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Since I Left Home
~ Meucci Watchman Ilunga
WINDS Scholar 2018
Since I’ve left home, I’ve seen how complicated
the real world can be.
Of course, you know just as well as I do that that
is a euphemism. By complicated, I really mean
that I have seen how ridiculously vicious, cruel, and bleak every single day can be. And that is no exaggeration. Every day, half the planet seems to be consumed by a new struggle, a new obstacle, or even a new threat to our very existence. It’s become essential to focus only on where we are and where we’re going—but almost entirely at the expense of where we’ve come from.
I must say, it does make sense, though. The present is something we can control; the future is something we will always have the power to change; the past is something we will only ever have the power to accept. It’s easy to be so consumed by the struggles of today because, arguably, they are the only struggles that matter. The hardships of yesterday will always seem to be nothing but a distant memory, always finding themselves lying on the road behind us. And such is the way of life.
But there is a critical problem with such thinking: as efficient and comfortable as such a philosophy may be, today will eventually become yesterday, as will tomorrow and the day after. If we submit to this notion of now being the only moment in time that matters, we risk never learning from our failures, from our successes, and from our experiences. We risk losing touch with who we are and who we should strive to be. We risk destroying the very thing that makes us human, learning and building off of those who’ve come before. Living as though the past is meaningless and something meant to be forgotten is dangerous and, above all else, reckless. But this—this is the mentality we’ve allowed ourselves to take regarding the history of North American-Native American interaction.
More than that, this is the fate that has befallen much of Native American history. What happened in North America centuries ago, the struggles and atrocities faced by the Native people, has largely been forgotten. The gaps left in our collective conscience have since been replaced by false memories of destiny and righteous duty, results that have allowed many of us to live in the present with unjustified peace-of-mind. Rectifying this is a large and complicated matter. We cannot change what happened, so how we correct this comes largely in how we learn to accept our history and the implications it presents.
To educate the world, especially one so caught up in the worries of the present, requires a response that is unified, vocal, and empathetic. The first step is for the tribes of North America to unify, not through government or rule of law, but through message: our history must not be forgotten and it must reflect the reality of the facts. In the past, our messages—while valid—have continued to remain diffuse and delocalized. This has proven to be fundamentally ineffectual because it fails to make a large enough impact in the face of life’s other distractions. This is why the tribes must come together with a common message, it would have the impact and drive that no other individual could recreate. It wouldn’t be easy to craft such a statement, but cooperation between tribal governments regarding the release of a joint statement on the history of Native America is the first step to validating our past and rectifying our present.
The next action would be vocalization. Informing a present-minded society requires a present-minded approach. Having a consistent conversation about the issue of Native American history in the media would be imperative to the success of this movement. Being able to constantly remind the world that this is an issue of concern is the only we can ensure it does not fall by the wayside. Previous media campaigns, both in the mainstream and through social avenues, have shown this to be a proven tactic.
The final step in such a movement would be to ensure that such a conversation stays alive. The movement dies the second the conversation does—so having thoughtful, constructive conversations within our communities, within our society, with those we agree with and with those we don’t is critical to ensuring that the whole world, regardless of race and creed, knows that what happened in North America will not be forgotten. And as such, we must lend our ears to our fellow man’s struggle, and remember that our history is not the only one that has been forgotten. This is the empathy our movement requires, because we will not be heard if we are not, ourselves, willing to listen.
This is what needs to happen should we wish to accept the past and continue to move forward in the present. This is how we tell the world of the true history of Native America.