In this rapidly changing world I think we tend to lose sight of the fact that we want and oft times demand things of people at a speed that is unreasonable. We want to put the past on trial every few years, looking at it with new eyes and new social and cultural viewpoints and want to try the lives of people and how they lived based on how we live.
While it’s healthy and necessary to examine and re-examine the past we must also remember that the past is like a a museum where we can learn so much but we can’t change it. We just can’t change the past. But there’s so much to learn from it that it changes the present and future. We should go back and look at someone like HP Lovecraft and examine what made his fiction so impactful, and in so doing, we’ll start to look at the man he was. There’s where the trouble comes in. We want to put a man on trial for his views and attitudes, many that seeped into his writing, without speaking with him or honestly knowing his heart. So what do we do? We look at the evidence, we weigh it against the art, and we decide if we can live with it. It’s not for us to forgive or damn him but we can say – you know, I can’t live with that. In that case you jog on and leave him behind. And I can see where you don’t want to use his image as a symbol meant to unite people that he may not have treated fairily in his fiction (or life, perhaps), but to try to erase him and the impact he’s made is dangerous. When Stephen King dies people will start to put his life on trial, his writing, his living, and how the two were parts of the same thing. We will get people looking at IT and questioning some of the darker themes, and that will just be the beginning. We have become a culture that wants to put everyone and everything on cultural trial and it will only get worse.
We want to build up people and pull them down as quickly as their temples are erected. We so desperately need to look up to people, to have them lead, and guide, and inspire us that we forget that they’re no more human than we are. Until you get into people committing crimes or actively harming people/society, we need to tread carefully.
All of this is why it floors me when people want the living to change at the drop of a hat. As if telling someone that they need to change makes them change. I look at it this way – people always tell you – there’s no atheist in a foxhole- and that may be true, I guess, but the thing is that that isn’t faith. Not true faith. It’s betting on every square to try to cheat the system. Faith comes over time and is earned. It is the comfort you feel in believing in a thing beyond you or within you. It’s not something you find over night. Change is the same thing, you can’t be told you are wrong, or even KNOW you are wrong and just…change. It doesn’t work that way.
It never has worked that way.
I can look back at my childhood and see how I acted, what I said, and what I believed and it’s embarrassing. I was ignorant, I was sheltered, and I had seen so little of the real world, the actual world, that it was no wonder that I was so closed off from it. It wasn’t until I was in college and away from the small town and out meeting new people that I started to see things differently. It wasn’t until I made friends in the city and started to see a bigger vision of the world. I won’t say I wasn’t still a stupid kid but slowly I changed. Slowly I wised up and started to shrug off the ignorance I had worn so readily as a kid. I hate that I was so dumb but all I can do is accept that and and move on.
It took time to change though. It took experience. It didn’t happen over night. Had someone come up to me and told me to CHANGE, just CHANGE I don’t think it would happen. Heck, I remember being a sass to my mom and she told me once, I hope some beats you up some day, because of my sass. I was outraged and shocked but it didn’t change me. Our relationship didn’t stop being sort of antagonistic for years, until we were older. That’s just how it works sometimes. The idea that you can go to someone, an older person who has felt the way they have for their whole lives, and think you are going to suddenly change them, drop some knowledge on them and change them, that’s just naive. Just as naive as thinking that you can accurately judge someone’s life who you have never met. You can go over the facts, over the details, and over the history but you won’t ever see the full picture. That picture only comes clear when there are crimes against people, the state, or the larger whole and you can judge those acts against the life of the person.
But how can you do that when it’s ignorance or bigotry or sexism or racism in an era when it was part of the norm?
That isn’t an excuse or to shrug off these things but to honestly ask – how can we deem ourselves worthy to judge a person’s heart, their soul, without asking someone to do the same to us? Maybe there are folks out there that never said an ignorant thing. Never acted a fool. Maybe. I doubt it though.
We cannot change who people were, but we can let who they were help to change us. We can change. Everyone can change. That change takes time, patience, and the willingness TO change. You have to see a bigger world, feel a bigger world, and become part of that bigger world if you are going to change. That’s the only way it works. Otherwise it’s false faith and you’re just putting on a show. You’re ‘acting woke’ for the people you are around that demand that from you and then slipping back to your ignorance when they aren’t around. The best way to inspire change is to be changed yourself – to lead by your example. Not to lecture and shame but to be different and make them start to wonder why you are different and open their minds. Maybe that’s me being ignorant, thinking that it can work, but my experience is that the more you try to force someone to open their minds and hearts the more tightly they’ll keep it closed.
We all come with baggage, a long train of it that only grows over time and all of us can do better and the best we can do is to keep working to be better. It becomes very hard to start pointing fingers at everyone we deem as awful, even the people who clearly are, because it drags us out on the stage with them and opens us up to the same judgment. What we can do is remove the cancerous people from our lives and those that are worth saving we need to make a decision – is it worth it? Are they worth it? Helping someone change is a lot of work, the hardest being for them, but if we aren’t willing to help one another then what’s the point of it all?
This is a time of change, for all of us, for the nation, and for the world. While we should always look over our shoulders to see where we have been, as a society and a people, we should always keep our minds on the now and eyes on the future, hearts open, arms wide, and embracing that we are works in progress, all of us, and that we all have a lot of work to do before we lose it all.