This is a bit different than my other blog posts — this is a free lance article I wrote in response to the whole historical monument controversy, so it is written in a more formal and outspoken manner than I normally write. The Linn Park Memorial is a monument that honours the confederate soldiers and sailors of Alabama. I would be interested in your opinion — on both the writing and the content. What do you think about the whole issue at hand? Right, wrong, or indifferent? Any further insight on this?
Once again, we are stirring up a controversial topic, and this time in the heart of the southland. The question is simple: should we, or should we not hide away our historical monuments? Should we allow them to be covered up and hidden away from our view, their history untaught, and unlearned by those of us growing up in the free nation of the United States of America?
As part of the millennial generation, I want to say something which may sound harsh: we were failed. My generation has been failed time and again by those older than us. You taught us history that wasn’t true, you taught us to be passive, to avoid conflict, and to only care about whether we get what we want when we want it. We are the product of what you have formed. And as a millennial, I am going to speak out, very strongly – one voice among thousands of apathetic people who never learned what it meant to believe in something so much, that we were willing to die for it.
I was appalled when I heard that Birmingham had done the unthinkable and had boarded the Linn Park Memorial – a monument that remembers those who died in a war that was ugly, and complicated, and deadly. I had relatives that fought in that war – on both sides of the conflict. I am sure many of you reading this are descendants of those who fought in this Great War. They made sacrifices for something they believed in, and, whether we think them right, wrong, or indifferent, we need to remember those who died in that field of conflict.
I say this to our parents, our grandparents, and our great-grand parents. To our teachers, to our government leaders, to our social workers and activists and civil liberty unions: don’t hide the truth. Our history has been scarred by memories we would rather not discuss. Jim Crowe laws, segregation, racism, annihilation of people because they are different than our idea of “normal”. If you hide this from us, we will never learn. If you hide the ugly, the ugly will happen again. If you ignore the history of our great nation, then we learn nothing about what happened to create this nation.
Racism is rampant in our society because we were never taught the consequences of it. You never allowed us to see what happens in a country divided by racism, by segregation, by Jim Crowe laws. You never taught us to embrace our differences – you hid the truth away, refusing to tell us the truth, refusing to teach us history the way it happened. Because it was ugly, and you would rather forget it. But you lived through it – and if you don’t share the truth with us, the children of this nation, we will live through it again.
We need the monuments that memorialize our nation’s history to be left intact, for one simple reason: so we can ask you about them. You haven’t taught us the truth – you failed us. And we don’t know what to ask because we don’t know what happened. Leave up the memorials, leave them up as a reminder of hard times, of painful times, of times in this nation’s history when we disregarded the worth of people because of the color of their skin. Leave them up, as a reminder to each of you of how you failed my generation who is following in your footsteps. Leave them up, so we can ask you about them. So you can share with us the unadulterated history of this nation.
Every single person in my generation should be infuriated at how our history has been treated. We are the ones who will inherit this nation. We are the ones who will have to manage to teach others what we ourselves haven’t been taught. We are the ones who will have to deal with everything that you hid away from us. We are the ones who will have to reveal hard truths from generations who have gone before us, and we are the ones who will deal with the consequences.
My generation needs to read through the history of our nation, and learn from those who lived it. Go search the libraries and archives and the internet for original documents from the mid-eighteen hundreds and see what it is that has been hidden from us. We need to read through diaries of our great-great-great-great grandparents, we need to read through the accounts of the generals of those great battles, and we need to read through the accounts of those who lived through this fearsome conflict. We need to learn what it looks like to live life passionately, regardless of the consequences. We need to stand on the same foundation as our forefathers did so many years ago, when they first penned the words which shall forever be immortalized in our land: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
We need to ignore the mantra that has been pounded into us about being passive and we need to wake up. This history is mine. It’s yours. It belongs to us, and we need to start thinking about the generations coming up after us, instead of our own selfish want to ignore the hard truths of this nation. We need to guard it with a passion, even the tumultuous times. We need to guard it as a precious inheritance, and pass it down to the next generation intact, with nothing taken from it.