We Cannot Move On Until We Deal With Our Past

4 mins read

Josh Hawley in the balcony with his feet up, flipping through materials related to other matters. Ted Cruz pretending he isn’t listening, in typical melodramatic Ted fashion. Such a deliberate lack of attention characterized the reaction of Republican members of Congress to the deadly riot carried out by Donald Trump supporters on Jan. 6. To the bodycam footage of a police officer’s beating. To a video of the vice president and his panicked family being hurried away by his Secret Service detail. The videos shown at the impeachment trial were filmed after the insurrection started and during the hours after former President Trump was asked to do something — anything — to stop the violence. He ignored these pleas.

Rick Scott was quoted as saying, about the videos and audio shared by the impeachment managers, that the proceedings were a waste of time. Lindsey Graham said the presentation of the videos was “offensive and absurd.” But, the riot of Jan. 6 and the words of Trump which led to the uprising are apparently not offensive and absurd

Critically examining the events of the day offends these Republicans because it threatens so-called American exceptionalism. Like other horrific events perpetrated by Americans, they feel we need to move on. Don’t address the issue. Don’t think about the underlying beliefs which allowed the problem to occur. Move on. 

Looking back at our country’s history, we have moved on at other times. After the end of legalized slavery, we moved on. After the Hayes-Tilden Compromise of 1877, which ended Reconstruction, we moved on. After the vote was given to women, we moved on. After Selma, we moved on. Following the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s we moved on. 

After slavery ended, we neither addressed the attitudes which allowed it nor provided restitution to those we enslaved. We didn’t provide adequate education or opportunities. We didn’t try to reunite mothers with children who had been sold or husbands with wives who were raped, then sold. We were so willing to move on that a provision of the Hayes-Tilden Compromise removed federal troops from the South, leaving Black southerners in the hands of those who had enslaved them and ushering in another century of oppression and lynching. We passed Civil Rights but still suppress the vote. We systematically deny educational opportunities to children of color and blame their communities for undesirable educational opportunities. We fail to provide adequate funds for science labs, textbooks, or school counselors but tell the children that they can make it if they try hard enough. 

Moving on revises history. It protects Americans and allows us to continue to believe that America is a just nation. That in America, people get what they deserve. Throughout our history, moving on has allowed white men to maintain power and escape punishment for egregious crimes. 

We cannot move on until we deal with our past.

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