A nation is its culture and experience, its history. That is what determines its character. The same is true of the world. We learn or do not learn from the mistakes and accomplishments of ourselves and those who have preceded us. If we learn, we can accomplish more. If we do not learn, we may repeat mistakes. To learn from the past we must know and understand it. If we hide the past, we do not change what has happened but we may live to regret that we no longer remember it.
ISIS or ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq or the Islamic State of Syria, has been culturally cleansing the ancient Middle East for several years. Its members are offended by statues, monuments and artifacts that once, before ISIS destroyed them, carried within them thousands of years of human knowledge and culture. ISIS could not bear to allow memories of ancient or even contemporary peoples who had the temerity to have different beliefs from ISIS. This is particularly puzzling with religious differences since ISIS’s belief system is based on its particular interpretation of Islam which could not have existed before Mohammad who lived from 570 A.D. to 632 A.D. Yet ISIS viciously attacks the artifacts and history of cultures thousands of years old.
Of course, ISIS as all such denigrators of history, is not changing the facts of history. ISIS is merely proving their own ignorance of it. Such actions are much as children who put their hands over their eyes or duck their heads under the covers in an attempt to convince themselves that because they do not see something it never existed. Or as ISIS and some other people do, they destroy historical artifacts and try to convince themselves and others that a certain history never happened. Of greater concern is the very real possibility their actions will lead to the loss by future generations of an opportunity to learn from that history.
To preserve and observe a historical artifact, a temple to Baal that was 5,000 years old or a Christian church that was 2,000 years old for example, is not to worship Baal or Jesus but is to build upon and learn from history. To destroy artifacts of a nation’s past does not change that past but it may result in the nation repeating past errors because those errors are out of sight and therefore out of mind.
History teaches us that power waxes and wanes and that who is on top today may be oppressed tomorrow. The burning or banning of books, say the Bible for example, does not invalidate a book’s content. It does validate the lack of vision of those who arrogate to themselves the sole interpretation of truth or history.
Each of us has the right to venerate or denigrate whatever philosophy, religion or creed we wish. However, just because what happened in history may be offensive to us does not mean we should attempt to establish such history never occurred. Haven’t we lived through enough of such culture destroying behavior to recognize the danger in such a course?
Perhaps next week we can revisit such a revision of history that occurred right here in Posey County, Indiana and delve into what that revision might mean to us today