We all remember marveling to our grandparents about what they experienced. What was the Depression like? What did great-grandpa say about Ellis Island? Was the Cold War scary? We’ve asked our own parents about whether they protested this conflict or that policy. Perhaps we’ve even had to wrestle, more recently, our ancestors lack of involvement in what now seem like obvious movements. Where were you during the Civil Rights Movement? How could they have not joined the French Resistance?
This kind of reckoning is part of the timeless march of history. Theodore Roosevelt, for instance, grappled all his life with his father’s decision to hire a substitute to fight in the Civil War instead of enlisting in the Union. But part of understanding that this has always happened shouldn’t just comfort you about your ancestors, it should also spur you in your own family.
Because history is happening right now. We’re in the middle of a horrible, slow burning pandemic. We’re at the beginning of a kind of Second or Third Reconstruction in America. And there are countless other issues on the world’s stage–from the Uigher’s in China to migrant and refugee crises.
You’re fooling yourself if you don’t see that as your kids get older (and their kids), that they’re going to ask you: Where were you? What did you do? They’re not going to accept “Well, I was busy raising you guys.” They’re not going to look with much reverence with a person who said, “I didn’t think there was much I could do.” They’re not going to accept, “It was far away” or, “It wasn’t my fight.”
Think about how you’ll have to answer the puppy dog eyes of future generations who love you. Think about what they’ll want you to have done, what they’ll assume you’ve done because they look up to, because you’re their hero. Now go do what deserves that.