Dan Carlin, in his excellent (if niche-y) podcast Hardcore History, likes to pose a question:
What’s it like to come after a civilization that could do things that your civilization can’t?
We have better information than the ancients did. We’re not going to find ourselves literally in the desert, encountering the ruins of cities and structures bigger than any we’ve dreamed of. We have the photos, video, and audio of doing big things — “not because they ah easy, but because they ah hahd.”
But we don’t live in the same civilization as President Kennedy, do we?
When we talk about doing the thing that everyone knows must be done and yet which we all know won’t get done, we talk about going to the moon.
And when we [white people, corporate chieftains, those for whom the status quo is our status] talk about social justice, we far too often do so in the same safely cynical way — usually by lifting a quotation out of context from Dr. King, or perhaps Maya Angelou.
Yes, a culture called the United States won some wars, put a man on the moon, and emerged better from the Civil Rights Movement.
But that was then, and it was them — whoever they were.
Are we merely a post-Brown v. Board society that could never make that decision again? Or are we the inheritors of Brown, with a long, long way still to go toward equality?
And if we’re going to go that way, could we do it in our own words?