I’ve had cause lately, for reasons both good and bad, to reminisce. I like to say that I think about the past a lot because I’m a history major, but the opposite is probably closer to the truth I’m a history major because I love the past. When people say we need to look forward and not back, they miss out on the truths offered by where we came from.
During freshman year, my friends and I had a routine: go to the Hive, kill a lot of things in ‘Halo,” then go down to Common Ground Caf for hot chocolate before heading back. Oh, the times we had!
I thought about this when, a few weeks ago, one of my classes began to reflect on Common Ground. The school tore it out to make room for the new Hive (Starbucks took over the old one), and no longer could we go in to enjoy the crusty couches and muffins overloaded with chocolate.
Nothing has really filled that void. Starbucks is a corporate design, and it’s hard to shake that feeling. There’s also Hillside, but we’re too busy scrambling for the couches to appreciate the atmosphere. It seems, looking back, that I will always have that vacuum not to mention that, with the loss of Meliora Express, the ever-wonderful sandwich place, I can no longer get a roast beef and cheese anywhere. I’m sure many alumni feel the same way about the pub that used to be located in the basement of Kendrick (true story).
I am the net sum of all of my experiences. And my memories urge me to fight for what I believe in because I recall what happens without action. The thought of the places I’ve lost at UR propels me to look for new places and to cherish what I have.
As a nation, we work the same way. Any decent historian could have looked at Iraq before we went to war and realized how suspiciously similar it is to, say, the Mexican-American War, both fought on murky premises and in the name of freedom. History teaches us not to take a government at its word, just like it teaches us, from a study of past administrations Hoover, Kennedy, Bush and W, among others that Joe Biden was probably right on the mark to say Barack Obama will be tested early in his administration.
History does not repeat itself perfectly, but it comes close enough that we need to pull together to effect real change. Will our troops be out of Iraq in 16 months? Unlikely. But rather than protest the immortal military industrial complex, rather than decry Lockheed Martin for creating weapons that are, let’s face it, saving our soldiers’ lives, why not put that same energy into creating care packages for our soldiers or working toward being part of Doctors Without Borders so that we can make visible changes in war-ravaged countries?
We cannot live in the past, but we can’t afford not to remember it. I can always play ‘Halo” in my friends’ rooms and buy roast beef and cheese from Wegmans. And, if I’m with my friends, it’s always good. But simultaneously, I remember what I’ve done, so that I can be, as our self-deprecating school motto goes, always better.
Brenneman is a member of the class of 2009.