Thursday, October 12, 2006

The nightside of history

This week's column initiates a look at the night side of our history (though as is usual of me, I can't help but do it through my personal, superficial southern Californian background). I hope to explore in future columns some of the stuff I'm learning in my justice class and from my postmodern theologies and felt like setting it up!

I hope to blog more but wow am I busy! Will say that homeschool is going swimmingly this year and I had a sweet time helping Noah with a college essay last night. Who says home education ends when they leave for college? :)


Anonymous said...

"How much more true is it for America — that we aren't merely hated for being better at freedom or more committed to liberty? Might there be some hidden history we haven't faced? I hope to explore some of our blind spots in future columns. Prepare yourself for a trip to the night side of history."

I suspect there is a lot to explore here and I can't wait to go there with you.

(and I always suspected that home education would continue through the college years!)


Carrie said...

As I was examining my own feelings (mostly not wanting to be called "guilty") when reading the column it struck me that there are two very different ways to look at this. (More than two, I suspect..but only two have popped into my mind at the moment.)

First- the idea of collective guilt has driven many of the most horrific conflicts of history. Equating the living with the deeds of the dead fuels non-ending hatred and revenge cycles. Look at the former Yugoslavia, Ireland, and so much of Africa. So is collective guilt a good thing? Is holding the sons responsible for the misdeeds of the fathers helpful?

Secondly- The idea of the sons inheriting the guilt and responsibility of the fathers (forgive the gender here, it's just easier) is quintessentially Christian. The central theme of Christianity is that we are all guilty by assoiciation and relation to our "first parents", so we are all in need of salvation. No one is without excuse or guilt.

So which came first, I wonder? Did the reality of spiritual inheritance of sin and guilt spill over into how we deal with others? Or did the tendency for men to seek revenge cause us to make "god" in our image?

I'm all for using present resources for righting past wrongs, but I stop short at this point from accepting the collective guilt. Although I must say.. your picture of a baby guilty before its first suckle is a great portrayal of Original Sin. :-D


julieunplugged said...

Carrie, I love the way you examined collective guilt.

Your first point: it's true that a sense of oppression leads to outrage which can lead to violence that is perpetuated through the ages particularly between ethnic groups who have long histories of war or reciprocal oppression. In those cases, some kind of reconciliation is needed to create conditions for basic harmonious living. So yes, in that sense, dredging up past hurts isn't helpful... but the flip side is that the hurts aren't hiding either. They are already well-known and provoke a kind of anger that leads to violence rather than reconciliation.

I suppose I'm thinking of this issue slightly differently. What about a culture that is aware of its past but doesn't seem to routinely link current problems to the history that may have prompted the reactions being felt today? I'm not wanting to tag people who attempt to be fairminded with labels like racist for the sake of forcing a catharsis.

You come much closer to my aim in the second point - that we do in a sense inherit (yes, original sin allusions quite appropriate!) the sins of our fathers and if we focus only on now, on today, we may miss the source of some of the conflicts that continue right under our noses and misunderstand them.

The distinction you make of collective guilt is one I like. I don't like being made to feel guilty for what I did not do. Otoh, what I think I am saying is that my rejection of that identity doesn't keep those who feel the sting of repercussions from applying that guilt to me anyway since I am a descendant of the oppressors in some cases.

So it's that that I want to look at, rather than strapping anyone up to a stick and whipping her. :)

Good comments.


Kansas Bob said...

Interesting that your experiences of anti-semitism happened in a liberalish California institution of "higher" education. Stereotypically racism and prejudice are equated with narrow-minded, ignorant and somewhat uneducated people. Perhaps enlightenment about these issues is not one of the head but one of the heart.

carrie said...

Thanks for your reply, Julie. My comments were made very on-the-fly as I was suppose to be running out the door to teach! (I was late!)

I like what you said and I agree. I hadn't gone into the nuances of either "side" of my thoughts. I was just aware both sides were there and I was also aware of of how conflicting my feelings on the subject were. I look forward to delving into it more, even though i'm sure I will find it uncomfortable at times.

I think we definitely need to address past "national" sins in order to see how they impact today and how to rectify them when possible. Denying they happened certainly doesn't help, as we can see. I didn't see you as wanting to vilify anyone. I was just so amazed at the conflicts the topic brought up just within me. I am sure than when you have to deal with it on a national level, you have an amazing complexity of emotions and reaction to deal with!


Matt said...

Being an American is indeed a challenge -- and I appreciated the point you raised about what we inherit the moment our birth certificates are signed. Being born into this society -- or any society, I would think -- is the same as the concept of original sin: we are born carrying the weight of the transgressions of those who came before, and it is only through our own hard work and choices that we can do our part to bring about some sort of (hopefully) positive change -- similar to being baptised, confirmed, and trying to live as best we can based on what we see as God's call and mission for each of us.

- Matt (who, as much as he enjoyed Bermuda, is glad to be back here and catching up with all of my blog buddies!)

Dave said...

This column connects pretty powerfully with the Chomsky book I've been reading, Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance, which I guess I'll just say brings some of that "dark history" much closer to the present day than any of us ought to find comfortable.

Of course, Chomsky has his detractors and is regularly written off by some as a wacko extremist America-hater and all that. I think he makes many important points in outlining how extreme the double standard can be when our governing leaders excuse the violence that props up their own interests and apply concepts like democracy and freedom so selectively when describing who is on our side and who is not.

Needless to say, I eagerly await future posts along these lines. Is Chomsky to be found among your assigned reading list?