When I was young, I learned about the civil war. Now as a boy from the south living in Connecticut, what I learned about slavery bothered me deeply, and it hurt to know that my ancestors had done what they had.
So when I got home, I turned to my father, looking for answers as to how I could accept what had happened. How I could be both myself, while still remembering that which happened in the past.
How I could live without guilt, guilt for which I was not responsible.
It was he who planted this idea in my mind, and now after it has grown, I feel it is time to share it with you.
We must, at some point, forgive evil.
This is not to say that I believe evil should not be punished, but we cannot continue to hate blindly upon people for generations, simply because of the actions of their forefathers. It is not only pointless, but also self-destructive.
Take for instance the case of Germany: A once proud nation sullied by the atrocities of the Holocaust.
I will not attempt to explain the horrors people under went with the confines of Nazi Germany. The fact that 14 million people lives could be taken is, to me, an almost unspeakable act; something far beyond simple condemnation.
However (and I say this not to diminish the event but to remind everyone), this is an event that happened near 70 years ago. The people who committed these crimes are mostly dead, and those few still living will soon join them.
Their children understand how horrific it was. Their children's children heard stories of it. The world over knows of it. It is time, not to forget, but to move forward.
For we know Germany was destroyed during the cold war, being split between the two most powerful nations the world has ever known.
Despite this they managed to make themselves not just into a strong economy, but one of the worlds strongest. And then when the struggle between these two powers was over Germany managed to reunite itself and bring their nation ever higher.
Your people are a strong one, capable of rebuilding yourselves even after you were destroyed, reuniting yourselves after being split, creating greatness from ashes, sullied only by that which all people are susceptible to: Tribalism and Cruelty
For this torture, this slavery, this horror your former government engaged in, can be found throughout history and throughout the world.
From the far corners of Africa, to the mountains of Asia, to all the European nations, and even stretching into the Americas. Human cruelty exists in all corners, and after these events all nations involved have been forced down three roads.
To forget and inevitably repeat.
To shame and grow weak.
Or to attempt to rise above. To make anew. To repledge yourself to justice and to show that humanity is more then simply evil, and that we can love, dream, hope, and heal.
Many of the greatest nations have tried to heal those wounds, and have, even thought they could never, nor would they want to, wash them away. However, we as a nation, should use these experiences not as whips and clubs to beat ourselves, but instead as reminders.
Reminders to be better then what came before. To be greater. To be wiser. To be smarter. To be kinder.
And yet still some of us choose shame.
And this shame is what destroys us. The flagellation makes us weak. We beat ourselves until we can no longer stand. Until someone comes along and puts us out of our misery.
We see this everyday in Germany with attacks no civilization, nay; no individual should have to endure. People are dying in the streets and yet the punishment and shame continues.
How much longer must this continue, I ask? How long until we recognize that the sins of the father are not, nor have they ever been, the sins of the son? How long until we finally allow our wounds to heal?
Germany, it time you learn to forgive yourself. You've been beating yourself for far to long, and it's time to let old wounds heal. It's time to let the past remain the past--not to be forgotten, but to be recognized for what it was.
The sins of the father are not the sins of the son.
It's a deep shame your leaders cannot see this, and instead continue to choose to ever shame and punish you even further. I only hope that you, the proud German people, can see to correct path towards prosperity:
That the sins of the father are not the sins of the son.
I do not often ask much of you, only for your ear and your time, but this time is different. I ask you to share this. Wherever and with whoever you can. I do not know what impact these words will have, but it is my belief they should be heard.
Thank you for your time.