Let’s imagine that among 100 ancestors, 3 were vile and corrupt.
1 of them was a notorious serial killer, and another was a serial rapist, and one more constantly robbed people of their land and savings as a corrupt lawyer.
The remaining 97 of your ancestors were decent people, who worked, took care of families, and tried to avoid harming others.
But when the world thinks of your family name, they think of the murderer, the rapist, and the heartless thief.
Question is: Would you sing proudly of these 3? Would you teach their actions as anything less than dishonorable and damaging to others? Would you choose to sugar coat your family history by glossing over their actions with words like “aggressive asset acquisition” or “escalated coercion tactics?”
Would you insist on celebrating these ancestors with holidays and festivities?
No. You wouldn’t.
So then why are so many opposed to doing better than past generations, and making changes that state boldly, “We are moving forward in honor of humanity, and shaking off the hateful ways that plagued the past.”
We can teach history honestly by admitting the horrors were exactly that: horrible.
We can also examine things, such as the national anthem, and publicly state that we as Americans recognize that the man who initially wrote it wanted death for the slaves who sought freedom among the British. We can admit that the US Constitution initially did not grant rights to most people living in the US boundaries.
And then as we teach this truth, we can FIRMLY STATE that despite the ill intent and the lack of foresight of our so-called “forefathers,” we as the inheritors of this history, have chosen to do better BECAUSE WE KNOW BETTER.
That is the strength of our nation’s founding principles:
There is room for change as society develops. Our nation has slowly progressed into various stages of improvement, ending slavery, giving women the right to vote, establishing better highway infrastructure, the Civil Rights Act and more. Our history is fraught with oppression because similar to an abusive household, that is what our infancy and childhood as a nation was consumed in.
Now we are in the adult phase of our nation, and with full and developed understanding of what has happened, we have a powerful opportunity to embrace the adaptability of our democracy, and continue to EVOLVE.
As with all things, the entities which refuse evolution are doomed to fail.
The environment has always changed and always will. The same is true of our political and global politics, culture, and yes physical environment. We owe it to every phase of our history, to every person who stood and demanded improvement, we owe it to them to continue accepting and even embracing positive measures of change.
Admitting that an ancestor committed wrong does not assign blame to you. In fact admitting the reality of the past empowers you to be better than what came before.
In that line of thinking, let us begin to teach the truth of our nation’s expansion and the origins of its anthem, its wealth, its path to the present.
Let us stand in knowledge and choose to do better.