COLUMN: Point Counterpoint: History, even statues, shouldn't be erased

Devin Gordon

Change is the only constant in life. We watch the world play out in front of us on 24-hour news cycles. Televisions, radios, newspapers, computers, our phones, and tablets all pour out a constant stream of information, continuously updating us on the changes occurring throughout the world in which we live.

From the first “Yabba Dabba Do.” with the depiction of a man dressed in the latest in Saber-Tooth Tiger apparel sliding down a dinosaur tail to clock out at the Rock Quarry, scribed into a cave wall around 44,000 years ago, to Phonetic writings in Egypt forming the first known examples of complete sentences dating to around 2690 B.C., unknowing historians have left an account of their daily lives to be interpreted by future generations.

History is the study of life in society in the past, in all its aspect, in relation to present developments and future hopes. It is the story of man in time and an inquiry into the past based on evidence. It’s difficult for me to pretend I’m watching anything different than the collapse of society as statues and other representations of our history are toppled and reduced to rubble, to be swept up and disposed of as if they never existed at all.

When we erase history, we don’t simply shield ourselves from a frustrating and offensive past; we make ourselves more ignorant and shield ourselves from the questions we should be asking to make sure we do not repeat the worst episodes of our history. The purpose of history is not to make us feel good, but to help us learn from the mistakes of our past.

American history is littered with accounts of triumphs, victories, stories of overcoming impossibilities, failures, defeats, shames and disgraces. It is impossible to deny that these things occurred by erasing them from our record and memory. It is, quite simply and honestly, the story of us: who we were, who we are, where we came from and where we are going.

The stories we choose to tell, and the stories we allow to be hidden or forgotten, constitute the nature of history’s retelling. Ignorance is not the only crime being committed when we allow history to be erased. Even in the selection of which history is retained and which is hidden away a narrative is being established. What remains or replaces history in schools should we no longer teach all history? Nothing brings a better world into being than the stated truth.

I’m hopeful that I’m not alone in my desire for an opportunity to sit down, shut up, buckle in and travel back through time to learn about all of the fascinating steps and missteps that have formed the path from the beginning of recorded human history to the point in our journey where we find ourselves standing today.

Devin Gordon is a Tahlequah business owner.

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