Letter to the Editor: Change Trumps the Past

Lucky for us, the past is always at risk for being wrong in the present, as well as the future. The past does not have much of a chance to endure, forever bearing up under the weight of change dictated by the present. Words written or deeds accomplished years ago that seemed infallible then, are almost certain to be fallible in the future, in the face of change and the passage of time.  

Consequently, we as social, learning, passionate, caring, intelligent creatures would be better to embrace this concept of change as an important aspect of learning for the betterment of humankind and our human society, rather than supporting the past wrongs, or worrying how incorrect they are now, or ignoring that change can be and hopefully is most often good and appropriate, or even enlightened, and finally a choice we make.  

A recent opinions article in The Paladin, after much digging, surfaced the historical past of the venerated founders and original namesakes of Furman University as significant slaveholders who actively justified such property ownership of human beings religiously, thereby turning slavery into a Christian belief, and therefore the ultimate test of correctness, if not goodness.  After all, who can question God?  

That thinking today, in the light of our day, is scandalous, inhuman, unChristian and illegal due to social change and that is a wondrous thing. I agree with the author of the original op-ed that Furman should acknowledge its past association with slavery of its leaders/founders, but more importantly it should showcase its leadership for change in slavery’s eventual demise, and even more importantly its shift regarding segregation and acceptance of equality and other social change, including the separation from its Baptist control and support, which was in fact likely to be the leading force in preventing appropriate social change.

So, get used to it, embrace it even, as change is the only thing that allows us to be better than we once were. No need to avoid our past, but accept our historical past as a single reference point in time of our vast field of potential learning. Perhaps now, it is our second or third chance to get it right, but in the light of today.

In spite of the past, or even because of the past: embrace change, take it.

Dennis Tavernetti, member of the Furman University community (OLLI)

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