What Would You Ask Your Ancestors?


What will we say to our children
when we discover we were wrong?

– HK Stewart, Heated Conversation.

We might say things like:

  • It seemed too horrible to be true.
  • I didn’t think it would happen so quickly.
  • Denial is a powerful defense mechanism.
  • I didn’t think I could make a difference.
  • No one I knew was worried about it.
  • I thought we’d come up with a solution in the nick of time.

The history section is one of my favourite places to browse at a bookstore or library. This wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed studying in school but as an adult I’ve grown to appreciate it.

Certain chapters of our past make me wish I could go back in time and ask the people involved with them a few questions. How often did, say, people who worked in the earliest stages of the eugenics movement or the creation of Indian residential schools realize the damage they were inflicting on others?

As valuable as books, letters, journals and other documents are when learning about events that happened two or six or twenty generations ago they can’t tell us everything.


What questions would you ask if you could speak to someone from a former generation?


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2 Responses to What Would You Ask Your Ancestors?

  1. Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

    It would represent a different time and place.  What made sense in that moment might well make little sense to me now.  Besides, what’s done is done.  What difference would it make knowing why?  Heck, half of the time I don’t even know why I do the things I do! 😉

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