Worthy of Honor and Celebration

My teenaged daughter once made a cake to commemorate a friend’s 50th birthday. The theme was Texas Hold ‘Em, so the cake was adorned with playing cards and poker chips, all made from fondant. The partygoers happily consumed that cake, but still it is a cherished memory. The honoree indeed turned 50, the party indeed took place, and the cake indeed was made.

But it was consumed. Devoured. Erased.
Does that mean it didn’t happen?

When I was a youth, I once broke my right arm, earning a plaster cast and the scribbled signatures of friends and siblings. After weeks of running around in a sling and questionable odors emanating from within that cast, it was removed, and the signatures lost.
Does that mean the injury didn’t happen?

There is a lot of polarizing hyperbole in our national discourse regarding the removal of statues, the changing of flags or logos, or the renaming of prominent locations. The outcry is that such changes “erase history”. These moves supposedly “steal heritage”.


I’ve taught history in school for many years and never required a statue to do so. I’ve adapted lessons about Chicago and architecture to include the “Willis Tower”, even though for most of my lifetime I knew it, and visited it, as the “Sears Tower”. I’ve cheered on my favorite sports teams, despite many logo transformations or alterations. Despite their changes, even the garish designs, I’ve remained a fan.

If you’ve lost a letter jacket, a wedding ring, or a handmade work of art from a loved one, it may feel like a terrible loss, but it didn’t erase the accomplishments, or relationships, or memories. It didn’t overthrow your history or your heritage. It just hurt.

And history itself has subjective elements. The writers of history have historically glorified their national narratives, while omitting or downplaying their collective sins. Certain events or persons are deified, while others are demonized or marginalized.

In fact, isn’t human history reflective of the human will to grow, change, and mature? Along that maturation process, if society decides that certain persons or events should no longer be honored with statues or emblems because their inextricable contributions or connections to the disenfranchisement or destruction of members of the society, that decision is further evidence of human progress.

Those people and events that divided or demeaned us in the past are not worthy of honor or celebration. Their stories and histories will still be remembered, much like the fractures or diseases we have eventually overcome. We didn’t celebrate the injury, we celebrated the recovery, and the renewal. As we remove societal casts, slings, and other structures that have hindered our collective movement, we can proceed forward towards an equitable society worthy of celebration.