The commemoration of war has often, as in the case of Charlottesville, been used to bind together the sinews of power. The three articles in this series seek to explore avenues in the other direction, commemorating war as a means of bending the arc of history toward justice. As their authors suggest, changing the way we remember war has the potential to fundamentally rework our understandings of both the past and present. In the process, we may find new opportunities to foster more equitable approaches to our shared history and society.
Amidst controversies surrounding increasing veteran suicide rates, presidential conduct towards war widows, and the seemingly never-ending conflicts in the Middle East, it seems like the opportune moment to push aside the politics and to take time to reflect on the sacrifices members of the armed services and their families have made to protect the democratic practices and ideas we hold as key to our American identity.
The three articles in this series offer a glimpse into the efforts some of us have made to resist the worst excesses of his presidency, and the role history has played in shaping our responses. As historians, we have an obligation to speak truth. As citizens, we have an obligation to speak truth to power. This series documents both.
While the response of the president was certainly unprecedented, the inclination to highlight violence on the Left, and especially violence from black Americans, is not. In the mid 1960s, as black activists engaged in a decidedly nonviolent struggle for justice, that same tactic appears.
By his own admission, film creator Gottlieb was able to spend most of his life in Silver Spring shielded from the community’s past that included widespread discrimination in the community’s businesses, public buildings, and housing. Even after completing the film, Gottlieb appears to have learned little about the substantial role racism played in shaping his community.