Preserve History, Improve the Future

The members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC have shown what it means to forgive. They are an example of loving the sinner while condemning the sin, and of honestly trying to be disciples of Jesus Christ and children of God. They’ve shown what happens when good confronts evil. Good wins.

Part of the national reaction has involved a certain flag, the “Stars and Bars,” the Confederate flag. You can find details (and opinions) about the flag and its symbolism online, so I’m not going to explain that here. What I will do is state my opinion.

I think it’s good for the State of South Carolina to remove the flag from their monument. There’s no reason, however, for it not to go in a museum. Another alternative would be to auction the flag, and have the proceeds donated to the families of the victims.

What should not happen is the eradication of everything Confederate in the public square. This is not because slavery is good, or some other false idea–it’s because history must be preserved. History matters: good history, bad history, embarrassing history, glorious history. It’s who we are. We’re a country that fought a war over slavery, yes, but after that war we united again. We overcame our own civil war.

Some feel that eradicating or hiding parts of history will help heal the future. It won’t.

Know what will? Individual initiative. If you want to improve the future, you don’t do it by removing or destroying any reminder of our past, but by learning from it. I may forget the shooter’s name, but I won’t forget what he did. I may not remember the name of each person he killed, but I will remember the response of their families, their congregation and their city.

The Emanuel AME Church won’t forget what happened. They will improve the future, however, by going down in history as proof that evil may act, but it does not define. It may rant and rave and kill, but it cannot choose our fate.