As background to this anecdote, yesterday both Larry and I read Mark Jarman’s excellent essay on Gilgamesh from his forthcoming book, Dailiness, which I will be reviewing. If you don’t know the Sumerian epic, Gilgamesh, it’s the oldest written story we have, in which a king and his friend kill the monster Humbaba.
This morning we were discussing, over fresh eggs and wonderful toast, the lack of acknowledgement and apology for our national racial history. I have just finished the Bryan Stevenson book, Just Mercy, and listened to him on Preet Bahara’s podcast. In addition to his work with unjustly incarcerated death row inmates, he has created a monument and a museum in Alabama that deal with slavery, lynching, etc. He said, “You don’t see any statues of Hitler in Germany, but there are 150 statues of Confederate heroes here. In Germany you can’t go five steps without a memorial or a museum about the holocaust. No one’s proud of that history.”
Talking with Larry, I said I thought as a nation we needed to acknowledge and talk about our terrible history of racial discrimination, starting with the native populations, slavery, Manzanar, etc.
Larry said, “I don’t know. Grudges run deep. I’m not sure talking about them would do much good. Humbaba’s descendants probably still hold a grudge against Gilgamash.”