These are not liberal/Democrat/elite conspiracies. They are disparaging memes meant to counter thoughts of change. Currently, we are swamped with words indicating how dire is the threat to “Our Way of Life.” While many of us may believe with our whole heart that this is the first time in our history that our society has seen this much upheaval, that is not true. Even before the founding of our nation, the people of the Americas were having to deal with some of the same issues we are now. How would you have felt if you had always believed in the British Monarchy?
The rally around statues is the hot topic everywhere. The shooting at a bible study in an AME church in Charleston, the riot prompted by a White Supremacist demonstration countered by a protesting group in Charlotte, and the disagreements about the true meaning of the Confederate battle flag have all been amplified into a general unrest. Do we want to cancel culture?
A friend of mine recently told me that her child was now home schooled. She felt that, on a history test, he had answered the questions correctly, but his teacher wanted only the answers she had taught him. She was complaining about “revisionist history.” From what I have understood about similar concerns, most people object to mentioning that our heroes have faults, a cause was unjust, or our nation has caused harm to other nations, including Native Americans. Is history being revised resulting in weakened national pride?
True verbal exchange between family members: “Uncle xx was certainly a racist. Well, xx’s mother was one too. But they were both good people.” That is the core of the argument about “politically correct speech.” In this case, the family was from the Midwest. Like most people not living near anyone of color, the words were simply common terms that were seldom used about anyone personally known. WWI & WWII produced the terms Japs, Huns, and Krauts. America has a rich vocabulary to use in disparaging other people. For some of us, it is important to maintain the ability to feel there are humans who are of less worth than we are.
Until I lived in Charleston, I believed that the South’s Confederate Statues and use of the “Stars & Bars” was simply nostalgic. They were symbols of a cause lost, but heroically fought. They were part of the longing for the plantation and a genteel culture much like the Gilded Age on the East Coast or the landed estates of Europe. True in some cases, but a horribly naive perspective in others. Rather than symbols of the admirable culture expressed in such magazines as Southern Living, these statues and the flag to some individuals were symbols that (a major number of?) people approved of the racism of the old south. If not the slavery, at least the Jim Crow laws of the reconstruction.
I believe that the only way to advance from our current unrest in a positive direction is to become more personal in our conversations. As comfortable as it is to express how other people should see things, I am pledging to express more of what a problem is to me and listen to what the problem seems to be from another’s personal experience. When I communicate, I want to understand the fine distinctions and the degree of feelings between us. We can easily misunderstand each other because we are not aware of the background which forms another person’s thoughts.
Other than ignoring the importance of reaching common ground in these three areas, there are two opposing conclusions I can see. We can attempt to suppress thought and speech from one side or another. The opposite is reaching consensus on one fact. History, expression of thought, and the symbols we use in society to impart meaning wordlessly are open to interpretation. Because Americans have the belief in individuality, we must allow for differences. We must learn that fear is our enemy personally and in our society. We do not have to fear contrary ideas. We must first acknowledge them, then consider them fairly. We must attempt to adopt the best and discard the useless.
We are fortunate to live in a country where our intellects are not stunted by malnutrition or lack of access to education and information. Americans can figure this out without resorting to violence or alienation from friends and family.
Linda Brugger, retired from the Air Force, leaning Democrat and community activist can be reached at IdahoAuthor@outlook.com. She welcomes feedback.
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