Today is “Memorial Day” in the United States. What are we remembering?
Last month I heard the artist Claudia Bernardi speak about her work creating community murals in Argentina, El Salvador and Guatemala. The murals are memory projects of massacres. Made in places where violence is buried in the soil and in the bodies and minds of the living.
Seth Mydans recently wrote in the New York Times about Cambodia, “Beyond the question of age, ignorance about the past appears to be a combination of culture and policy and perhaps also the passivity of a people too exhausted by history to confront its traumas.”
Are we exhausted by history?
“Some older people get so upset at their children for not believing that they say, ‘I wish the Khmer Rouge time would happen again; then you’d believe it.” (NY Times)
Do we really need to repeat atrocities?
How can we expect a child to comprehend that more than 1.7 million people were systematically murdered in a four-year period? As adults we still struggle to make sense of this human horror – and Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Rwanda, the Holocaust, and more. The list continues today, and some would say we are living genocide against ourselves and planet earth on a daily basis.
We dance between forgetting and remembering.
Claudia Bernardi told us about working in a community where some of the members denied that the violence ever took place. How do you create something together when such opposing views are held? When some are denying the reality of what occurred?
They agreed to paint a mural of what the town was like “before” without defining what happened to change the “before.”
What do we choose to remember and what do we choose to forget?