Just the other day I had a conversation with someone who was wondering how we could celebrate a man’s accomplishments’ when we knew he was a sexist, misogynist, and even beat his wife/girlfriend. I think that is a valid question. I sensed pain and frustration in that person’s voice. In this case, I believe it came from the fact women’s voices being silenced, their experiences minimized, abuse normalized, and how we have been historically gaslighted – combined with the lack of accountability and denial from those who perpetrated the harm.
So, “Is there room to celebrate those who hurt us and their contributions to the world?” Well, let me start by saying: this is the world we have been living in y’all. We have been celebrating talented thieves, bright colonialists, eloquent racists, intelligent narcissists, charming psychopaths, charismatic megalomaniacs, and the like for as long as we humans have been roaming them “civilized streets”. We have also been celebrating more righteous individuals, some of whom turned out to have very problematic ways as well. So, where should we start?
The “Hurt Legacies” Conundrum
I hear those afraid of “hurting legacies”. I admit, this can be a dicey topic, especially when systems of oppression in place that already vilify certain populations, could take hold of the process and sensationalize the truth to further already hurtful stereotypes. Think of revered African American leaders or celebrities being slandered for their infidelity, drug abuse, meanness, etc… I can understand how, especially when the person is no longer here with us, this can feel – what’s the word – blasphemous? I think, however, that it is necessary to recalibrate the stories we tell ourselves and the world and set the record straight so we can bring justice and peace to those who have been hurt in the process and still suffer from these consequences. Moreover, we may be attempting to comprehend the whys and hows so we can maybe prevent repeating the same patterns ourselves.
Of course, I believe that these attempts to reestablish the truth and “make it right” (if there is such a thing) should be centered on the healing of the victims, even when sometimes the pain abusers inflicted on them may be insurmountable and the damage irreversible. It is worth a try IMO.
First, we must challenge our own beliefs. I often struggle with how the way I feel conflicts with my thoughts. I constantly have to remind myself that even tho life appears to be unfair – in reality, the Universe always has a way to balance things out: it is science, cosmic homeostasis. Trust: it is easy to mistake celebrity, the abundance of material things, and appearances for happiness, especially when living in scarcity. I do find it hard… I constantly have to remind myself – that what I have been conditioned to believe about happiness in our highly capitalized society is flawed, as it fails to recognize that true happiness and satisfaction comes not from money, notoriety, and looks, but from how authentic our relationships with others are.
Consequently, there is no way that those who hurt others by their actions, lie (to themselves and others) about it, and refuse to take responsibility, experience true happiness: it’s science, cosmic homeostasis – and isn’t it what we all strive for?
Is There a Path to Redemption?
I believe that the keys to redemption can be accessible to those courageous enough to take the path towards truth and accountability.
To those who may not feel satisfied with these ideas and instead would prefer seeing people suffering the way they did – I can understand – it is not easy. It may not be enough for those who have greatly still carry the visible and invisible wounds, and I am not here to police how anyone feels: you are entitled to your pain, but you also deserve to be happy.
Perhaps, in time, we will find ways to establish a balance and acknowledge individuals’ contribution – especially as we take a good look at ourselves and dismantle the systems that allowed abusers to normalize the harm.