Be Careful How You Edit the Past

We are the product of all we have encountered. Like most of you, I have engaged in revisionist history when it comes to the narrative of my life. Like Professor Slugworth’s muted memories of Tom Riddle we blend together, erase and dub over the parts that might reflect poorly on us or that caused us great pain. This is normal and perhaps even a bit healthy.

Recently, I was reminded of some of the dangers of our life redactments. I had the opportunity to visit with a friend from high school.  Someone who had been a great friend then but, as happens in life, we lost connection for 29 years. We connected via social media a year or two ago but nothing more than seeing each other’s family pics, etc.

As he and I reminisced I was reminded of moments that were transformational for me. Moments that helped determine my direction and ultimately led me to become the person I am now. So much of that time of life was painful for me that in my attempt to forget the pain I unintentionally redacted much of the good, even parts that were formative and essential to who I am now.

My walk down memory lane with this friend had a real impact on me. It made me wonder how much I may have missed by trying to move on from who I was. I reflected on others I owe a thank you to, people who saw me for what I could be, not just who I was. In my rush to move on I have overlooked key events, experiences and most importantly people that helped me grow into the person I am now. A person I like very much.

Memory is a funny thing. I wonder how years of filtering the past have warped our perception of the reality of what was. I guess none of us every really experience life as it is but more as we think it is. In an age were we put a premium on authenticity I wonder what role our filtered memories play on who we are or who we think we are.

So I think I’ll be brave and try to review the past. Looking for my own story through a less clouded lens. Looking for those moments that helped me set a course to the destination I am now at. More than just forgiving my past me, I want to understand him, thank him and those along the way who helped me find the version of myself I was always meant to be

Calling on the Better Angels of Our Nature

I understand the fatigue of faux outrage. I am sympathetic to the frustration with the complexity of issues. The partisan tribalists shout and cry foul at nuance. The cry and din of the twenty four hour news cycle with its shrill voices bent on conflict is wearisome to say the least. To retreat from our patriotic duty to be informed and engaged is to acquiesce to those who would put party over principal and elections over people. It is easier to throw our hands up and say “it’s all corrupt a pox on all of them what can one person do I’m out.” Nothing great was ever accomplished by taking the easy way out.

However, it is our responsibility as patriots, as lovers of freedom and democracy to shift through the sophistry, malice and cartoonish self absorbed ego clutter laden mess that is our modern politics and remind ourselves of the core principles we believe in. Blaming, shaming, defaming, scapegoating and name calling does nothing to remind us of who we are and what we stand for.

Yes, it’s complex; yes, it will require us to pay a price to be informed; yes, it will alienate some who would rather yell than listen. Still, we should all strive to be listeners and not yellers.

There are moments in history when silence is complicit. On reflection we will have to ask ourself where we stood. The Japanese internment, the turning back of The St. Louis and our current treatment of global refugees and those seeking asylum at our border are just that kind of moment.

Renouncing inhumane policies of those who mostly align with you politically does not mean concession to one’s ideological beliefs. It is not a white flag of surrender to the opposition. Criticism of one’s own party is not heresy, it’s patriotism. To disagree with one’s own party does not mean you agree with the opposition party. Such partisan purity tests are morally bankrupt, intellectually week and damaging to our democracy.

Lincoln concluded his first inaugural address on the brink of civil war with these lines:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Surely the better angels of our nature implore us to rise above petty partisanship, to do right by families in crisis. As the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world we can find ways to protect our borders and provide for those who are in desperate circumstances. They are not mutually exclusive goals.

Matthew 25:35: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.