Saturday, June 30, 2012
Sometimes I think I come on too strong. Maybe I should dial it back. Does justice for historical figures matter all that much? Do we really need a strong pursuit of justice?
Copyright 2012 L. Zitzer
Sometimes I think my life is like a Monty Python sketch. I may have said this in a post way back when, I can’t remember, but I’m thinking of the scene in Life of Brian when one of them is about to be stoned for having said God’s holy name out loud. He keeps saying it and John Cleese (I think it was) warns him to shut up “Or it’ll go worse for you.” How much worse could it go? You’re about to stone me!!
If I pursue historical truth about Jesus in a mild way, I am censored and ostracized. If I go after it full tilt, I’m censored and ignored. It’s the same result either way, how much more ostracized can I be than completely ostracized, so why tone it down when serious injustice is being committed?
The big problem is that most Americans (I don’t say all) are not too keen on questions of historical justice. All Americans want is more stuff. Even when it comes to present-day injustices, say, in other countries, Americans are in favor of regime change, if it will give us more markets to sell our stuff and then buy more stuff. Electronic gadgets are best. If regime change does not lead to more stuff, then Americans could care less. I’m generalizing, but it’s more or less true, isn’t it?
The point is this: Getting Americans to care about anything that happened in the past is like a sheer impossibility. And if you trot out the argument that any indifference we show to past cultures will be done right back to our own culture by future generations, the response you are likely to get is: Who cares? As long as we have our stuff today, what does the future matter? Let other generations judge us harshly, we cannot hear with our earphones in anyway.
French filmmaker Louis Malle once said that Americans have no past and no future, just a continual present. It’s a tough judgment, but it seems so right. Whatever the explanation, the fact remains that very few people, Americans or otherwise, take historical inaccuracies as a serious problem. Even if the past injustice is as bad as a witch trial. (My definition of a witch trial: A procedure that exaggerates or invents incriminating evidence and erases or suppresses exonerating evidence.)
So I rumble. I protest the witch trial of ancient Jewish leaders and Judas. It’s the Jew in me. It’s also the Socrates in me and the Shakespeare. And Muhammad Ali and William Tyndale and Alfred Wallace and Robert Chambers, and a host of others whom scholars love to erase from history. When you obliterate someone’s accomplishments, you have erased them. When you toss away the evidence that speaks to what they did, you have silenced their voices. Nothing is more cruel. Nothing more worthy of justice than to restore their voices.
Copyright 2012 L. Zitzer