Recently, my wife and I visited the Newseum. I revisited the Berlin Wall exhibit. Going through it, I also watched the video about the reporters responding to the 9/11 attacks. Seeing the antenna from the top of the World Trade Center and parts of the debris brought it home.
There was an extensive photo exhibit from John F. Kennedy’s photographer and a great video montage of his brief presidency. He was before my time. But he was not in the distant past.
Our history is real and living. It affects us today. We do not live in a bubble. We are influenced by our past. We get to build our future into what we’d like it to be. It’s a future that will have many amazing events and people. It will be filled with terrible times and people. It will mirror our past.
History doesn’t feel real from the pages of history books or television programs. History feels real when I can reach out and touch the Berlin Wall. I can imagine myself living beneath the watchful, murderous eye of the tower guards. To live apart from family and friends. To not see loved ones for decades. What would that feel like?
The Civil Rights Movement. It’s not a done deal. It’s the start to a long, hard road. A road being walked by those who want to love who they want. Isn’t that what everyone wants? Everyone wants to be loved and to love. Everyone wants to live inside their own house and their own lives.
There are lessons the past has to teach us. But instead, we insist on re-learning the same
painful lessons. We’ve done a pretty terrible job of allowing everyone to share the rights of straight, white men. I don’t remember anyone voting for my right to marry. Rights are not a finite resource.
Women have to fight for equal rights.
African-Americans have to fight for equal rights.
Gays have to fight for equal rights.
Our history is not a collection of old, dead stories from books. Our history is now. Our history is yesterday. And tomorrow is a new chance to write it.