Coming to Peace with a Painful Past

Museums And Memorials Are Powerful Political Tools

What a weekend in Alabama taught me about memorializing atrocity

Emi
Emi
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The rhetoric of "Make America Great Again" implies that America was once a glorious nation of opportunity and economic promise. It sparks visions of white picket fences and comfortably cookie-cutter suburban neighborhoods; of backyard barbecues and 4th of July fireworks. It suggests that America has historically been a land of freedom and equality, becoming the exemplary student in democracy for the rest of the world to follow.

This, however, has never been the case. Historically, America has been a nation of slavery and oppression, of racism and discrimination, of prejudice and pain. It has been a land of opportunity for wealthy whites because of the economic benefits reaped off the hard labor of slaves and the genocide of Native Americans. It is because of the institution of slavery that America became the "great" nation that is idealized in rhetoric today. The impact of this horrific period of American history is still largely felt today.

African-Americans are one of many marginalized groups in American society that face continuous oppression due to historical biases and systemic racism. After spending the past weekend in Alabama visiting museums and memorials and walking in the re-enactment of the march across the bridge in Selma, I have still only just begun to understand the extent to which the past impacts the present. From mass slavery to mass segregation, to mass incarceration; African Americans are not and have never been treated as equals in this land of the free.

Learning about past atrocity is difficult for many reasons. First, it is hard to grasp the true extent of the evil that occurred. It can be troubling to understand how human beings treat other people in such horrific ways. Once the extent of atrocity is grasped, it is difficult to communicate this to others. Who gets to narrate the story? How is it told? How will people understand and remember a terrible time period so as to prevent it from occurring again? Oftentimes, the answers to these questions lie in museums and memorials that both honor victims of atrocity and educate citizens in order to never allow such crimes to be committed again.

Museums and memorials, especially those constructed on actual sites of atrocity, are powerful political tools to shape future generations. However, they are also used as vehicles for peace-building and reflection. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum, both developed and supported by the Equal Justice Initiative, are located in Montgomery, Alabama. The memorial honors the thousands of black Americans lynched in the Jim Crow South following the dissolution of slavery, while the museum traces the historical treatment of African-Americans from slavery to incarceration.

Montgomery's proximity to many plantations and slave-owners positioned the city to become the capital of slave trading in Alabama. The Legacy Museum is built inside an old slave-trading warehouse, while the memorial is built in a state that has over 300 documented lynchings. Choosing to build a museum on the same site as one of the most heavily utilized slave warehouses in the country adds an entirely new layer of meaning to the museum. While it is a space for learning and understanding, it is also a space for feeling. It is a place to take a step back and acknowledge the atrocity that occurred literally where one is standing. It adds a sense of reality to the museum because as one is reading about the horrors committed in slave warehouses and against black people throughout history, the ghosts of that atrocity are reading over one's shoulder. There is an overarching eeriness to the space because visitors cannot be removed from what they are learning about due to the physical site itself.

Similarly, the memorial carries a different impact due to its location. The landscape is filled with hauntingly beautiful steel pillars representative of individuals lynched. The architecture of the space, gradually carrying visitors along a decline the farther into the memorial they walk, leaves guests far underneath the pillars. Looking up, one quite literally feels the gigantic weight of human cruelty and suffering. Furthermore, the simplicity of the site allows one to feel the full impact of one of the darkest corners of human history. Rather than having countless plaques to read or videos to interact with, visitors can openly interpret and truly feel the emotions of the space. The simple and tragically beautiful memorial, combined with a picturesque floral landscape and calming water features, not only provides an opportunity for deeper understanding of the horrors committed against fellow humans, but it is a space for healing and coming to peace with a painful past.

This is the true power of these memorials and museums. By better understanding the past, one can begin to come to peace with it. By connecting the past with the present, one can see connections to current injustice. By acknowledging that America has never been great and still has a long way to go, we as a country can start to begin to move towards a more just and equitable society that truly is a land of the free for all.

