Taking a look at our past

6-25 Page 4A.inddSometimes we remember things as being better than they actually are. And sometimes we remember them as being worse. The test of time is a good one to apply as a standard in rating books, movies and life experiences.
To be fair, something that seemed wonderful years ago might not seem as good now. This subject has come to the forefront because “Gone with the Wind” is being rereleased for the big screen.
We went to see the movie as a class field trip when we were in sixth grade, or maybe seventh. It’s been a long time ago anyway, and there are many details about the day lost forever in memory, but the movie itself made a remarkable impression.
We hear a lot about how realistic or unrealistic a movie is, and as no one is alive now who lived through the era, the movie has become a reference point for many of us of a certain age.
For those unfamiliar with the story, we lost the war. The movie as I remember it primarily shows us what life in the South was like before, during and after a horrible war that killed more Americans than any other before or since. It also paints a picture of what Reconstruction was like for the South.
Reconstruction is the reason my grandparents wouldn’t accept bills bearing Grant’s picture and why Yankees were held in contempt. And the suffering of Reconstruction wouldn’t have happened if Lincoln’s life had been spared. My grandparents revered Lincoln and despised Grant and Sherman. And their feelings were strongly expressed 100 years after the war.
In today’s America, we tend to take things out of context and apply today’s rules of behavior to yesterday’s issues.
Slavery was a horrible blight upon history and a crime against humanity. It existed in part because the South’s economy was closely tied to the institution.
We are still reaping the bitter harvest of a crop planted hundreds of years ago.
But even though slavery was a major issue in this war, it wasn’t the only issue. The battle was also fought over taxation issues between North and South and states’ rights versus federal authority.
Then, just as now, there were terrible injustices carried out in the name of profit. There is always a way to rationalize bad behavior when someone is making money.
It was interesting to see that the state of Tennessee recently issued an official apology to the Cherokee Nation for the acts of inhumanity against them carried out by President Andrew Jackson, the president who violated the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jackson had the Cherokee and other Native Americans from the Southeast marched upon the infamous Trail of Tears after their homes and property were illegally seized. It was an ethnic cleansing in the same vein as Hitler’s attempt to annihilate the Jews, what happened in Sudan, Serbia and what ISIS is trying to do in the Middle East.
As Jackson was a native son of Tennessee, the state apologized for his actions. I don’t know if the Cherokee Nation feels any better for the apology or whether it is meaningful to them. However, it may be the apology itself is meaningless as it didn’t come from Jackson himself. Yes, he’s dead now. But no one else can take responsibility for his actions.
It might be more meaningful to take his picture off our money.
Slavery is still thriving in parts of the world. It will always be wrong. But, right or wrong, it was part of our history.
We can’t change that. We aren’t responsible for what happened in the past. But we are responsible for what we do in the future. Being politically correct is meaningless. How about if we just try to do the right thing as best we can with the tools we have to work with?
I plan to see “Gone with the Wind” again and am interested to know if I will still find it amazing. We’ll see.