The origins of our discontents
I will be doing this book review in two parts. The reason, there are so many essential points to the book and the historical context of what we were taught or know about our history and the way it still plays out today.
The following is a quote from the book, once I read it, I just stopped reading and began to think of the current environment of our country and the question of reparations.
“The owner of an old house knows that whatever you are ignoring will never go away. Whatever is lurking will fester whether you choose to look or not. Ignorance is no protection from the consequences of inaction. Whatever you are wishing away will gnaw at you until you gather the courage to face what you would rather not see.”
― from “Caste (Oprah’s Book Club): The Origins of Our Discontents.”
We are the keepers of this old house “America” we inherited it from our ancestors, and no matter what the past holds, good or bad, each generation is responsible for the house, the good and the bad. It is the responsibility of each generation to fix something that we inherited and keep the house in good order. That does not mean we should forget, hide or change our past, but it does mean we should fix or repair that wrong; never forget it, so it never happens again.
I have always thought that no matter how heinous our past was concerning slavery, the best we can do is constant improvement. The idea of reparations was not possible; why should it be? That part of our history is long past. I did not own slaves; my family did not own slaves; I don’t know of anybody that ever owned a slave; how could we possibly be financially responsible for something over 150 years ago? How do you quantify it? How do you make it just? Then I read that quote.
Simply acknowledging something does not make it go away, but making something tangible with acknowledgment means more. Since the beginning of slavery, we have openly imprisoned or murdered innocent people. There is no statute of limitations on murder. There is also no way to tie every murdered black person to the person committing the crime, but we can make a start. Slaves were killed by merely breaking some law that was designed to enslave and own another person. It was not a fair or just law. It was a law of power from one group over another.
In today’s world, if we imprison another person we later find innocent, even after years in jail, there is some financial reparation made as a way of making things right or as right as they could. I see no reason why we can’t look back over time knowing the atrocities committed and make some reparations. It is a small price to pay to try and right the wrong.
There is much in this book that does not get covered in history class. We get the watered-down version but not the details. This book brings to life the essential information, and it is mind-blowing. If you read it, you will think. I bet your opinions will change, and the scary part the parallels are still playing out today.
I will write a part two book review when I am complete reading. I will go more into what the book brought to light, how the caste system is woven into our national fabric, and how if you look, you can see how it plays out today, even in 2020, how ingrained this system has become. We have a lot of work to do.