I have been changing my opinions a lot during the last 30 years.
From the foolish conviction that “my enemies’ enemies are my friends” which made me admire Margaret Thatcher and excusing some vile politicians like Pinochet as “not so bad”, coming from a totalitarian country, I instinctively used to have the opposite opinion to the communist government.
That changed, gradually. Living in England, I listened to other people’s opinions, read various sources, looked at news from other countries. I learnt to use that freedom of being able to do it. It was great. In Prague, I used to listen to Radio Free Europe and Voice of America and BBC World service when it was not scrambled, but now I had more places to get my information. I read assertions and contra assertions, and gradually changed my opinion about a lot of things.
Do you know that silly joke? “Women have cleaner minds, they change them more often”?
Well, maybe my brain is very clean. I think it is a good thing.
I remember in 1995, I visited USA and an American friend showed us Washington DC. There was a road or street named after General Robert E. Lee. I remembered admiring the tolerance of a country that kept memorials of the defeated.
But in the recent years, I changed my mind. I started to think about how it must feel to an African American, a descendant of the slaves. I started thinking how I would feel if I saw memorials to German Nazi generals,men who fought for the country that was responsible for killing tenths of my close relatives in the gas chambers.
There are lots of controversies about statues, Cecil Rhodes, many others…
I am not sure about some. Queen Victoria? Thomas Jefferson? I would probably keep their statues, they did more good than bad. We should not judge previous generations by today’s standards, by today’s standards, Abraham Lincoln would be a racist.
But those Confederate statues were mainly raised much later, in the times when Jim Crowe laws reinforced the terrible racial discrimination still happening in the USA.
And now I read that even General Lee did not want those memorials built.
It is complicated, maybe keeping the statues and putting explanation about the place of these people in history would make a good compromise? But maybe that would not go far enough.
The white supremacist actions recently terrified me. Somehow, they feel they can get away with it now, under president Trump administration.
It is scary.
My heart goes to all those liberal, thoughtful American friends I have, various colours and sexual orientation. Nice, thoughtful, smart people. They must feel the hurt more, because it is happening in their country.
We Europeans are often rather negative about “The Americans”.
Let’s stop, not generalise, support the good majority of people there. Like they always support us.