Without language, you might see stones piled high and crumbling, strange arrangements of rocks that rise like tree trunks.
With language you have the history of Rome, Greece, and Egypt.
With language we know who we are, where we come from, and why we do the things that we do.
Our history is our culture.
Our history is our soul.
History moves through us as waves move through water. We are the medium of history and the keepers of our collective memories.
When that memory is severed, the past becomes mysterious, and we feel a strange discomfort that drives us to know what happened. Why?
In Turkey there is an archeological site, Goebkli Tepe, that has revealed evidence of human construction from twelve thousand years ago. We see large rectangular pillars with carvings of animals, stylized rectangular human forms with arms and fingers, but we don't know why this place was built. We have this strange arrangement of rocks, but we have lost the link of language that tells us what it means, and so it remains a mystery.
The Rosetta Stone helped us speak the language of Egyptian hieroglyphs, but the age and the purpose of the Sphinx and the methods of construction of the Pyramids have been lost.
We are not content to just look at the stones. We need to know why they are there, how they were built, and what they mean.
Until we can rebuild and understand the links to our past, we will continue to look for them, because history is our reality. History is who we are. In the shared dream of our cultural realities, history is the foundation that supports everything that we do.
And so when we have darkness, a lost moment of history, then we are lost, even if that loss was twelve thousand years ago.
How we understand history defines how we understand everything about today. If we don't know who we were, how can we know who we are? We are anchored by our history. This is a natural part of our human civilization. And so when it comes to the art of Truth Hacking, if you can define the past, you can shape the future.
In Cumberland county North Carolina, Fort Bragg, home of the Airborn Special Operations Forces, covers five hundred square miles. Fort Bragg is named for General Braxton Bragg for his actions during the Mexican-American war.
Braxton Bragg later became a brigadier general of the Confederate States Army, and led battles fighting against the Army of the United States, and yet this very large, very important military site, still bears his name.
There are several military installations that still honor men who fought against the United States. Camp Beauregard in Louisiana, Fort Benning in Georgia, Camp Pendleton in Virginia, Fort Hood in Texas.
Today there are still a large number of statues honoring men who decided to use their military and leadership skills to attack and kill soldiers of the United States Army.
The reason that leaders of an insurrectionist, treasonous act against our nation are not only tolerated, but are celebrated, comes from how we know, teach, and experience our history.
It is commonly said that the history of a war is written by the victor, but it's not quite as simple as that, because history, like every other aspect of our cultural realities is fluid, and the truth of our history is proportional to the number of people who remember the past in that way.
Even though history happened exactly one way, the totality of actions of all of the lives from any moment in history are just as diverse and complicated as any other, and just as we can view different societies with different lenses today, when we look back on history, we often see it more as a reflection of what we already know than how it actually was.
It's an irony of history that the past defines the present, and at the same time, by choosing which aspects and moments in history to remember, the present defines the past.
Because history is our base, the stories from our history that we tell, and the ways that we choose to teach and discuss our heritage, can move our very foundation.
What does it mean to refer to the Civil War as The War of Northern Aggression?
If we choose to honor men who fought against our nation so that they could own other people as property, and if we build statues for them, if this is how we choose to anchor our history, then this is who we are.
And that, of course, is very intentional. As Jeffery Robinson has said, the South may have lost the war, but they won the peace .
It all comes down to how we remember our past.
The issue isn't whether the Civil War was fought over states rights or slavery. Those are issues that can be examined by anyone willing to look at history and understand it.
We don't have to look any further than the documents of session that were written by the states themselves to understand what was at stake from their point of view.
The Georgia proclamation of secession explains:
for above twenty years the non-slave-holding States generally have wholly refused to deliver up to us persons charged with crimes affecting slave property. Our confederates, with punic faith, shield and give sanctuary to all criminals who seek to deprive us of this property or who use it to destroy us.
The Mississippi declaration of Secession states:
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery -- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union.
The issues today about this part of our history are not about the history itself. This history not lost in the ages like the purpose and meaning of Gobekli Tepe.
We know what happened. We know why. We know and understand the role that slavery and race played in the very foundation of this nation. We understand that we are invaders from Europe who conquered and settled this country.
The issue that matters today, as it matters to every generation, is whether we, as the medium of history, as magical beings who speak and believe reality into existence, will chose to allow who we have been in the past to define who we are today and into the future.
This is our time, just as much as 1776 was the time of our founding fathers. What they wrote and what they did served them, and as they stood in their time and looked forward, so must we.
This is why the laws of our land are designed to be rewritten. Even the foundation of our laws, our Constitution, is designed to be amended and revised.
The Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, for example, might have been written quite differently if our founders could examine our world today.
This part of our law is interesting, because at the same time, we need to consider how to carry our past forward to the future, and we also need to look backward to understand how, or even if, our present is connected to that part of our past.
The Second Amendment specifically mentions the security of a free state. It does not mention personal security, hunting, or police. When it was written, we had no standing army. Citizens, well-organized, armed, and under the command of the the states, were the national security.
The Second Amendment doesn't really fit anymore, our world is very different from when it was written. But simply repealing it also doesn't fit, because there's much more to our history than that moment when that document was written.
This is a good example of how we need to both understand our history, the intent, the wisdom of our founders, and find a way to honor that in the most appropriate way, considering the complexities and challenges of our society today.
