The people of today are not responsible for past events but this does not exempt us from working to improve the negative consequences that we experience as a result of the past. The history of the Franco era, unchangeable, need not be an excuse for us to not improve the faults of modern democracy, which we do have some control over.
Passing on resentments is certainly not the best way to teach. For those of us who were alive then, past history was an ontological entity, but we must also be capable of seeing the moral misdeed that took place. Forgiveness comes naturally to realistic people who humbly recognize that we all make mistakes and behave similarly in similar situations. This approach helps us overcome the temptation to manipulate and rewrite history from today’s perspective.
I believe that removing symbols of franquismo, a measure that has been adopted under the law of Historical Memory in Spain, is not the best way to help people understand Spanish history; it does seem, however like a way of erasing memory.
The historical period of Franquismo is perceived with little objectivity, as it is quite recent, there are still many open wounds and perhaps also because so far no apology has been given to the victims. The pact of silence that was adopted throughout the transition period and the euphoria that the death of Franco stirred up is discernible even now, although, little by little there is less silence alongside the passion and manichaeism of the victors and the vanquished, and objective studies have been carried out into what happened during this time. It is far easier to get rid of historical symbols of the recent past than to carry out an objective, unarmed reading of it in the key of peace, that is devoid of anger and hatred. What matters are the social and historical causes that created each persons experience. We sometimes spend a lot of time describing what this period was like, but do not look at or investigate why these things happened or to what extend similar causes are present in the current political panorama.
Monuments or no monuments, past events, their actors and our predecessors continue to be present in many ways, especially through people who are alive today, economical and cultural consequence and surviving institutions. Being free of this past and divesting these monuments of their importance as symbols of ideological struggle and Manichaeism, which they have had until now could be a more efficient measure than eradicating them completely from our cities and towns.
On another level, rights must be recognised and measures and acts must be extended in order to compensate and say sorry to the victims, as far as is possible. Reconciling the hearts of those who suffered helps build social fabric as it establishes a firm everyday commitment to stop the causes that lead to these events- as well as monuments built in their memory- from happening again. Therefore, “these representatives should nevertheless publicly state their regrets for past evils and injustices committed by the institutions throughout History, when it is prudent to do so. In their institutional roles they should try to compensate for the damage caused.” Assuming responsibility, admitting errors and mistakes is reconciliatory, restoring and frees us from pain, blame and fear.
We must be more creative, freer from the past and more intelligent and capable of using languages other than the wiping away of all trace of a particular historical period or living with resentment, because if we accept these two stances, then removing symbols and apologizing for the Civil War will have no effect; we will continue to build our own symbols and fight our little everyday wars in our surroundings.
In conclusion, instead of ridding ourselves of every trace of “fascist” elements, we should reread them with objectivity, forgiveness, an understanding of errors, knowing that we are the fruit of these elements and from the shared responsibility of liberating, healing wounds and ensuring that the causes that lead to this “fascism” don’t come back.
Ángeles González (Teacher)
China - Xian