George Santayana’s wise and insightful warning that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” has become an axiom for us to keep in mind perennially.
I would immodestly, however, chance to add a corollary by asserting that while we must never forget history, we must not allow it to become a heavy iron weight tied around our necks that pulls us down and drowns our abilities to rekindle our optimism and imagine a better way forward.
I challenge queer people to be the first to use our own difficult history to acknowledge there is no grey area for humanity.
In other words, we must not continually use the past as justification for giving up, for surrendering to the supposed impossibilities posed by seemingly irreconcilable and intractable differences between individuals, groups, and entire nations.
Get the Daily Brief
The news you care about, reported on by the people who care about you:
The great Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war.”
Thus, Israel’s far-right government is diluted in its assertion that it will wipe out Hamas by invading Gaza. Hamas is diluted by claiming it will drive Jews into the Mediterranean Sea for all time.
Too much water has flowed beneath the metaphorical bridge for the parties to liberate themselves from the endless cycle of displacement, bitterness, competition, claims over rights to the land, and interethnic and interreligious resentments, suspicions, and rivalries.
Too many are reconciled to their firm positions that resolution or reconciliation is not possible, that there has been too much blood spilled and treasure lost ever to find peace.
And with this comes the blame on all sides, which only excites people to more violence.
The history of the Middle East, and especially between Palestinians and Jews, abounds with blame, recrimination, retaliation, and an escalating perpetual cycle of mistrust and cruelty – and there is indeed plenty of justifiable blame to go around on multiple levels and sides.
But as we blame and blame and blame and then expect different results, we are left with insanity, resulting in increased tensions, violence, death, and the possibility of an ever-widening breakout of war and destruction.
Any form of nuanced or nonbinary analysis of the Middle East conflict catches flack on both the political left and right. This is how the extreme left (on the side of the Palestinians only) and the extreme right (on the side of Israel only) form a circle and merge at the margins, and the cycle continues.
Can we at least suspend blame for a while? Yes, yes, yes, this is very difficult. I know that oh too well.
But, by suspending blame, we are not forgetting the history. Rather, we are engaging in an emotional ceasefire for a time.
Maybe, just maybe, we might then be able to rekindle our optimism and imagine a better way forward.