When I die, do I want a monument somewhere? I can’t decide.
We are awash in genealogy at my house these days. My sweet husband in his typically obsessive way locked himself into his office with his computer for an intense two weeks and came out the side door with a colorful chart full of names and dates connecting us to our roots, some dating back to the 1300s.
What fun! Here an Earl, there a judge, there a Civil War fatality, there a…. what’s that? A woman who “lived with” the family? In the South? It must mean…A SLAVE? No!
The thing about roots is that you own them; you have no choice. I am proud of my heritage that contains “trouble makers” - those ancestors that challenged the status quo and the Scots who fought for religious reformation. In America, some joined in the Westward Enlightment movement and even my southern great-grandfather was a Free Mason.
But what about the other ghosts? They belong to me too. I am a pacifist but there they are - a steady line of soldiers ready to take aim and kill. What about the musician who was also anti-semite? How about the county judge who owned slaves? My former neighbor Father George says that historians must consider actions based on the era in which they took place. Try telling that to a descendent of Jack the Ripper or Hitler. I’ll bet nobody admits to those DNA lines.
Unless we are 100% native American, someone in our past had the guts to get on a boat and get off in a place foreign to them. He or she possessed strength of character and a streak of adventure nearly incomprehensible to me. Clearly some people still have that drive. They risk everything to swim across a river, scale a wall or walk across deserted borders. I bow to their courage.
The ties that bind us to our history are sometimes faint but they're around if you look hard enough; they reside in birth and death records, in the family Bible, in ancient military service records, and in library history departments. They hide in crevices of cemeteries, in church records and on the monuments - names and dates on tombstones.
I never thought I wanted one of those. Now I’m not so sure.
|14000 empty shoes on the White House South Lawn representing the 7000 children killed by gunshots since 2000|
Here are some examples of another kind of monument. These monuments are temporary but as powerful as any made of bronze or marble. They memorialize children who died from guns during the current century in the United States.
|Empty desks of the 17 teens shot in Parkland, Florida|