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The 10 Most Important Things You Need To Know About Relationships

Without communication, there is no relationship; without respect, there is no love; and without trust, there is no reason to continue.
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When you see an old couple holding hands or sharing romantic kisses while sitting on a park bench, doesn't that spark warm feelings of love and happiness in your heart? Doesn't it make you think about how they maintained their relationship for so many years when couples you know have trouble making it past six months? And of course, some people are not made for each other and so their relationship just simply doesn't work. But then there are couples who give up the minute an obstacle comes along, which makes you think their relationship wasn't truly important to them in the first place. What everyone has to understand in order to preserve a strong, happy, and prosperous relationship is that love is colorful, and the same kind of love doesn't exist for everyone. Being in a loving relationship that continues to thrive, I'm going to share some of the few things that I believe should exist between two lovers who want to sustain their prosperous relationship.

1. Communication

Communicating with your partner is essential. I'm sure you've heard it before, but communication is key. If something is bothering you or what your partner wants to do isn't what you're interested in, say something! Neither you nor your partner are mind readers, so how are they supposed to know how you feel if you keep your feelings bottled up inside? Not speaking up and communicating your ideas, feelings, desires, and wants is unhealthy because one day you might blow up and say some things you'll either regret or feel sorry for saying. Communicate to find a middle ground in your relationship because it's unfair for one person to constantly accommodate the other. Relationships cannot grow without communication, so don't be afraid to speak your mind and embrace your thoughts.

2. Trust and Honesty

A relationship cannot continue without trust and honesty. By being honest with your partner, they have no reason to doubt you or not trust you. Trust is vital in a strong and successful relationship because you don't want to think twice about what your partner says or does. Almost anything can be acceptable in a relationship as long as you're honest with your partner. Being in a relationship doesn't mean that everything else in your life has to change. You can still see your friends, go out, and be your own person, but be honest with your partner with whatever you do because by hiding something from them, you might be giving them the perfect reason not to trust you.

3. Forgiveness

No relationship is perfect. That's because none of us are perfect. People make mistakes in everyday life in the same way that people make mistakes in relationships. Of course, there are some things that are unforgivable, such as cheating on your partner (at least in my eyes), because it means that your relationship didn't mean much to you anyway. But, most things can be forgiven. Forgiveness is extremely important and necessary in a relationship because we have to accept and be reminded that we aren't perfect. So if I bailed on you because something important came up or you had a bad day at work and said some things to me that should have been directed at someone else out of anger, it's okay. Sometimes all it takes is a simple I'm sorry and I forgive you.

4. Respect and Appreciation

Without respect and appreciation, there is no love. How can you disrespect the one you love and care for? Exactly: it's hard to find an answer. Respect is the foundation of a healthy relationship. Respect your partner by choosing your words carefully, honoring boundaries, being willing to compromise, showing consideration, and protecting your partner. Make sure you're being respected by knowing your worth, acting honorably, setting and upholding boundaries, being a man or woman of your word, and showing respect for yourself. Appreciate your partner for who they are, the things they do for you, the support they give you, and the growth that they contribute in building your own identity.

5. Emotional Support

Real men don't cry is a load of bullshit. I have been blessed to be surrounded by a few strong and courageous men in my life who I've seen shed a tear or cry when losing a loved one or simply out of pure happiness. We all have emotions and though we try to hold them in check, those emotions sometimes boil over. In relationships, it's important to show emotional support for your partner, regardless if they are a man or a woman. So when your partner is going through a tough time or is struggling for whatever the reason might be, stray away from the pathetic Be A Man go-to phrase and be their shoulder to lean on. If your partner knows that you're emotionally there for them, they might have an easier time opening up to you in the future.

6. Humor

Sharing laughs and smiles with the one you love is extremely important. After all, being in a relationship is sharing your life with someone you care for, cherish, and have fun with. Being able to joke around and laugh with one another is extremely healthy for your well-being and the relationship. It's not just about fun and games, but it's also no fun to be so serious and stern about everything. Keep your relationship alive with some humor, adventure, and daily laughs to see the smile of your loved one!

7. The Magic of Small Things

The small things in life are actually not that small. There are times where the smallest deed can make someone the happiest and that's usually because the small things are the most thoughtful ones. Preparing breakfast when your partner is too tired or surprising them with an iced caramel latte on their way home from work can be enough to make their day. The small things really do count and they are remembered more than you might think. There's something magical in knowing that your partner feels appreciated and happy that they have the privilege of calling you mine. And the small things can do just that.

