Judgement and Contemporary Standards

(Originally posted Wednesday, August 10, 2016)

Bamiyan, Afghanistan. March 16, 2005.

“Do you feel it is fair to judge past historical actions (Puritan activities, for example) by contemporary standards?”

This is a very good question and one that I have been mulling over during the recent controversies du jour – flags, race, and religion.

In all of these examples of the past – the Civil War, slavery, and the Crusades – one common theme resonates plainly: these are all past historical actions. The last Civil War veteran passed away in 1956, slavery was formally and finally abolished with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865, and the last crusade ended in the 16th century… yet, the actions of the past still resonate and offer judgement in our contemporary societies. The question of fairness by modern standards is an interesting one, these days. To judge any of these actions, in my opinion, would be to become mired in apologies and stagnate any movement forward in that seeking the true instigators to hold accountable would prohibit any progress as well as rekindle old fires which should be left to the ashes of the past.
Is it fair to judge past historical actions by contemporary standards? Sure, if progress is not the desired result. Instead of determining right from wrong or instigator from victim, the examples of the past can be incorporated into the modern direction needed to prevent similar events and actions from taking place ever again. This is often easier said than done, and in the examples I have provided, the reprehensible acts of the past can have very strong modern echoes. However, time and education can heal wounds… as long as people don’t keep picking at the scabs. As for these scars history has left on society and individuals, Henry Rollins said it best: “scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength and move on...”

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