Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Are We Our History?

I grew up in Texas; a state that has so much pride for those that live there. We even grew up taking Texas History in school (along with the regular history courses). There is a reason you see bumper stickers that say "Don't Mess With Texas" because they mean it. We had pride that we won our independence from Mexico and then 16 years later joined seven other states to secede from the union before Lincoln took office. When that war was over, it took four more months before a state of peace was declared between the union and Texas. 

That was part of my history.

Texas was known as the last frontier of slavery in the United States and through research I've found that even my own ancestors were slave owners. (A sentence that makes me shudder as I write it.) Texas is also part of the Bible belt where religion, especially the Southern Baptist Convention (the largest protestant group in the US), carries much weight in decisions that are made. Ironically, it's also the denomination that many blacks were part of until after the civil war when they created a new congregation of Baptist churches. I was baptized and raised as part of that very arm of religion.  

That was part of my history.

All of my beliefs, values, thoughts were wrapped up in my history and upbringing as a Texan. We loved the "Dukes of Hazzard" and gave little thought to the flag on top of the car. (My own brother's 3 or 4 year old birthday cake was a replica of the General Lee car.) "For God & Country" was more than a slogan: it was a way of life. This was just all part of who I was growing up in the 70s and 80s.

I happened to move north at 18 years old during the time that people go off to college to discover who they are. I brought my roots with me and clung to many of my beliefs as they were challenged with new thoughts and new ideas. Even though I left home, I have friends that stayed in that state and went through the same metamorphosis I was going through as our ideas and concepts of life evolved. 

We may be a product of our history and our upbringing, but that doesn't mean it's who we are. Holding on to history as a reason for doing or allowing something does not make it right. Growing up, making new decisions, evolving as a person - that's what it's all about. Sure those first 18 years of my life helped shape me into the man I am now, but the last 28 years of living, learning, growing has more to do with who I am than anything that happened in a history book that I read years ago. And keeping a symbol as a reminder of those times…well, personally, I'm not one to hang on to things to help me remember. For those that feel their need of history overrides the world we live in today, aren't your memories enough? Do you really believe the person you are is based on what your ancestors did? I sure hope that's not true. I'd hate for anyone to believe the fact my ancestors owned slaves has anything to do with the man I am today.

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