In reading Wendi Thomas’ Jan. 13 column "Forrest marker stopped by black man" I was reminded of the old adage, "Those who fail to remember history are condemned to repeat it." In reading the reader responses I was prompted to coin my own version: Those who fail to move past their history are condemned to continue suffering it.
Both the column and the reader comments seem to advocate either branding Nathan Bedford Forrest a war criminal or casting him as a war hero who "fought the good fight." I typically find the truth is somewhere between two such extreme viewpoints. Whether he was a war criminal or a soldier whose exploits gave hope to a rebel nation inexorably moving toward humiliating defeat is almost beside the point. His true legacy is to remain a flash point for the racial animosity that will likely remain a metastasizing cancer for Memphis.
When he delivered his farewell address to his troops, Forrest acknowledged the "feelings of animosity, hatred and revenge" produced by the war and encouraged his men to resist those feelings. Isn’t it tragic that we, the community of Memphis, fail to comprehend a truth that someone many consider a monster was able to perceive?
One hundred fifty years have passed and the conversation has now been hijacked by the minority of people who cannot get past their history. Those of us who realize we owe it to our ancestors to remember the past but also owe it to our children to move past that same history are held hostage by these extremists. They can’t move forward, so we are all held to suffer.