By Greg Jackson
The other day as I stood in the mirror brushing my pearly whites (or maybe I should just say teeth so as not to offend anyone), I realized something: I am very pleased with the person I have become. Admittedly, I am a bit heavier, have a lot less hair, some gray in the beard when I let it grow, but still I have an almost boyish-good-look according to my better half that does not quite reveal my true age. Aesthetics aside, however, I am a much different person now than I wasas a young man raising “heck” on the red clay hills of Tallahassee, Florida.
As a younger version of myself, I had a hair-trigger temper, sharp tongue, and cursed like a sailor. Thanks to my joining the Florida Army National Guard and great parents, I was too afraid ever to try a single drug, including the one that you can just puff-puff-pass, but I did consume my fair share of liquid courage from time to time. Though tested at a near genius level when I allowed myself to take a test seriously, I stupidly preferred causing trouble rather than working with those who disagreed with me to find a solution; I was, in fact, a scorched-earth, my-way-or-the-highway type of guy.
However, as time went by, I gained life experience, traveled the world, learned about different cultures, got married, had kids, met new people, etc. All of these things and more aided in me becoming a wiser, kinder, gentler me. That is my history, from a boy taking on every challenge just because I could, to a man committed to helping people and places to be
the best they can be. Like many of you I learned from my history and became a better person, and I work every day to become a better person for the future. But one thing is for certain, though I am not proud
of everything I did in the evolution of me, I appreciated the things I experienced and went through – good, bad and indifferent – because I now see how they shaped me to be better. I also recognize that even if I
do not agree with my history, it will not change, so I focus on the future while never forgetting or discounting my history.
That is how I view the recent controversy with our country and the history that is dividing us. America is a young country made up of different people who bring their own experiences. There is some good and most certainly some bad in the history of our nation, but all of those experiences have made us a stronger nation. While I do not agree with the history of the Confederacy or the “rebel” flag, I do not believe the removal of any of those things serve to improve our lives or help to change anything about how we came to be. In fact, like the scar on my neck, which serves as a 40-plus year reminder of what happens when you don’t listen to your mom and run in a department store, the past scars of slavery, the Civil War, women’s suffrage, segregation, etc., remind us of where we were and where we are now. I view this as an accomplishment and a compliment of who we are as Americans.
Yes, we have had trying times as a nation, but somewhere and somehow we found a way to overcome those things. We cannot ignore who we are, but we can learn from those experiences. In thinking back
on our past as a nation, my concern is that today, in our present, as groups fight for a recognition of their respective places in history, battle lines are being drawn and we are being put on track for a modern age
civil war. Not wishing to repeat one of the most atrocious events from our history as Americans, I want to implore each of us to be understanding of our place in history, but to also focus on our place in the present and future. Since we cannot turn back the hands of time to correct past transgressions, let’s not create a new history that will destroy all that we as a nation worked to build. After all, as a wise man once said those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it. Well, in an attempt to be as profound, I say that those who cover up, remove or ignore their past are likely to repeat it as well – in my humble opinion.
Greg Jackson is a former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, a military veteran, current Orange County District 2 Representative on the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and General Counsel for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He has been as an active member of the Central Florida community for nearly 20 years. He was most recently a candidate for the Florida House District 45 seat.