If you were to ask African-American students here at Eastern University why they want the statues of Confederate generals and memorials to Confederate soldiers removed from public places, they are likely to answer, “Because those statues are honoring those who fought to keep our people enslaved.” I don’t think that many of us who are white understand what’s going on from their perspective. African-American students view those statues as honoring those who fought to continue the oppression that has marked our nation.
Secondly, I have heard several radio and T.V. commentators say that you can’t rewrite history. To that I answer, of course you can! And there are many cases in which it has needed to be rewritten.
After WWII, Germany had to rewrite its history of what went on in their nation during the 1930s.
Japan still hasn’t completely rewritten its history of events leading up to the war in the Pacific. Many Japanese children learn in their history classes that America was the aggressing nation, in spite of the fact that U.S. involvement in the war in the Pacific started when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
The children in North Korea are taught that the South Koreans and Americans were responsible for the Korean War. It’s obvious that their history books should be rewritten. It was North Korea, aided by the Chinese, that invaded South Korea, and it took a major military operation led by General Douglas MacArthur to drive the North Koreans back over the border separating the North and the South.
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In the heated rhetoric these days, it’s important to not only know what happened before and after the Civil War, but also, why it happened. And that may take some rewriting of history. Perhaps the time has come for we Americans to rewrite much of our own history.
Most high school students are not aware that in the 1950s, we Americans invaded the Dominican Republic and replaced the elected government with a puppet ruling committee for several months. In another case, few of these students cannot explain how we got dragged into the Vietnam war, and why so many students of another generation opposed it.
We must deconstruct much of what we read about our past. An indigenous American who is a Red Letter Christian recently called to my attention the fact that in both the Declaration of Independence and in the U.S. Constitution his people are referred to as savages. Who can deny that such history requires a closer look?
The Bible calls us to be agents of reconciliation, and we cannot carry out that calling unless we read history not only through the eyes of the rich and powerful — but also through the eyes of the poor and oppressed.