History’s judgment and memory

HISTORY MATTERS - Todd Sales Lucero - The Freeman

During college, several of my political science professors always reminded us of two important things. One, that while the hard sciences, such as chemistry and physics, function best inside a laboratory to study organisms and physical matters, the social sciences have the greatest laboratory to study, society. Two, political science’s role is to help diagnose the ills of society and suggest ways to cure these ills. These nuggets of wisdom from my teachers have always stuck in my mind, even if I have taken a detour from political science and shifted my life’s work to my ultimate passion, history.

The famous quotation, “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” was coined by George Santayana, a Spanish-American philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist. This oft-repeated quote makes the most sense when looking at how the world today continues to ignore the lessons of the past. The other day, I had an extremely spirited debate with a zoomer, or someone who is part of Generation Z (those born after the millennials but precede Generation Alpha), about the current conflict in Palestine.

He accused me of being a mouthpiece for the Israeli government and told me that I was being inhumane for not standing up for the oppressed Palestinians. I tried to explain to him that the only reason why I refuse to take sides is because there should be no sides in this conflict or in any other conflict in the world today. Both sides, both the Palestinians and Israelis, have suffered death and destruction over the years, and hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed, injured, and displaced.

At the end of the day, we should all be standing with the innocent civilians of both sides. I explained to this zoomer that my stand is and has always been with innocents, that it is not right for us to simply see this conflict as something about an oppressor and oppressed or between just two peoples. I tried to reason with this younger individual that he has no right to condemn the entire Jewish people simply for the actions of their government, that not all Jewish people agree with their government’s actions in Palestine, and that not all Palestinians support, or are members of, Hamas.

However, he continued to insist that this is the only thing that matters today, that as a member of humanity, I should be condemning not just Israel but the entire Jewish people. As someone used to arguing about issues over the years with people who I do not always share the same values or opinions with, I knew when to stop engaging especially when this other individual refuses to see other people’s perspectives.

I am not saying that the Palestinian conflict is something we should simply allow to happen and go its natural course. History will condemn us if we stay silent. And that is precisely what I was trying to impart to this younger individual; the world today has a lot of conflicts. I reminded him that while we have shifted our attention to what's happening in Gaza, there are more conflicts today that millennials and zoomers like him have either not studied or heard about or have simply ignored because it's not really the newest, shiniest issue at the moment.

I reminded him that the Rohingyas continue to be persecuted and have no land or identity of their own; that Afghanistan, after being abandoned by the United States, continues to revert to its medieval ways that women and members of the LGBT have become persecuted and invisible. Tibet is still occupied by China, with its culture slowly being erased everyday by the CCP. It seems like that these so-called activists who are noisy now will soon get tired of their latest advocacy and move on to the next more popular and viral issue.

It is good to be passionate about issues. History demands that we be one with the rest of humanity in condemning the atrocities of more powerful nations. But we cannot simply pick one conflict to support and ignore others. We must care for all oppressed peoples, not just one. History has countless examples of what happens when the world remains silent while atrocities are committed. History will remember where we were at certain points in time, and it will either praise us for caring and fighting for or condemn us for shifting advocacies and caring only about what’s current and what’s good on social media.

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