Judged by our worst

So this is where we are now? We’re all to be judged by the worst thing we’ve ever done, said or thought. It doesn’t matter our good deeds, intentions or accomplishments….oh no….the things we’ve done that others considered wrong should determine our legacy and cancel out everything else.

Are we really prepared to take this mindset and apply it across the board? News flash: those who have created beauty and innovations in art, music and the sciences aren’t always stellar examples of goodness and perfection. Those who risked their lives in another era to further an ideal can still possess what culture now considers “wrong” views. Is it fair to expect these mere mortals to have lived a life devoid of any bad actions/judgments before they can be worthy of respect for what they did accomplish and contribute to society?

Let’s consider:

George Fredrich Handel, musician and composer: Handel repeatedly invested in the Royal Africa Company—the main slave traders in the early 1700s. Should we strike his name from the infamous Handel’s Messiah composition and cease listening to the classical music written by his hand?

Thomas Hart Benton, artist: Benton owned slaves so must we destroy all his paintings and never view or discuss them in the context of his culture?

William Clark, American explorer: When he wasn’t hiking through the western wilderness, Clark was a planter and slave owner. Should all his work on the Lewis and Clark exhibition be discounted? The exhibition could now just be referred to as the Lewis Trail.

Benjamin Franklin, American statesman, writer, philosopher and scientist: Even though Franklin was a civil activist and president of an abolitionist group later in life, he owned two slaves and ran notices involving the sale or purchase of slaves in his newspaper in his younger years. He was also somewhat of a womanizer and misogynist. Should we immediately strike his name from the University of Pennsylvania, never to acknowledge it again? Should we benefit from any of his inventions or discoveries? I don’t know about you, but I kinda like electricity, the postal service, printing and bifocal glasses.

Andrew Jackson, soldier, military general and 7th president of the USA: A polarizing figure in our nation’s history for sure, and there’s enough here to offend everyone. But, his fierce military commitment in 1814 likely saved New Orleans from being overrun by a British army of 10,000 soldiers, which probably would have forever changed the look of our country west of the Mississippi River. And, he did this with only about 5,000 men, most of whom were inexperienced and poorly trained volunteers. He took flack for paying local, white and non-white civilians the same wage to fight alongside his army of men. Yes, he was deeply, deeply flawed, but should we not commemorate this man for any of his positive accomplishments?

Mount Rushmore, United States National Monument: Long considered an iconic tribute to our nation’s different eras with Washington for independence during the Revolutionary War; Jefferson for the growth of the fledgling nation; Lincoln for the preservation of the union during the Civil War; and Roosevelt for the nation’s growth during the 20th century. The Lakota Sioux Native Americans claim the mountain and Black Hills is theirs and the US government took it from them. What is not mentioned is this area in South Dakota was inhabited by other tribes for almost 10,000 years before the Sioux laid claim. The Arikara people arrived in the Black Hills around 1500 AD, followed by the Cheyenne, Crow, Kiowa and Pawnee tribes. The Lakota Sioux didn’t arrived until the 18th century, and they…wait for it….drove out the other tribes and claimed the land for themselves. Karma can be such a b**ch.

I’ve heard there are those who believe the USA is an “illegitimate” country because of our colonial expansion into Native American land. All things stemming from our colonial roots are evil and should never be commemorated. This, of course, wipes out almost all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and framers of our Constitution. And, most of them owned slaves, which is another reason to be offended and outraged. Let’s just ignore the fact they literally risked their lives for the idea of freedom from a tyrannical monarchy. Where would you and I be today if they had not risked everything, including their lives?

And I don’t even know what to do with these historical figures. Should whatever good things they did with their lives be overshadowed by these “wrongs” they did?

William Ellison Jr: An American cotton gin maker and blacksmith in South Carolina, he was a former Mulatto slave who became a property owner, and owned 63 black slaves, making him the largest of the 171 black slaveholders in South Carolina.

Elizabeth Swain Bannister: Bannister was a free woman of colour from Barbados. She gained her freedom in 1806, moved to Berbice and lived with William Fraser, where she acquired property in her own name and owned and more than 75 slaves.

It’s a slippery slope when we begin to  dissect everyone’s life and judge their merits based on the worst thing they’ve ever done. I doubt if there is a single person who could stand up to the level of scrutiny now being placed on our historical figures. I would not like my good qualities canceled out by my worst thought or action….and I doubt if you would either.

But, here we are.

7 thoughts on “Judged by our worst

  1. We should never erase history. If we do it’s a path we won’t enjoy taking. There are folks out there that have gone completely off the tracks. I’m not going to join them.

    Have a fabulous day, my friend. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a really thorny topic. Insofar as I’m concerned, Franklin gets a pass – unless we go back into the past and don’t elect the misogynist and womanizer we currently have in office.
    As for statues – and I assume that’s what we’re really talking about here – I have mixed feelings. It depends upon whether you view a statue as simply a marker of history, or a emblem of honor for the person represented.Maybe a answer that can be agreed upon would be to put them in museums where they could be shown in the proper context, which is probably where they really belong in most cases.
    As to slave owners – we need to recognize that back in those days, nearly everyone that could afford it had slaves – it was the equivalent to having servants today, although most were not especially humane to their slaves/servants.It’s probably a lot like I suspect there are very few men who were young in the 50s that haven’t assaulted at least one woman – that’s how it was back then. We were the property of men to be used as they saw fit, when they saw fit. This does not condone either slavery or sexual assault, but rather is my attempt to put it in context.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree we need to look at history in the context of the time when it occurred. It’s difficult to judge people back then based on our 21st century culture. Unfortunately, I think there are those who do just that. Destroying and defacing public and private property is not the way to further any objective. And in some cases, those who do are showing rheir illiteracy of history.

      Liked by 1 person

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