How should we deal with the lives of our parents and ancestors? The film I saw examines this issue from the perspective of children and grandchildren of men who committed horrible atrocities. While the relatives interviewed were not complicit (and, in many cases, were not even alive) during the crimes committed by their ancestors, they carry on their family's name which connects them publicly to historical horrors.
At what point might acts by our ancestors forfeit the natural (and culturally-encouraged) love we have for family? Should we even confront the morality of our ancestors' choices and lives?
Modern society washes away what happened last week, let alone in the last generation. So the current inclination is to simply forget about the past. But when the past was very bad, forgetting it is wrong. We owe victims of injustice remembrance of their suffering. And we owe ourselves a clear picture of how our family got to be what it is. That includes honest understanding of our family's history. Grappling with the past, including ugly parts, is a path to such knowledge.
To what extent do you wrestle with the acts of your parents or grandparents? To what extent are you even aware of those facts? Many whose family histories are contaminated by immorality are shielded from information by closely-guarded secrets and long-held denial. My family falls into that group.
My father grew up in an extremely troubled place (Germany during the Nazi regime). For my whole life, my father has refused to talk about his childhood and what his family did back then. I learned to stop asking him about it because he erected a brickwall against any inquiry. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he does this to avoid painful memories. It might, however, also be motivated to conceal unpleasant facts. I don't think I'll ever know because there are no other relatives or independent sources to tell me about our family's history during that period.
Thus, I have to view my father solely on the life I've had with him, not on anything earlier. I wish I could get that information, though; it might answer some questions and complete the picture of our family.
How about you? And what are your thoughts on this?