I get a daily reflection from this site called Daily Om. They’re nice short nuggets of wisdom and truth that I ponder for the day, and often they relate to something I’m thinking or dealing with. It’s nice to read them and then delete them. Kind of like these ancestor cards.
So today’s Daily Om was titled “Knowing Your History,” amazingly enough coinciding with today’s ancestor card HISTORY. The reflection talked about the importance of knowing where you come from in order to better understand yourself. How true.
I recently heard about research that shows that a family’s history can be written into the genes. There is growing research that says, for example, that trauma is genetic, passed down through the generations. So if one generation went through a traumatic time like war or genocide, that experience gets transmitted, not only through the stories told (if they are told at all) but also through family members’ biology.
I’ve learned about my family’s history only as an adult. I knew that both my parents were children in the Korean War (mainly because I put 2 and 2 together – knowing their birth years and the years of the war), but we never heard the stories of those experiences when we were young. It wasn’t until I went to Korea after college and spent time with my relatives that I started getting snippets of what happened during that time. And I started asking more questions of both my parents, and slowly they shared the traumatic experiences they endured during that 3 year war.
At one point, I wanted to become a history teacher, to uncover the Lies My Teacher Told Me and to teach A People’s History of the United States. I wanted to teach what wasn’t usually taught – Asian American history, ethnic studies, the social movements – and connect that to what we typically learn in U.S. history – slavery, Manifest Destiny, the Industrial Revolution, the Civil Rights Movement and women’s movement. I wanted to connect the dots of all the facts, dates, and historical people we learn about to a larger framework of how this country came to be and why it looks the way it does today. I was especially interested in better understanding and teaching about systems of oppression – racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism – and about capitalism’s role in perpetuating oppression in U.S. society throughout its history.
I didn’t end up going that route, but I am still a lover of history and of connecting those dots. History is about interconnected stories which bring together characters who influence each other for better or worse. So while I try to understand those stories in my own past, both individual and collective, I also have been learning to let go of any hold that history has over me. Some history wants to keep us in its clutches, never to move forward. Other history is fleeting and passes through us (or us through it). When does history become an oppressive force? And how do we let go of that force when it seems to weigh us down?