Wednesday, April 8, 2009
It struck me as odd, this past week in D.C., the lengths we go to make our history "comfortable" to those who come to study/observe/revisit it. Over the course of three days we visited the Gettysburg Battlefield, Williamsburg, and Monticello and in all three of these places slavery was mentioned but never given the attention that the culture/commerce/innovation/politics were given. This strikes me as more frustrating because I don't think we make our leaders stronger or better by glossing over their weaknesses. We just make our heritage more convoluted. I don't think that saying Jefferson disliked slavery but didn't see a way around it as an acceptable response to the fact that he had hundreds of slaves, fathered at least 1 possibly 4 children into slavery who he did not free until they had reached the age of 21. I don't think presenting that situation as a "moral dilemma" should free him from close or condemning scrutiny. Jefferson had issues. I think we just need to deal with that. The man chose comfort over conscience. I think it also dilutes the impact of someone like Lincoln who, generations later, still seems to withstand close scrutiny. Exceptional leaders should be just that, exceptional. All this to say, I realized how often I choose comfort over conscience. Like one of the disciples who couldn't handle the fact that Jesus said "eat my flesh and drink my blood" often I "vamoose" when I am challenged to do things that leave me uncomfortable in this world.