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The Burden of History

The Burden of History

There is some kind of ignorant movement out there to remove Gone With the Wind, book and movie, from circulation, because they portray racist attitudes of the past. Indeed they do, which is why they are valuable as both art and history. We can’t recreate the past in our present-day preferences, nor can we ignore the stains and blemishes of our history.

Richard Wagner was a virulent, notorious anti-Semite. Yet his music is still played globally today. There have been debates in Israel about whether his music should be banned or played, and the result is that he’s been played there.

Roman Polanski is a convicted pedophile, yet he’s been awarded an Oscar (and some in Hollywood wanted the government to allow him to return and forgive the crime). His films are shown globally.

We can’t use “presentism” to whitewash sins of the past, nor can we act as if they didn’t exist. (I think removing statues is merely symbolism. Removing hate and bigotry is the point and has nothing to do with easily removing a statue.)

Do we remove Kevin Spacey’s life’s work? Mel Gibson has just made a triumphant return.

Do we remove the art because we loathe the artist? Do we remove historical references because the history embarrasses us? Germany has faced the Holocaust openly and publicly to create a better society.

We have to acknowledge and never forget the sins of the past to create a better future. We can’t expunge history, no matter how hard we try. Nothing is truly “gone with the wind.”

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

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