Selective Memory

It feels warmer this winter than I ever remember it being for this time of year. Of course my memory fades. Truth be told, I don’t really object to a mild winter. I just pray that it is not a harbinger of an asphalt melting summer. Bright sun-shiny ninety degree days don’t hold the attraction for me they once did. Of course if the weather turns sub-zero with snow and ice I’ll start longing for those “balmy” days of summer. My aversion to hot days will be superseded in my memory by the immediate discomfort of cold hands and feet.

That’s how memory works, we try to forget the bad, and reinforce the good. Some would call that a product of evolution, but I don’t want to give my neighbors another reason to distrust me.

Memory is also tainted by opinion. We all remember certain seminal events that were “once-in-a-lifetime events”. Everyone of a certain age can remember exactly where they were when Kennedy was shot. A later generation will remember 9-11 as their “everything changed after that” incident.

I remember being home from school and watching Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. While there are thousands of conspiracy theories, and hundreds of books have been written expounding them, the opinionated memory can not change the black and white facts. Jack Ruby walked directly up to Lee Harvey Oswald in a garage in Dallas filled with police officers and shot the man accused of killing a president. No amount of supposition or conjecture can change what millions of us saw live on that day. Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald; one man took the life of another.

57 years, 1 month and 14 days later, millions of us watched in horror as another seminal event played out before our eyes on national TV. A group of misguided sycophants attempted to overthrow the government of the United States. They weren’t subtle about their intentions, they even brought along a gallows to deal with the vice-president they felt betrayed them. They were armed not only with weapons but inside information as to where to attack, where the defenses were the weakest.

The inside information was provided by congress people that had had enough of the democracy experiment. The insiders had decided that being re-chosen by their constituents every few years was too taxing on their Zen and that being installed by King Donald the 1st was more in line with their personal beliefs. I don’t suppose any of them had polled their districts with the simple question: Democracy or Monarchy? That would have been too obvious. Better to create a “Constitutional crisis” out of the mob storming the Capitol.

As one who has been unhappy with a lot of what my government has done in my name in my seventy plus years, I’ve always respected the process. I’m miserable when the Republicans are in office and less so when the Democrats take charge. As a youth I marched in the streets to end the war, but I also registered for the draft. It was what good citizens were supposed to do. Work within the system to bring about the change you wanted to see, not trash it for everyone. Not write in our feces on the Capitol walls.

Three years ago, a group of wrong headed acolytes of a false prophet rose up to change the world for all of us. This wasn’t the will of the people, over 81 million people voted for Joe Biden, the largest number of votes ever cast for a presidential candidate. Even by the definition of the Donald, Biden won by a landslide. No this was an attempted coup. This was an attempt by a few to overthrow the will of the many by force. We all saw it!

Most of us recognize that we are not guaranteed “Prom King” or “Homecoming Queen” and would never attempt to burn down our high school as a logical response to our loss. Sometimes another candidate for a position that we cherish goes to another. We learn from the experience, we grow and we move on. At least that’s how it works for 99.999999 percent of us.

Many opinions will be offered as to why the insurrectionists did what they did. Many excuses and defenses will be proffered by those brought to trial. There will be suppositions and conjectures aplenty. But no amount of supposition or conjecture can change what million of us saw live on that day. People, police officers, died while valiantly trying to preserve Democracy for the rest of us. Let’s not let opinions make our memories of what we all saw that day become selective.

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