The Past Lingers On
It was announced in India today that a plot of sacred ground in the city of Ayodhya would be divided between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus claim that a Temple to Rama once stood on the spot; a sixteenth century Mosque that was located there was torn down brick by brick in 1992 by a Hindu mob, the members of which used their bare hands to do the job. That action set off rioting throughout India in which about two thousand people died. Who “owns” such a spot?
It is said that there are Jewish families who still possess keys to the front doors of houses they were chased from in 1492 when Spain expelled those Jews who would not convert to Christianity.
It is said that some Palestinian families still possess keys to the front doors of houses they were chased from in 1948 when they were forced to flee their homes by Israeli troops and militias.
Back in the mid 1990’s I read a book about the turmoil then taking place in the Balkans. The author had traveled the region and stated that in every country he had been to he had been shown a map of “Greater …”; that is, he saw maps of Greater Serbia, of Greater Bulgaria, of Greater Greece, etc. Each country was convinced that land had been stolen from it, land that legitimately belonged to it.
I was reminded that when I was in Turkey I had seen a map of Greater Turkey which stretched up around the Black Sea and through much of the Caucasus Mountain range; and it took in much of the Balkans.
The past convinces each of these nations that they really deserve more than they have, and that they have shown great restraint in not moving to take back what is theirs.
It is not just nations and religious traditions that have such haunting pasts. And it is not just families. Every individual is prone to such thinking (which is how it seeps into other institutions).
Each of us is liable to be haunted by past events, by negative feelings. Not just what we believe we are owed, but also guilts and failed dreams, self doubts and old hurts.
But we can also be buoyed by past achievements and inspired to new dreams and hopes. And we can choose which part of the past motivates us now, the losses or the achievements, the negative or the positive. May we always choose the better part of the past.