In line with my recent theme of connecting the past to the present and, if we're not careful, to an foreboding and unavoidable future, I really must link to The Unapologetic Mexican's post on how we are haunted by the spectre of slavery in the United States. He features, besides his extraordinary and poetic description of our haunted land, a piece by Cynthia Boaz that appeared recently on Truthout.org. Boaz writes:
"[T]he institutionalized ownership of one human being by another - is arguably the most disempowering system ever created by humans. It is intended to degrade and humiliate to the point that a person no longer feels agency over his own life. Like other systems of injustice, its effects can run so deep that when the institution is removed, the sense of indignity continues for members of the formerly repressed group until there is an open and comprehensive addressing of past injustices and the pain caused by the systematic abuse. In the last 25 years, in countries recovering from severe oppression, "Truth and Reconciliation Commissions" have been set up to accomplish these tasks. Peru, South Africa, Morocco and East Timor are just a few of the places where TRCs have helped their societies heal and have facilitated reform by acknowledging past wrongs and ensuring that the horrors of history will not be repeated.
"Because there has been no significant attempt to deal with the history of slavery in this country, it is as though our collective mind has been asked to exist in a state of cognitive dissonance. There are no national monuments in the US to former slaves, although they exist for almost every other group who has sacrificed for the "vital interests" of the nation. As a country, we prefer to pretend that slavery never happened, or that it existed too long ago to be relevant to our lives today. This historical amnesia comes easier to some than to others, and it may be that those who have the hardest time reconciling some sense of injustice with the legal rights afforded to every American are young black men. They know that they should feel powerful - after all, they are young and living in the "world's greatest democracy." But for many there must also be (what I imagine as) a constant, gnawing sense of indignity whose source may be vague, and which is easily manifested in rage, aggression, and other substitutes for true empowerment. To a young, misguided and righteously indignant person, a gun equals power."
Ignore this truth, if you want to, but over at The Free Slave earlier today, I ran across a quote by Lao-Tzu: “To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease.” And to pretend you're asleep when you're not asleep is not only stupid, but can be very, very dangerous.