Remembering, Forgetting, Living

Today is a good day to think about whether, when, and how progress is possible through politics.

As others have noted, the genius of the Good Friday Accords was that they effectively suspended the past: they bought a peaceful present by taking a final judgment on a painful past and an uncertain future off the table.

Many are those whose memories — and desire for judgment and revenge — run strong and deep. But when the past is allowed to exert such (violent) power on the present, the future is liable to look much the same: an endless cycle of vendettas that never manages to meaningfully set anything right.

Many, too, are those privileged enough never to have experienced such things. Perhaps they cannot imagine how anyone could ever devote his life to avenging a past that refuses to stay past. Perhaps that’s ultimately for the good.

Or perhaps it’s not. Perhaps — particularly among outsiders — it reinforces the belief in sudden or final progress through politics alone, or even in the power of outside intervention.

Sometimes a third party can create the space that was so desperately needed. But it’s left to the people of the place to live with the peace, and to cautiously hope that living in suspended animation long enough (a generation? two?) might finally make politics possible again.