"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
I first heard this famous quote when I was studying history in college. I thought it was a clever way for our history professors to justify their existence, but since I like history, it worked for me.
Now I'm wondering whether we remember too well. Do we take events of historical importance and enshrine them? Do we pour out resources to the extent that the celebration far outweighs the significance?
Do we pour so much emotion into remembering events that we are unable to move on?
I am, of course, speaking of the 9-11 attacks. Yes, they were terrible. Yes, every one of those lives lost was a tragedy -- even the lives of the hijackers. But as long as we dwell upon the victimhood (the families of the dead, the survivors of the events, the injury to our nation), we are driven to emotions like anger, rage, vengeance. We also deny those who want to move on with their lives the ability to do so. We want to take them out of their lives 10 years later and examine them once again. Maybe they're trying to heal, starting to learn to forgive. Are we, in insisting upon them being victims, forcing them into wearing only that label?
My grandfather got an ear infection when he was young. Because this was before antibiotics, he lost most of his hearing. He quit school after 8th grade because there were younger kids to feed. He went to work for the newspaper and the printing presses finished off what little hearing he had left. He never learned to sign, and never went back to school. Today, we'd call him a victim of economic and medical hardship.
Boy would that make him mad. He worked very hard, as a man is supposed to do, to put food on the table for his family and educate his children. I doubt he spent even one day in his life regretting that. He was very happy with God, his family, the Dallas Cowboys and the Arkansas Razorbacks on his prayer list and he felt very blessed by all that God had allowed him to enjoy.
I think we make it very easy to wallow in victimhood these days. Experiencing a tragedy should not define us. Triumphing over it, to where the fact that we experienced it becomes the LEAST important thing about us, shows that we are people of character and fortitude.
Enough with the blame and the wallowing. Let's get on with life. Perhaps we should say instead:
"Those who cannot let the past go are condemned to dwell in it."