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Fabricated Memory

June 2, 2017

I grew up listening to many types of music. From my mother there was Beethoven, Les Miserable, and Phantom--from my dad the rock and roll of the 60s and 70s and country music.

 

(There are many other fascinating reasons questioning their compatibility but that's another much longer conversation, yet they did just celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary a few of days ago. They're truly amazing people. Love them.)

 

For a lot of people, music and/or particular songs can trigger memories. A lot of songs are enjoyable because they're relatable--they strike some resonating truth in your heart. When I hear the song "Thinking Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran, it reminds me of my beautiful bride. It was our first dance song; not only that memory but the seasons of life leading up to that point. Another song that I have a distinct memory associated with is called "The Change," by Garth Brooks. The memories that come to mind are of a tragedy that I don't actually recall. The music video of the song is backdropped with footage from the Oklahoma City bombing that occurred in 1995. I saw the music video growing up many times, and eventually these pictures have assimilated to a "memory." This isn’t the exact video that I recall, but it’s fairly close.

 

The Change

Before moving on, I want to continue with this sort of "assimilated memory." I was recently watching a TED talk called "the art of creating awe," from the creators of Apollo 13 and their process in recreating the Apollo 13 launch. Rob Legato begins his talk emphasizing how when we have a fondness or a particular emotion attached to a memory, it changes how we remember.

 

To summarize his explanation and process of recreating the launch- Rob and his team viewed the original footage and picked key points that stood out to them and recreated it using models. After completing it, they brought in a scientist to verify the validity of their footage to see if there were any red flags.  The response that Rob received basically said: what they created was "wrong"--- the launch apparently had been depicted in a particular way that didn't make sense/wouldn't have been designed to work because it was unsafe. After that, Rob showed this same person the original vault footage, the result was the same--for the same reason this scientist said it shouldn't have worked/been designed this way. This was his opening illustration of this idea. This scientist's memory had changed over time.

 

 

 

Rob elaborated on beyond that and I highly recommend you watch the 17 minute video if you have the time to. There is an anecdote about Buzz Aldrin that Ron Howard describes that gave me a good laugh. 

 

Ted Talk with Rob Legato

So back to the Change--Oklahoma City bombing, I was 3 years old when this took place and don't remember actually living through it, but I have this emotional attachment to it for a number of reasons. Beyond the impact of the music video at a young age, I heard my parents discuss the tragedy years later. My father worked for one of the large companies that Timothy McVeigh acquired fertilizer from to build the bomb. I remember hearing discussions of the backlash that caused and the feelings of "what if?"

 

 

 

 

A couple of days ago, I discovered a documentary on Netflix called Oklahoma City directed by Barack Goodman. It recounts the couple years building up to the bombing-- the motives of Timothy McVeigh. I highly recommend this documentary. I learned a lot about the social climate in the early 90s. Some scary things present in the USA which I unfortunately believe may still be lingering. As I look through my narrow lens of history, I typically associated White Supremacists with Nazi Germany and the KKK losing its power by somewhere by the mid-late 20th century. In the documentary (I'll refer to as OKC), the investigators detail isolated events that the radical right used as a platform of hostility towards the government including the Ruby Ridge Standoff and the Davidian massacre near Waco, TX. These tragic events in turn motivated a disillusioned Timothy McVeigh and co-conspirators to their dastardly acts creating yet another tragedy on a larger scale.

 

One of the most haunting this McVeigh said in his testimony was when asked if he acted alone brings up the discussion that if he didn't...there are more like him out there...but he did. Which is scarier? That there are more, or that just one could do this? 

 

McVeigh was as domestic as it came--by comparison to the events of 9/11 which I do truly remember, the last decade "terrorists" have been labeled mostly as foreigners on local soil-but for how many years has the US been a foreign terror in a domestic land across the world? Complicated issues, right? I acknowledge this is a hot topic, and let me clarify: I am immensely thankful for the men and women in our armed forces and the sacrifices that they and their families have made. I believe there will be wars and rumors of wars until mankind is no more--but my desire for mankind is to no longer war.

 

After watching OKC, these are some of the things that I was left thinking about it. All the issues lead to a deeper feeling of frustration a potential purpose.  I was angered and deeply saddened by footage of people advocating for a "white first," "Christian"  nation and spreading general hate of others unlike them. It's frustrating on a personal level because I call myself a Christian, and here is more evidence for people to associate me and actually loving Christians in with these other types of hateful people. The hateful voice seems to be louder, and I don't want it to be so. I want the world to know that people can and should "love our neighbor as ourself," without the caveat of "as long as they're the same as me." To serve, to put others first. This isn't the first time I've felt this way. I can imagine it's similar to the way a normal everyday Muslim person feels when automatically lumped into the radical category.

 

(Once again...let me acknowledge my broad generality: on the individual level, I know people very closely who have dealt and are dealing with oppression on deep life altering levels from people who believe differently than they do and my illustration is coming from watching a documentary and talking about my "feelings." I know that. What I'm saying I know cannot be compared to the depths of every individual experience across the world. Not to mention the conversation on perspective--right vs. wrong--good vs. bad--in McVeigh's eyes he was not a villain but justified in his actions--these kinds of things---but I am not even going there.)

I digress: it comes down to this--at the core level of a person and individual, no one is really defined cut and dry with a title. Their strengths, weakness, backstory, grudges, desires, moral code, will all be individual. It was startling to see a glimpse into what brought an individual to a place to do something like this. McVeigh's martyred mindset--what's the individual capable of?

 

I believe an individual can inspire hope just as much as despair, perseverance during hardship, integrity, faith in positive change, overcome obstacles. I know that I cannot control the populace, or even the hopefully small percentage of the radical, but only my own actions. I guess what has caused me to write all of this is  that it hurts me to see other people hurt. I felt broken for the families while watching OKC and feel broken for our hurting nation. If you get a chance to watch the documentary, I hope it impacts you as deeply as it did me and causes discussion within the groups of people you know. It inspired me to continue to pursue art and communication that incites peaceful change and to challenge individuals of hateful aggression.

 

Life is filled with messy emotions and hurt forming our story. As the rest of my life is still unwritten, I don't want to look back and have fabricated memories about bring change to the world. I want to have actually memories of doing something to show the world that love is greater than hate. 

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© 2017 by Adler Roberts