Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Remembering vs. Forgetting

What’s more important, revenge for your ancestors or peace for your children?

When there is tragedy, be it personal or social, there is a tension between the need to remember and the need to let go. At best, we want to remember so that we can avoid future tragedies, so that we do not make the same mistakes over and over.

But remembering does not guarantee that the same mistakes are not made. I've heard "never again" used to justify the Israeli government's "self defense" and as a rallying cry for human rights activists fighting against those same actions.

At worst, people remember out of anger. They remember because they want revenge, although they would almost certainly couch that revenge in terms of wanting justice. Revenge is an understandable emotion, especially if you have suffered greatly at the hands of another.

Forgetting doesn't work out so great either, especially if not everyone forgets. When we invaded Iraq, the Muslim world had visions of crusades and colonialism. They have been invaded by western christians many times. The western christians seem to have forgotten.

But the remembering that comes with violence and anger condemns future generations to the same fate. Retribution will never bring peace. What if letting go would ensure that future generations would not have to suffer the same fate? Isn't that worth the price?

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