Erasing the past will do nothing to improve the future. That’s my response to the letters submitted by the Patrick Henry (PH) students in the December edition of Camden News. I think it’s wonderful and applaud younger folks when they take active interest in topics of the day. And I’ve no doubt the students arguing for the removal of Christopher Columbus’ statue from the state capitol grounds are truly passionate and correct in their research. However, it’s hard for this reader to believe the four letters in December’s edition was a purely organic effort on part of the students alone. Upon closer examination one can see each letter begins in the same fashion which brings to mind the word template (insert your text here). In my opinion this effort appears orchestrated possibly, one can only guess, by PH faculty.
Nobody is a saint. We are all products of our age, guided by the social mores and what’s deemed acceptable behavior for the period of history in which we live. Be careful! For what’s acceptable today may very well be sacrilege tomorrow; and in the age of social media your name and behavior could become infamous as well. In this current atmosphere of cancel culture we’re too quick to act purely on emotion. We go for the quick fix without logically thinking through what the possible long term consequences may be for future generations. In today’s climate our “non-offended happy feelings” are all that matter.
This is not to condone the atrocities of the past. History is full of genocides, nations/ peoples being conquered, slavery, tyrants, etc. But we fail to understand that the people and societies we are today, like it or not, are a result of all that’s come before, both good and bad, and we shouldn’t forget any of it. Chinese-born writer Ma Jian who came of age during the Cultural Revolution, and now lives in Britain, once stated, “When history is erased, people’s moral values are also erased.”
I say leave the statues. If anything, make it a teaching moment by adding a plaque to existing monuments providing more background on the subject so we and future generations can understand the full context, warts and all, to know that history is not always pretty. That as human beings we are all fallible. That we can do better.