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Judging the past with modern eyes

Judging the past with modern eyes Judging the past with modern eyes

Watching the nightly news can be a mind-numbing and depressing task these days. The headlines are dominated by the coronavirus or large unemployment numbers or the loss and closure of small businesses everywhere across this country.

Then too there is the constant political backbiting, in what promises to be a very charged and contentious election cycle. There’s also been another huge story-line brewing in our country, and that’s the riots and protests that have been sweeping through our nation and even our quiet and rural state of Wisconsin.

Protesting in this country is a time-honored tradition. Indeed, a protest, the Boston Tea Party, was the catalyst that led to the creation of our very nation. Today’s protests are not without merit. I posit that they are necessary.

On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor, a 26-yearold African-American emergency medical technician, was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers while sleeping. Three plainclothes officers executing a no-knock search warrant entered her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. Taylor’s boyfriend believed their home was being invaded, and fired upon the officers, who returned fire, rattling off 20 rounds. Taylor died in her bed, shot eight times.

The police involved filed an incident report that was almost entirely blank. The report stated that Taylor had no injuries, even though she died from gunshot wounds. The police also reported that there was no forced entry, even though they had used a battering ram. The department would later claim that “technical errors” led to a malformed report.

A simple Google search will reveal multiple stories like this - and these are just the ones that make print. You can go on YouTube to see more clips of young people of color pulled having their civil rights impinged upon. These protests are a reaction to that, and conversations regarding police, the use of lethal force and civil liberties are needed.

There are deep divides in this country and we all need to have a long discussion on race and history in our country. But we also have to be careful in looking at our institutions. On Tuesday night, a protest descended into a riot in Madison, our state’s capitol. Statues were ripped down, including that of Colonel Hans Christian Heg, a Civil War Union colonel known for his strong stance against racism.

The ignorance involved in tearing down that statue is astounding. As a country I know we must do better. This must be a country where people of all races, genders and creeds may enjoy the freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But we must also understand our history, see the long progression it took to get us to where we are today. In tearing down the injustice we must also be wary of tearing down the history that shaped us, lest we forget it and repeat it. As protests continue and statues topple, we must ask ourselves — what will our own legacy be?