Last night as we watched a documentary on the history of street gangs, I suddenly realized I wished I could pick moments in the past and go back to experience them. History is full of great stories, important moments, and it would be great (and also scary) to actually experience them.
Chris and I came up with a partial list last night. These are not in any particular order. And also, there aren’t 10. That’s because we had to stop talking about it before we came up with 10 moments–you’ll see why.
#1 I’d like to be at the Boston Tea Party. Imagine the fear and excitement sweating out of people’s pores as they got carried away in their anger against taxation without representation. Imagine the harbor turning black with tea leaves. Imagine the stolid Puritans dressed like Indians and hooting in indignation, “Nyah to you, old King George” and “Take that, Great Britain.”
#2 I’d definitely want to be in South Africa in 1994, on the day Nelson Mandela won the first democratic elections in the history of the country and was voted in as the first black president of South Africa. I’d like to see the lines of elderly black people who suffered under apartheid for fifty years waiting to vote. I’d want to get carried away, joining the women ululating and dancing the toyi-toyi in jubilation.
#3 Chris said he’d like to see Nero playing his violin and watching Rome burn down to the ground. (This website says there were no violins in Rome at the time. But the image is a striking one. )
#4 I said I’d like to be in Jerusalem during the 3 days after Jesus died. “Just to see what really happened,” I said.
“Yeah,” Chris said. “I’d be standing in front of that tomb on the third day. You couldn’t drag me away from it.”
#5 Both of us wanted to be there for the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, the day President Lincoln declared that American slaves had been set free.
#6 Chris said he’d like to be with WWII troops as they liberated people from the concentration camps in Germany at the end of World War II.
“Can you imagine?” I said. “No matter what you’d heard about it, nothing could prepare you for the sight of these starving people wearing smocks in 3 feet of snow. The gas chambers. The bodies piled up.”
“That’s why some of the troops went crazy and just lined up the Nazi soldiers and executed them on the spot,” Chris said. “They recognized that what the Nazis had done was totally insane and inhumane and they said to themselves, ‘You don’t deserve to live.’”
“Don’t you think some of the things going on since then are just as bad?” I asked. “I mean, Rwanda. Saddam Hussein.”
“Maybe, but the Nazis experimented on people. I mean, they made lampshades out of human skin. Who the **** does that?” Chris asked.
The conversation quickly deteriorated into a depressing discussion of human cruelty and what our responsibility is to stop these kind of inhumane acts. And that is why we never made it past #6 on the list. The human lampshades did it.
Still, I’d like to hear from others. What are 10 moments in history you’d like to witness? Or what’s your top moment, the one historic moment you wouldn’t want to miss if you could be there?