[When I moved from the Carolinas to Massachusetts for school] most of the white Southerners at the time could recite long lists of battles lost and won and argue over the relative merits of Confederate generals. In the North, nobody knew or cared very much about the war, even in a school where many of the students bore surnames made glorious by the exploits of their ancestors in Union arms.]
Walter Mead in his book God and Gold calls this observation 'victor's amnesia.' Mead's point is that there is a tendency for winners in conflict to move past the pain, triumph, and struggle of the past and to move on toward a hopeful and 'peaceful future'-- a pax nike-- one winners forced into existence.
Losers, on the other hand, remember with great pain and agony the trials of defeat. They memorialize it in their history and culture. 'Let us never forget what they did to us!' becomes a mantra and is increasingly ingrained into the cultural ethos as the victors become villains and the vanquished become victims.
Think about it: who usually says 'let's just let bygones be bygones'? The Winner or Loser? Always the winner. Why is it that winners are so eager to forgive and forget?
Because they won.
This doesn't make the victor more virtuous. In fact, often times a victor's willingness to move on is an indictment of their unwillingness to look at their mistakes. They're not seeking to forgive and forget. They want to forget, and so they forgive.
I can't help but wonder: when Jesus defines the essence of kindness as embracing those who do not embrace us, I wonder if he would redefine the essence of victory as embracing those who did not win?
If we can only remember who they were...
Posted on Thu, May 8, 2008