In­tepret the present with the past

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

The May 22 ed­i­to­rial “A new New Or­leans” sen­si­bly con­cluded that “there is no blan­ket rule that eas­ily ap­plies to the proper course to take” in deal­ing with the con­tentious is­sue of what to do with Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues and memo­ri­als. But it did of­fer lo­cal and state gov­ern­ments a sen­si­ble, bal­anced process to fol­low. Rather than de­stroy­ing them in the hopes that the re­pug­nant ideals that spawned them will be for­got­ten, it sug­gested re­lo­cat­ing some and up­dat­ing oth­ers with “a healthy dose of con­text.”

Judg­ing past ideals and memo­ri­als by to­day’s so­cial stan­dards pre­vents us from un­der­stand­ing how we changed and be­came who we are to­day. Con­text pro­vides the key to un­der­stand­ing that process.

In 1862, Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln re­minded Congress that “we can­not es­cape his­tory.” Nor should we want to. Lin­coln knew that our to­days and yes­ter­days are the blocks we use to build the fu­ture. Con­fed­er­ate Gen. Robert E. Lee un­der­stood this, too, and con­cluded that “it is his­tory that teaches us to hope.” His­tory holds the legacy of both men and gives us the priv­i­lege of un­der­stand­ing and eval­u­at­ing each of them. Gor­don Berg, Gaithers­burg The writer is past pres­i­dent of the Civil War Round Ta­ble of the Dis­trict of Columbia.

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