Recently, I’ve noticed a very worrying trend. A lot of people seem to be re-imagining a history that never existed. They only focus on the stuff that places former generations in a good light. This is a troubling habit in and of itself. Focusing just on the parts of history that you like means you ignore everything else.
But it gets worse. Of course it does. Social media and even academics are starting to rewrite the parts of our history that they don’t like. Ben Carson refers to African slaves as “immigrants,” public schools aren’t required to mention (much less teach) the Holocaust to teenagers, and textbooks are changing the word “slaves” to “workers.” What the hell is going on? Why would anyone want to rewrite history?
Sean Spicer calling concentration camps “holocaust centers” is just a symptom of a society that’s been blinding itself for decades.
I can’t speak for the whole world, but I figured I could at least study this desire to change history from an American perspective. It’s probably just as good a method as any. We do tend to be trend setters, after all.
We as Americans are insanely spoiled. It’s true. We hear about violence in Chicago and Detroit, but for the most part we are completely detached from the reality of what that means. A school shooting occurs, and for most of us it’s merely a story on the news. These things don’t affect us on a personal level, and most Americans don’t analyze them too closely. If we did, you can bet your ass we’d finally enforce some god damned gun control laws already. Instead, we’re bombarded by so many violent images that we grow anesthetized to such imagery.
At least, we do to a certain extent. I still sob over the Sandy Hook shooting. Twenty 1st grade kids were brutally murdered. If you can hear about that massacre and not want to conduct background checks on potential gun owners, you’re a fucking monster. This shooting still affects me so much that when the Orlando shooting occurred last year, my first thought was, “Thank God it wasn’t an elementary school.” Over 100 people were shot, 49 of them fatally, but all I could think about were that no children had been harmed this time. I’m a gay woman, and that was a horrific hate crime targeting homosexuals. Yet–and I hate myself when I admit this–I’m still pathetically grateful it wasn’t an elementary school. Kids are off-limits to assholes with guns.
When such news is on television, though, it frequently doesn’t shake us. As long as our own little worlds are secure, Americans can exhibit a surprising surplus of denial. Someone getting shot in Colorado doesn’t affect us so we might retweet a news article or share a prayer on facebook, but that’s the extent of our involvement. Our concerns lie with working, family, shopping, and leisure time. Lots of leisure time. It’s what we do.
We apply this same mentality to history. Thinking about the Holocaust scares us if we truly analyze it. When dictators like Bashar al-Assad bomb and drive away all dissenters in his native Syria, we figure that’s okay because it’s a Muslim thing. It’s to be expected even. However, Hitler’s different. White guys are supposed to lead people in the correct direction. That’s what we learn in school through a constant barrage of successful white male scientists, politicians, religious leaders, monarchs, entrepreneurs, actors, and the like. These are the guys we’re taught to look up to. White men are supposed to have a strong moral code. It’s only okay to be ruthless murderer if you’re not white. Hitler’s atrocities during the Holocaust were so irredeemable, so bloodthirsty, so callous, that he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that cruelty isn’t limited to any race. Bastards are bastards, regardless of their religion or skin color.
Probably what truly freaks out Americans on a subconscious level about the Holocaust isn’t Hitler, though. He was just one guy. You can see having one bad egg and all that. No, Hitler had thousands and thousands of soldiers who followed his bidding. These soldiers were conscientious young white German men who committed outright murder on a massive scale. They were normal people who should have been just like you and me, yet look at what Nazis committed. By dehumanizing Jews, homosexuals, and the Romani people, Nazis felt it was okay to treat them however they wished. And the Nazis did.
This is why we cannot forget our history. We cannot forget what happened during the Holocaust. We cannot ignore the existence of slavery. We forget them, and we commit such acts again. Already we’re dehumanizing Muslims. Don’t forget that President Cheeto signed two executive orders to ban Muslim immigrants from entering into this country. Even now he refuses to allow Syrian refugees into the U.S.
Just think about that. Earlier this month, Trump freaked out about an attack in Syria using chemical weapons. Because he saw all the dead children on the screen, Trump flipped and bombed an airport without actually doing any real damage. My question for our president is…what did you think was happening in Syria? There’s been a civil war there for years. Over 400,000 people have died (often from bombs), many of them children. Where did all this outrage come from? And why don’t you direct it towards rescuing some refugees? Because they’re Muslim, and Muslims are considered to be all dangerous terrorists by many Americans, we instead fight taking in refugees tooth and nail. We can be outraged that children are dying, but we’re not actually willing to save them. Because we’ve dehumanized Muslim people.
This recent trend to rewrite history…hell, this trend to rewrite current events…they need to stop. Now. Closing our eyes doesn’t make the bad stuff go away. Pretending something different happened doesn’t make it go away. Opening our eyes, learning everything we can–that’s what’s going to prevent this shit from happening again.
Education is what can save us all. A healthy dose of compassion once in a while also wouldn’t hurt.
Try it, Trump. I dare you.