Yes, the past matters. A BUNCH.

I was reading this good article about Woodrow Wilson’s legacy at Princeton (The Chronicle: Don’t Repress the Past ).  I sometimes read the comments, though sometimes that *Really* isn’t a good idea because people will say the most awful things to one another sometimes.  However, I came across this and it really sparked something in me. Here it is:

“Why. Who is being ‘degraded’ by having a building named after W. Wilson. I am no fan of the late POTUS but give it a rest. It was almost 100 years ago. Isn’t there a statute of limitation on this kind of thing? “

IMO & my experience, I think there are lots of people who feel this way, and I wanted to give a somewhat serious response, which is below. Don’t worry, there will be knitting content in the next post, I imagine. 🙂


I replied:

Ummm. No. There isn’t a statute of limitations, so long as we teach US History and deem it useful. What kids in the US – to this day!- haven’t heard “Remember the Alamo!” Or what about all those much more recent memorials for 9/11 that say “Never forget!”? Or is it just that those who have been oppressed should forget?


And who is being degraded, you ask? Every single one of us who considers ourselves an American, regardless of race, religion, creed, or origin.  Perpetuating lies when we know better/different – because it’s more comfortable and/or easier for some – makes us all accomplices to those lies AND it continues the wounding the wronged.

Here’s an analogy that may be useful in better understanding this issue. Just imagine if your whole life growing up, people told lies about your family. These lies are a hundred years old, but people still tell them. You know that what people say is not true, but the majority of the people you interact with, day in & day out, believe those lies to be true. When new people meet you, they hear your last name and they immediately say, “Oh are you one of that family?”  referring to your family’s untrue but widespread reputation. If they don’t ask out loud, it is clear from the look on their faces, that they are thinking about those lies, and it affects they way they treat you.  People you know well and have come to trust have learned that these lies are not true, mainly because you have taken the time to educate them, and to show them the proof that they are untrue. You do it, so you won’t go nuts, but you get damn tired of having to prove yourself over and over again to everyone. If an opportunity came along to educate the vast majority of people, to prove that the lies are untrue, do you think that you would take that opportunity?  Or would you listen to those who say,”Just forget about it. It’s untrue anyway. What’s the big deal? That was all a long time ago….”


In the instance of the buildings, YOU may not care because it wasn’t you that has been wronged, but to those who have been wronged (and continue to be), it . does matter and it will continue to matter.