“A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational, and economic legacies—all of the things that quite literally make us who we are.”
In every country on Earth, there is a heritage of which the citizens are proud, and one or more of which they are ashamed. In Germany, that would be the rise of the Third Reich with Hitler at its helm. The Brits carved up and colonized half the world without regard for the native people. In Japan, the massive slaughter of Chinese at the Nanking Massacre still scars their relations. Cambodia had its reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge. The Bosnian genocide by the Serbs stands out, and of course, the murderous rampage of the Syrian government against its own people today. Russia had Stalin, and America has a history of ethnic cleansing of Native American tribes, and of enslaving Africans. These are all parts of history we can not outrun, deny, glorify, or celebrate. We can only acknowledge the reality of them, try to understand their effects on the citizens involved, and make certain they never happen again.
There is a place for the historical record of these events, and the artifacts are part of that record. However, we take umbrage when we see neo-Nazis marching with the swastika flag, or the KKK, with their burning torches, parading in the streets. Flying the Stars and Bars battle flag over a state house is equally repugnant. We can acknowledge history without creating a climate of fear and offense to the people who were victims of these brutal events.
In America, we enjoy freedom of expression and do not allow censorship of that First Amendment right, even though the expression of it is sometimes offensive to most of us. There is a fine line that must be walked. Perhaps our first consideration should be how to preserve the history in ways that do no further damage to the citizens involved. That might begin by walking a mile in their shoes and then asking the question, “Are my rights more important than their wounds?”
In the Spirit,