Monday, February 12, 2007

How do you wish to be viewed 100 years from now?

David Baake sez:
Imagine that, somehow, you are transported forward in time. You find yourself in a history classroom; the year is 2107. What sort of things do you think the teacher will be saying about our time? Personally, I think that if society has undergone any sort of ethical progress by then, the teacher will probably be saying things like this: "In 2003, the United States government invaded Iraq in order to advance the political and economic goals of its ruling class, massacring thousands of civilians in the process. Historians estimate that the invasion caused 655,000 excess civilian deaths between 2003 and 2006 alone. This was one of worst cases of mass-murder of that era, and yet, few Americans took action to stop it." I can imagine the children being horrified and perplexed by the fact that anyone ever tolerated such atrocities. I can imagine them identifying with the anti-war protesters, as students now identify with the anti-fascist movement in Europe when they study the Second World War.

I can imagine the teacher saying: "In the early part of the 21st Century, the United States had the largest prison population in the world, even greater than the prison population of totalitarian states such as China. Over 2 million people were incarcerated, mostly for nonviolent and victimless offenses, and were forced to live in extremely degrading conditions. The government would also execute some of its prisoners. Sometimes, they would execute completely innocent people by accident." Again, children would be horrified, and wonder how decent people could have tolerated such abuses of human dignity.


If you really could visit a history classroom of the future, if you were really forced to think rationally about the injustices of our time in a place where the mythology that justifies them no longer exists, how would you live your life differently? Would you still be complacent? Would you still be indifferent to the atrocities that are occurring all around you? Or would you find the courage to stand up for what is right, even in the face of adversity?

The choice is yours. Do you want to go down in the history books next to Thomas Paine, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Caesar Chavez, Susan B. Anthony, Malcolm X, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela, or next to the millions of decent people who were complicit in horrible atrocities?
Certainly these are questions that each of us will have to wrestle with as we continue our lives. Each of us will have a day of reckoning, a moment where someone, somewhere, will hold us accountable for what was done or for those failures to act. There truly is no exit.

Tip o' the hat to Mickey Z.

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