A few months ago, in the wake of the shootings at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, I wrote a piece on the Confederate Flag Conundrum, and in this piece I suggested that treating the victims of that shooting as fallen heroes of the South, with the Confederate flag flown at half staff for them, might make certain people’s ancestors spin like turbines. I also suggested that those same ancestors might actually be beyond caring by now.
It’s that second point that I want to examine more closely today.
So often, when faced with doing something now that might not have been acceptable to our long-dead parents, grandparents, or other ancestors, we refer to the idea that they’d be “spinning in their graves.” In fact, often, the fact that those ancestors might be spinning with disapproval is given as reason enough not to do things differently…whether that be something as momentous as marriage equality or as trivial as changing the color of the living room in the old family homestead. We consider that the opinions they held while they were with us are still the opinions we should be concerned with, and the opinions we should be trying to honor.
And yet, for those of us who believe in some sort of afterlife, there’s something else to consider…
Perhaps where they are now, they see things from a different vantage point.
Perhaps, where they are now, the color of the living room is seen as something so trivial as to not even be worth considering.
And perhaps those social changes that they fought so hard against while they were among the living, are seen now as changes that can’t happen fast enough. Perhaps with what they know now, they find themselves lamenting all that they did to try to prevent those social changes from occurring. Perhaps if they care about anything at all, it’s about rectifying the many grievous wrongs that they played a part in trying to prolong.
And perhaps, from where they sit now, if they’re doing any spinning at all, it’s because we’re not making the changes that they now know need to be made, because we’re foolishly trying to “honor their memories” by continuing to prolong those injustices.
But what of those who don’t believe in any sort of afterlife? Well, in that case it’s really quite simple…those who have gone before are beyond caring anyway, and have no reason to spin at all.
But quite frankly, I much prefer to look at the situation as being one in which our ancestors, who we hate to think might have been on the wrong side of an issue, are finally in a position to see that change needs to occur…and are urging us to make those changes with all deliberate speed.