Thru the night with a light from above”
College days offered many late night philosophical chats with friends, and I loved those days. One night we pondered the question, “ if it was the early 1900’s and you came upon a young Adolf Hitler playing on the sidewalk, would you kill him in order to possibly save twelve million people?” We debated through the night but eventually determined that one can’t change history without perhaps courting an even bigger disaster.
I am not a revisionist. We can’t erase the past, but we can regret it and learn from it. We should be horrified and embarrassed at some of the things that we allowed to occur in our country. We should do everything in our power to make sure these things never occur again. Yes, we should definitely learn from our past, but we should never sweep it under the rug. Good or bad it is a part of who we were in a struggle to become who we are today.
I understand that reminders of the past can be hurtful to some people, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to show sensitivity to other’s pain when we can. I was ambivalent about the military statues that were taken down recently. While I realized that they were a very real part of our history, I also saw that the memories that they stirred up were hurtful. They shouldn’t be forgotten, but they shouldn’t continue to cause pain. Perhaps the answer would be a museum, similar to the Holocaust Museums, to house all of the statues that represent our lesser selves.
Unfortunately, things often are taken too far, and we forget that we must judge people and things in the standards of their own time in order to fairly assess what they represent. Kate Smith began her professional singing career in 1930 and shared her music with us until her death in 1986. She spoke out against bigotry in her time, and she “called for racial tolerance in 1945 in an address on CBS Radio, saying, ‘Race hatreds, social prejudices, religious bigotry, they are the diseases that eat away the fibers of peace. She went on to say that "it is up to us to tolerate one another in order to achieve peace.”
She asked Irving Berlin for a patriotic song to sing on her radio show, and after changing a few words he gave her the song 'God Bless America'. Kate performed it every week on her radio show. She contributed to selling over $600 million in war bonds during a series of marathon broadcasts. Ms. Smith was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1982 by then-President Ronald Reagan.
In 1969 the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team played Smith’s rendition of God Bless America during their games, and they continued playing it during every game until a recent controversy caused them to stop singing the song and remove a statue that had been erected in her honor. Two of the nearly 3000 songs that she recorded during her career were deemed racist, although they were not thought of as so in those days. They are thankfully quite inappropriate today as our society hopefully becomes more enlightened and sensitive, but Kate Smith didn’t see it as so in a time when white Americans were blind to the harm their prejudice bestowed on those who were different.
I have to imagine that half a century from now people will look back on those fighting for equality today and find things that were said and done that were shameful in the eyes of a more liberal America. In the standards of Kate Smith’s time she was a patriotic and liberal performer who shared her talent and love with a country during their darkest times. Let us judge her that way.
In fact, instead of digging up the wrongs of the past let’s concentrate on preventing the wrongs of the future. Let us stop looking at the difference in people’s race, religion, gender, sexual preference, or who they love and instead embrace our sameness. Let us remember that we are all here on a temporary basis, and it is so much easier to spend that time loving those around us than trying to make everyone look just like us. Embracing differences makes for a much more interesting world for us all.
Speaking of differences, The Three Beths by Jeff Abbott was definitely different than anything that I have read recently. A young woman seeks the mystery of the disappearance of her mother, Beth, and finds other Beths who have disappeared.
As always a complete review of this book follows my blog.