When I was a teenager it was a common practice to assume that nobody ever changed. What I mean by this is, if somebody had stated an opinion on something a year ago, it was common knowledge that they still felt that way today. Growth, evolution of thought and philosophy was not a big part of our world then. I find that interesting because the crowd I ran with contained some very bright people. Very flawed, each fighting our own demons, but bloody bright.
As time marched on, I personally was forced to move beyond my past. I had to learn to let go of anger, of the depression that had gripped me since I was a kid. In order to find some semblance of life, I had to change a lot of who I was on the inside. Part of that change led me to an acceptance of change in others, to an understanding that they didn’t have to hold to the same beliefs for years or decades. Mistakes are made, lessons are learned and people can grab on to new ideas and let go of those that are holding them back. This concept in action didn’t really stand out to me, it was just a reflection of my own internal struggles to accept who I was. I counted it as a normal part of life; a benefit of maturity, perhaps. I think I was wrong…
For much of my life, I have observed that my country is deeply obsessed with the past. You see that in politics, film, literature, the press and people themselves. Terms such as “Golden Age”, “Gilded Age”, “Classic”, “Retro”,”Timeless” and “Back in the day” all refer to events far removed from the present. But even more, they are substantive terms, words with weight to them, as if, somehow, what they represent should in some way be more valuable and significant than recent events.
Our politics demands that we review every spoken word and action of our representatives, yea even unto birth. Should we find discrepancies that indicate change from a decade or two ago, their entire works are often challenged. A flexible, intelligent mind is portrayed as weak and unable to hold conviction. Our current authors are constantly held to a higher standard set forth by those long dead. Great literary works cast a palpable shadow of today’s author, rendering them less than their talents deserve, especially if they have achieved commercial success. Many of our actors face type cast roles, forever defined by their first crowning achievement. More so, they find themselves unable to comment on serious public matters without facing considerable backlash from the public- ironic considering they often act as the face of American gravitas, highlighting in their works that which is important to us internally.
Our nation is a nation of rebels, dissidents and failures- and of opportunists. We came to a new country, forsake all that we knew, in order to reinvent ourselves and lift ourselves beyond our pasts. We achieved that, as a people and as a nation, by freeing ourselves from our pasts, of learning from history, letting it guide us as we made decisions, but we refused to let our history define our future. My how times have changed….