8. Sharing Interests

Having things in common with the one you love and sharing interests with your partner is perfect because neither one of you need to accommodate the other! There will be days where both you and your partner will not want to do the same things and a middle ground will have to be met, but sharing interests makes it easier when looking for fun things to do and finding things to talk about! Having a few similar interests like bike riding or playing football allows you and your partner to have your "thing," the thing that brings you two together. Liking similar things is also a perfect conversation starter, but also talking about your dislikes and things that you don't agree on can spark an intense and even more enticing conversation!

9. Celebrate Achievements

The happiness you feel because of your own achievements should be the same feeling you get when your partner accomplishes something they've been striving for, no matter how little it may be. Whether it be winning the Noble Peace Prize, having a 4.0 GPA, or hitting a new record at the gym, no achievement should go unnoticed. Being proud of your partner's achievements can strengthen your relationship and bring the both of you closer together.

10. Love and Affection

Love is life. And if you miss love, you miss life. This might strike you at first, but what's the point of being successful, rich, happy or really anything else if you have nobody to share it with? Love is one of life's greatest gifts. It brings people together and allows them to build a life that some can only dream of. But sometimes love is not enough to maintain a prosperous and healthy relationship. That's because relationships aren't easy, people are so different from one another, and relationships take much effort and patience. But in the end, if you don't have love in a relationship, you really don't have anything. Take the time to show your partner some affection, to make alone time a priority. The kisses, hugs, and even sex is something that in the end does make a relationship healthy. But without love, all of that means nothing.

Every relationship struggles, but only strong relationships get through it. Take the time to focus on these ten things that are important in keeping the love alive and feelings between you and your partner strong. And most importantly, remember that no one falls in love by choice; it's by chance, and no one falls out of love by chance--it's by choice.

Cover Image Credit: Marika Cygert

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8 Types Of People Fetuses Grow Into That 'Pro-Lifers' Don't Give 2.5 Shits About

It is easy to fight for the life of someone who isn't born, and then forget that you wanted them to be alive when you decide to hate their existence.

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For those in support of the #AbortionBans happening all over the United States, please remember that the unborn will not always be a fetus — he or she may grow up to be just another person whose existence you don't support.

The fetus may grow up to be transgender — they may wear clothes you deem "not for them" and identify in a way you don't agree with, and their life will mean nothing to you when you call them a mentally unstable perv for trying to use the bathroom.

The fetus may grow up to be gay — they may find happiness and love in the arms of someone of the same gender, and their life will mean nothing to you when you call them "vile" and shield your children's eyes when they kiss their partner.

The fetus may grow up and go to school — to get shot by someone carrying a gun they should have never been able to acquire, and their life will mean nothing to you when your right to bear arms is on the line.

The fetus may be black — they may wear baggy pants and "look like a thug", and their life will mean nothing to you when you defend the police officer who had no reason to shoot.

The fetus may grow up to be a criminal — he might live on death row for a heinous crime, and his life will mean nothing to you when you fight for the use of lethal injection to end it.

The fetus may end up poor — living off of a minimum wage job and food stamps to survive, and their life will mean nothing to you when they ask for assistance and you call them a "freeloader" and refuse.

The fetus may end up addicted to drugs — an experimentation gone wrong that has led to a lifetime of getting high and their life will mean nothing to you when you see a report that they OD'd and you make a fuss about the availability of Narcan.

The fetus may one day need an abortion — from trauma or simply not being ready, and her life will mean nothing to you as you wave "murderer" and "God hates you" signs as she walks into the office for the procedure.

* * *

Do not tell me that you are pro-life when all of the above people could lose their lives in any way OUTSIDE of abortion and you wouldn't give 2.5 shits.

You fight for the baby to be born, but if he or she is gay or trans, you will berate them for who they are or not support them for who they love.

You fight for the baby to be born, but if he or she is poor or addicted, you will refuse the help they desperately need or consider their death a betterment of society.

You fight for the baby to be born, but when the used-to-be-classroom-of-fetuses is shot, you care more about your access to firearms than their lives.

It is easy to pretend you care about someone before they are even born, and easy to forget their birth was something you fought for when they are anything other than what you consider an ideal person.

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