Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Excess baggage

This is an American writer called Percival Everett, writing in Callaloo journal:

I was invited to Charleston's Spoleto Festival [in South Carolina] by my dear friend Josephine Humphreys to participate in a writers' protest over the Confederate flag [flying in the State Legislature], but I could no longer generate enough concern. There were two things at work. First, the flag probably ought to be there - in the same way that a big sign saying "Land Mines!" ought to be set at the edge of a field containing land mines. If it is so hard for the government of the stte to decide to remove the stupid thing, then there must be a reason and that reason can't be good. Second, who gives a rat's ass. It's a waste of energy to fight over it. It's an ugly flag with an ugly history...

Excellent! I know I bang on about Nietzsche's need to be able to let go of the past and release all bitterness, seek an accommodation with history in order to embrace the future, but this is a lovely example of doing just that. The inability to do this has blighted my country, Scotland and, to an even greater extent, Ireland over the course of our recent histories. Such a level-headed, pragmatic response as Everett displays here is clearly the way to deal with the problems of history. He wrote this in 2001. Seven years later, Obama has been elected President. Has something been happening, quietly and unnoticed, in the American spirit? It would be good to think so.

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