Saturday, September 11, 2010

Two Minute Hate / Never Forget

This day marks the anniversary of a terrible crime perpetrated by a fringe group of religious zealots.  I am of course referring to the Mountain Meadows massacre of 1857, where a group of Mormons decided to clandestinely murder 120 men, women, and children while disguised as and working with a contingent from the local Paiute tribe of Native Americans.  They spared the lives of another 17 children who were deemed too young to remember or understand the events (the ones under eight years of age), electing instead to take them along with the other spoils of the crime.

Some years later, as I understand it, some other tragic event may have also occurred, but as we were charged as a nation of never forgetting the Mountain Meadows massacre it's hard to be sure.  That's the problem with never forgetting things: the collective and individual memories of a nation are finite, and can only consider so much at a given time.  We prioritize our memories, and the things we attend to the most remain the most resilient; the more a memory or an ideal is reinforced the more it becomes a reflexive, comforting thought, until eventually even rational and sensible contradiction is impossible.  There is no ability to heal from a wound you will not allow to close, and there is no ability to consider anything that happened before or after if that is all you allow yourself to see.

Well I for one, refuse to mark a day of my year for the rest of my life with memories of mad, massacring Mormons...and I'm certainly not going to keep reiterating how awful it was or pretend any vigilance of mine could prevent it from happening again.  I know plenty of Mormons who are decent people, and while I'm sure they know I don't attribute the actions of any weirdo splinter LDS fundamentalist groups to all of them, I'm also sure it is uncomfortable and tiring to be reminded ad nauseum of a specific act of extremism.  Certainly not everyone who brings it up is so reasonable to limit their vitriol to the actual people involved, and I don't want anyone to mistake me for one of those Orwellian nitwits chanting about an amalgamated enemy.

I prefer to remember progress that occurred on this day in history.  A mere 35 years prior to Mountain Meadows the College of Cardinals decided to accept the Copernican Principle as true; it took a couple of weeks for the Pope to make it the official Catholic opinion (and quite a bit longer for an apology to Galileo and his ilk), but it was a start.  About 9 years after that, on September 11 1831, Captain Robert Fitzroy introduced Charles Darwin to his ship, the HMS Beagle.

In 1946, on September 11, the first long-distance car-to-car mobile telephone call occurred between Houston and St. Louis (something from my own industry), and in 1952 the first artificial aortic valve was installed in a human patient.  Carl Zeiss and Harvey Fletcher were born on September 11th, so anybody with a decent camera or a hearing aid might want to mark those events, as would anyone who read D.H. Lawrence's Rocking Horse Winner - it's his birthday too.  In 1985, Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's career hit record.  History is full of things worth remembering, and plenty of them occurred on September 11th.

And if you absolutely must commemorate an event relevant to New Yorkers, in 1609, on this day in history, an explorer named Henry Hudson discovered Manhattan island, and a river that would one day bear his name.