By Peter d'Errico
Exactly what is the “duty of memory”? Do we have a duty to remember anything? We know the adage from George Santayana, that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But what if we want to repeat the past? What if the past is celebrated, not mourned and commemorated?
There’s an awful lot of American flag-waving at Indian Powwows, despite the bloody, anti-Indian history associated with that flag. Does this mean Indians have no memories? Does it mean they celebrate their Holocaust? This is a phenomenon discovered by some who have worked with colonialism: Frantz Fanon, for example, studying Africa, noted that colonized people strive to emulate the culture and ideas of their oppressors.
It seems that the first “duty of memory” is to remember. And how do we remember? By searching out the past, looking for evidence, facing facts, poking through facades, ignoring excuses, refusing lies.
Last year, President Obama ordered the creation of an “Atrocity Prevention Board,” saying, “Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States.” He also said, “America’s reputation suffers, and our ability to bring about change is constrained, when we are perceived as idle in the face of mass atrocities and genocide.” He added, “history has taught us that our pursuit of a world where states do not systematically slaughter civilians will not come to fruition without concerted and coordinated effort.”
One wonders whether America might do better to start with cleaning its own house, starting with its memory of its history. The U.S. cannot claim clean hands on the issue of mass atrocities and genocide. It cannot claim immunity from the charge of systematic slaughter. In Fanon’s words, these historical events leave behind “germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land [and] from our minds….”
Only when we have removed the rot of historical denial and replaced it with the fresh air of historical memory are we able to say we have carried out the “duty of memory.” Only then may we say we are ready to prevent atrocity and genocide.
For more on the subject, see Why Do Indians "Live in Past"? and Colorado Rejects "Genocide" Label.
"t probably won't happen until the rabid right releases its hold on American politics"
Ah, yes, significant exageration. Or was it said just because it sounded good, whether or not it meant anything?
Anyway, what evidence do you have concerning the political alignment of those who oppose such a museum?
One indicator might perhaps be the " Native American Apology Resolution i" such as it was. This was spearheaded not by a liberal, but by a very conservative (i.e. 'right') senator.
From this page:
"Senator Brownback said that he introduced the measure “to officially apologize for the past ill-conceived policies by the US Government toward the Native Peoples of this land and re-affirm our commitment toward healing our nation’s wounds and working toward establishing better relationships rooted in reconciliation.”
I don't even consider it really a thing. The Holocaust Museum basically tells the same "America wins the war, and it's all okay now because Israel exists." narrative we've heard hundreds of times.
For what it's worth, the first Godwin involved Indians. And I can't help but say about Mountain Meadows "Joseph Smith thought Indians were lost Jews. Brigham Young took to the alleged but most likely Nazi habit of false flag operations."
I don't think any government official has seriously proposed an American Indian Holocaust Museum, so there's no opposition yet. But conservatives have opposed museum exhibits that challenge America's self-image before. A typical example is the battle over the Enola Gay exhibit at the Smithsonian.
Smithsonian Exhibit of the Enola Gay: The Incineration of History
IN MAY, THE Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., planned to unveil a major exhibition entitled “The Last Act: The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II.”
To commemorate the August, 1945 U.S. decision to drop nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Smithsonian commissioned a ten-year, $1 million renovation of the Enola Gay -- the B-29 that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima -- which it planned to put on display as part of a 10,000 sq. foot exhibit with a 600-page script.
But veterans' organizations led by the American Legion have scuttled the project. Late last summer, the American Legion and right-wing congressmen started to pressure the Smithsonian to change the script. they claimed it underestimated the casualties that would have been required if an invasion of mainland Japan had been required, dwelt overly long on the horrible effects of the bombs, minimized Pearl Harbor and Japanese war crimes, and impugned U.S. war motives with talk of racism.
The mode of attack was revived McCarthyism. A statement by more than twenty Congressmen called the exhibit “un-American.” Newt Gingrich said that the Smithsonian should not be a “plaything for left-wing ideologies.” Eighty Republican and Democratic Representatives called for the ouster of Martin O. Harwit, the museum's director.
More to the point, I've reported on many examples of Americans--predominantly conservatives--denying that we committed genocide against Indians. Some recent postings on this denial:
It's a fact that many Americans refuse to use the word "genocide," DMarks. They refuse to admit their ancestors did anything wrong. But you think they'll accept a whole museum dedicated to examining America's genocidal past? You're living in fantasy-land if you seriously believe that.
If you disagree, show me any conservative politician who uses the word "genocide" to describe what happened. Even Brownback's apology refers only to "ill-conceived policies," a much weaker charge than genocide. Former Democrat turned Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell may use the word, but he's about the only one. Most of your fellow conservatives are in denial and will fight to protect America's whitewashed reputation.
" Even Brownback's apology refers only to "ill-conceived policies," a much weaker charge than genocide."
But Brownback pushed this overdue idea farther than anyone else ever had.
"Most of your fellow conservatives are in denial and will fight to protect America's whitewashed reputation."
And hardline liberals like Verg Bernero promise to use violence against Natives as part of this fight.
You're wasting time defending Brownback as an individual, especially when he didn't use the word "genocide." I'm talking about America's entire right-wing culture, and you don't have an answer for that.
Virg Bernero is also an individual, and I haven't seen any evidence that he's a "hardline liberal." Clearly you can't attack liberals in general so you rely on these worthless exceptions to the rule.
Unfortunately, you had nothing to say about the bulk of my arguments. I'd say you lose the debate again.
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