Like with the Civil War, the history of the Second Amendment is not hidden. We know exactly who wrote it, why, and we know their motivations, the reasoning behind it, and what they hoped to accomplish.
A series of essays, The Federalist Papers, were published in the late 1700s by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to promote the ratification of the United States Constitution.
Federalist number 29, "Concerning the Militia" was published in January 1788, authored by Alexander Hamilton.
It is clear from reading this essay that individual possession of weapons outside of a specific command structure — in other words, what we have today — was not the intended result of that amendment.
We can have discussions about whether we should honor their original intent or reinterpret it for a modern world; we can discuss the pros and cons of our current policies; we can debate the benefits and difficulties of gun ownership in America; but we cannot pretend that our current gun policies are what the founders intended.
What they intended was what they said: weapons were to be well regulated, by a militia, for the security of the state.
If a well-regulated militia be the most natural defense of a free country, it ought certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that body which is constituted the guardian of the national security.
The argument here was never about whether the militia was intended to be under the direction of the government, but what role the federal and state governments would play in its organization and management.
Hamilton asks us to consider:
Where in the name of common-sense, are our fears to end if we may not trust our sons, our brothers, our neighbors, our fellow-citizens? What shadow of danger can there be from men who are daily mingling with the rest of their countrymen and who participate with them in the same feelings, sentiments, habits and interests? What reasonable cause of apprehension can be inferred from a power in the Union to prescribe regulations for the militia, and to command its services when necessary, while the particular States are to have the SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE APPOINTMENT OF THE OFFICERS?
It is clear that the keeping and bearing of weapons was intended to be a matter of great honor, to protect our land, our countrymen. It's clear that the expectation was that these weapons in the hands of the militia would be at the disposal of the government, under command of officers appointed by the states.
We have lost that honor, and purpose. We find ourselves in a complicated world with weapons of war in the hands of many different people for many different reasons.
The world is much different than it was in 1788, and the words of the Second Amendment have been digested and debated, framed and argued about through all of that change. Today, gun violence, mass shootings, dead children in schools, terrorism at churches and concerts, seems to be the price of security of our free state.
The relationship that we have with gun ownership today: individual ownership and control of weapons, does not seem to have much relationship with the original purpose of the Second Amendment as it was originally described by the founders themselves.
It is not an unreasonable question to ask today, why do we allow gun ownership to be sanctioned by the Second Amendment, but at the same time ignore the original intent of that amendment?
And so we stand at this moment of history. The rules of our civilization, the laws that we choose, are still our responsibility. The fact that a particular interpretation of those words has been the default for so long doesn't mean that we can't ever go back to the original and recheck our assumptions.
It is the responsibility and the right of every citizen to maintain our truths and our laws with due consideration for the intent of the founders, the values of our free nation, and the best reflection and practice of those values for our world today.
We understand all of the arguments for gun ownership. We understand the desire to do something about the violence and terrorism that is part of our world today. And we know that, as with all political issues, we are dealing with complicated and competing values. We can't find a way forward by shouting louder that my truth is true, and your truth is a lie.
History might have chosen differently for us. We might have decided, long ago, that "the people" of the second amendment didn't mean individuals, but private, non-profit organizations. We might have decided that the militias would own the weapons and manage the armories, and that their members would keep and bear those weapons according to the rules of that organization. If we had chosen to interpret the Second Amendment in this way, then when there was a mass shooting, any time a gun was used in a crime, we would ask, which militia owned that gun? We would hold that group accountable for the actions of its members and for failing to properly vet their applicants. We would expect the government to disband that particular militia, seize the armory, and require a waiting period for all members before they were allowed to rejoin a new militia group. Militia's would actually be well organized. Carrying any gun for any reason - for hunting for personal protection or the protection of your neighborhood or of your country - would be a matter of great pride, because it would mean membership in a citizen group dedicated to the security of the state. Possession of any gun without militia membership would be even more of a serious crime than owning an illegal weapon is today.
Perhaps the only reason we didn't choose this way was because such a vast number of well organized, well trained, citizen militias actually would be a very effective check against tyranny.
As with every aspect of our world that exists and does not exist at the same time, as with all of our cultural realities, history can be anything that we want it to be. We can study it. We can lie about it. We can ignore it, we can choose to be bound by it, or we can choose to break free.
History does matter. It defines our starting point. But it does not have to define who we are tomorrow. Do we want to simply follow in the default of the inertia set for us to define how we handle race issues, gun issues, energy, education, employment, climate and all the other issues that are a part of our world?
Our world does not exist without our imagination. We must learn and understand our history, but we are not living in our history. History is living through us.
We are all part of tomorrow's history. We are all joined by that thread of those who have come before us and those who will look back upon us.
We are standing, as does every generation, in the empty middle between uncountable possible futures. We bear the responsibility of understanding where we have come from, what that means, and what we need to do differently. We can't stay in the past. We can't lie about who we were and what we have done. We need to be honest about the mistakes that we have made, the heroes that we have chosen, and the many paths that we have not taken.
We have the ability and the responsibility to imagine the future into being by our beliefs and our actions. As we turn the pages of history, we must write our page, and we must do our part to leave the world better than we found it.
We are living in a magnificent time of discovery, of knowledge, science and opportunities. This is a time that everyone for the next two thousand years will wish they could have seen.
What will we leave for them?