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  • Writer's pictureJeff Utsch

Taking The Lessons Of Purging Our Shared History To A Higher Level

Since our nation is going through a time of judging heroes and history, and then tearing down monuments to show our contempt and disgust for their failures to meet our so-proper, unimpeachable, modern-day standards, I have decided to do the same.

If purging the nation of the remnants of fallible men with significant roles in their time will help atone for my “white privilege” and my responsibility for the suffering of generations past and present, then what better way of showing my solidarity with the “woke” than to purge them from places of prominence. They were, undoubtedly, men or women of their day, immoral and corrupt individuals.

As a youth I would hear of their stories and tall tales. So foolishly, I became enamored of their bravery and sense of adventure; their principles and work ethic; their trials and perseverance; their faith and fearlessness. I was proud to be a part of this lineage and wanted to be like them.

But, woe is me. Only now I do see through all of that.  Yes, they did have an admirable quality or two, but that was merely part of the story.  Now, I know they were that — and more!  The ugly truths had not been spoken of their ill-gotten gains and racist tendencies.

Now, I understand they should have known better, acted better, been better. Better like me.  Better like us. What on earth were they thinking?

It is difficult to judge whom to keep and whom to toss away from my lineage, but it really isn’t that hard. If they did something I suspect that offends my moral compass and vast knowledge of history, then out they go, erased from the pages of my scrapbook, stains purged the Utsch family tree.

No longer will their stories be told, images seen or their plight known. Those corrupt, shameless cretins!

They ought have known this day was coming. And I am not going to be held responsible for passing along their morals and beliefs to the next generation. No, not the new, purified, educated man that I am.

My children will know nothing about them.  I will teach them what they need to know, what I want them to know. I will be the guardian of their morality, not to be clouded by any corrupt forefathers.

It is as if I’m in an extra-hot sauna. Vestiges of their demented-thought are purged from the pores. Yes, they were a part of me, but they are forever vanquished, for I have been brought to moral nirvana.

Well, yes, now that I browse the scrapbook, most pictures are gone. But, alas, this is the cost of unfettered progress.

Sure, our family studied its genealogy for some three generations. We now tie ourselves to the Mayflower. The old-version of me used to think that was amazing, a source of pride. Now, the shame is overbearing.

It was our great grandmother several-times over who was on that ship.  Her name was Alice and she was only 14 years-old at the time.  Come she did, with her family as well, mom, dad and siblings, to boot.

She was the first in the new colony to figure out how to cook eggcorns just right.  She must have saved half the colony from dysentery with that single moment—of-brilliance. She made friends with locals and when older, stayed with them weeks-at-a-time.

She had a dark side, however. The natives she would visit were not of the Christian faith.  She proselyted among them to bring them her light, but none were willing to convert. They loved her, nonetheless, and wanted her to stay among them forever. She refused a native husband, preferring one of her own kind who would share her religion.

In her journal, she discusses the hope that, one day, others would accept her religion and become an enlightened people. This is an obvious form of racism and, after reading her journal, it is evident that she believed herself superior to the uncultured and even barbaric.

Alice may have been far ahead of counterparts in her feelings towards the natives, but still had tones of condescension in her writings that unmasked her true inner self.  Verdict: unfit for the family album. Those stories? Into the today’s societal trash-bin.

Others don’t make the new-Utsch cut, either.

–Louis Polly: An otherwise seemingly respectable man who raised a large family in western Pennsylvania, he got caught-up in investing in cargo ships.  Some of these cargo ships, I found out, were used to transport slaves. Vanquished.

— William Spencer: Lived in the 1790’s and fought vehemently against universal suffrage and wanted only the landed gentry to have the right to vote. Gone.

— Francis DuBois: Fought as a French regular in the Revolutionary war on the colonial side! Wonderful, but then showed debauchery and decided to stay and live in Virginia. Although he never owned any slaves, he cultivated relationships with prominent slave-owners. Out.

— Vincent Weber: A Pennsylvania Quaker who treated all men fairly and was even an abolitionist but was against any violence at all and came out against John Brown’s raid into Western Virginia to start an armed insurrection in the South.  Out of here.

Yes, there are few left in the family scrap book.

As I research each generation, I realize how many fall short of the heritage I want as legacy. Each goes to the scrap-heap of history and it’s just as well.

Their stories do not reflect who I am and what I want my family to know.  Now, I can be he whom sets the standards.  My offspring will learn what I want them to; I can control of the narrative for future generations.

I cringe to think, what if I hadn’t received this extraordinary lesson in history-deletion from the all-knowing of 2020?

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