This country is an inelegant series of the terrorists we are compelled to remember and celebrate by the state at the direct expense of their victims, who we are encouraged to forget lest they disrupt the festivities. A dance between the retelling of dominant culture’s epic fictions and their spinning into fact, its steps treading indecorously on the truth of their sins and on the trodden’s past, which is so inextricable to our present and promises to haunt our future.
And for a while, it was successful. I had forgotten so much of what was urgently mine to know, legacy born in blood and handed down neglected, transfused instead with the careful propaganda of power, my veins running cold. I only knew that my people were the lowest slaves, cannibals, savages, subservient, brutish, too easily used. I was never fully convinced, yet knew all too well that in their eyes my story, whatever it was, was foreign, perhaps an enemy, most assuredly to be treated with paternalism and suspect, to be controlled, and yet I recalled nothing else. I could hold onto nothing else. I lent my voice easily to the din. But by and by I have come upon my truth, and those of others, and resilient, insistent, unerring, they will have their say.
I am proud to report that though I did not recognize them at first, my memory never strayed too far, rather, it laid in wait, patient over decades and centuries, ready to be known again. It needed not a settler’s idea of discovery but the storied practice of honoring and acknowledgement.
To be sure, It is a tortured and fraught practice, to re-remember, to un-forget your history, to spit up the bile of lies and hatred fed to you by lesser demons to kill the infinite inside you, to deeply feel its hurt from centuries of suffering and neglect. But each day I grow closer to a truth that wishes to reconcile all the moving broken pieces and see their whole truth repaired and unobscured once again.
Know I will no longer praise nor give glory to violence and or the false gods shoved down the throats of my people and so many others. Instead I will remember my ancestors, remember their struggle, and despise the lies those in power have tried to convince me like whispered threats.
My memories aim to haunt and shame and expose, illuminate and drive and dispel, but they also wish to introduce themselves. I know the soldiers but I know so little of myself. I speak only in the tongues of oppressors and at times that cuts me to size but I feel it in my gut, my past’s desire to speak to my present and take me to a better future. My memories aim to lead and nurture and teach and patiently guide, to grow and foster and care and heal, to love, love, love. My memories will help create a better world in which they are free and so we in turn are free and memories no longer threaten or disguise us but instead ask us to always be at our honest best and keep ourselves accountable, give honor to the deserving and not only the powerful, fight like hell for their dead, reveal their histories and words and songs and know them, fully. My memories will liberate and alleviate, not obscure and burden.
On this day, may your memories work to do the same.