slain within their walls ever again.

Wrong. No good comes from erasing everything that is bad.

These monuments — whether they be statues, photos, autobiographical accounts — they all serve as narrative accounts of the worst. The story of mankind is streaked red with the blood of those who died so that we never have to know of the persecution they endured. They represent the rock-bottoms of society — the worst of what humanity has done. We need them to remind us how far we have come, and how much further we still need to go. Tributes to terrible things make us better by illustrating the ways we should not live and the ideas we should not have.

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