How Should Societies Remember Their Sins? How Should Societies Remember Their Sins?
*Illustration by Mary Kirkpatrick

Conspiracy and Complicity Got Our Democracy Here | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Conspiracy and Complicity Got Our Democracy Here

What Role Have We All Played in the Spread of Disinformation and the Rise of Authoritarianism?

Two phenomena have characterized the outgoing Trump administration and spilled over to other countries around the world. The first is the astonishing power of conspiracy theories. The second is the no less astonishing capacity of generally honorable men and women to become complicit in the crimes and misdemeanors of the leaders for whom they work. Both were on vivid display on January 6, 2021, during the attempted insurrection at the Capitol and the prior and subsequent calls by Republican members of Congress to invalidate the results of a free and fair election …

STORY

How Can a Society Apologize? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How Can a Society Apologize?

A Rabbi Asks Whether America Can Bridge ‘the Sea of Society and the River of Time’ to Atone for Its Sins

The Biblical story of the Gibeonites rarely makes it into the classroom of a Sunday School or Hebrew school, but the tale has much to say to 21st-century Americans.

The Gibeonites, a Canaanite group, forged a pact with the Israelites when the Israelites were conquering the land …

STORY

Body of Color | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Body of Color

Naima Lowe’s Installation ‘Ropes, Pinks’ Uncoils Trauma in Pursuit of Black Freedom

Consisting of three lengths of cotton and hemp rope of varying thicknesses—200 feet in all—dyed in shades of pink, “Ropes, Pinks” is an installation work by artist Naima Lowe. This “body” changes each time it is installed, adapting to and challenging the space where it finds itself attempting to be at home …

STORY

The Tokyo Shrine That Will Never Find Peace | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Tokyo Shrine That Will Never Find Peace

What’s Left to Salvage in a Monument That Refuses to Accept the Sins of the Past?

The Yasukuni Shrine is an island of calm in an otherwise bustling city. Mature pines and cypress trees surround it, screening it from Tokyo’s relentless traffic noise. Shady walkways, sacred ponds and dozens of cherry trees make it a public haven for the many Japanese people who honor their ancestors.

But if you look more closely, you’ll find clues to the regional rage and global controversies that plague this place. The shrine is dedicated to all those Japanese soldiers who sacrificed their lives on the battlefield since the Meiji Restoration in 1868, most of them during World War II. On the face of it, there is nothing offensive about this: Every nation must mourn its war …

STORY

Don’t Tear Down L.A.’s Notorious Men’s Central Jail  | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Don't Tear Down L.A.’s Notorious Men's Central Jail 

Transforming the Facility Into a Museum and Democracy Center Would Allow California to Remember Its Carceral Cruelty—And Create a Different Future

One of California’s most notorious jails could close in 2021. But if the state truly wants to leave its carceral history in the past and create a more open and …

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STORY

The Writer as Witness | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Writer as Witness

Why We Need Literature to Document Atrocities—at Home and Abroad

For a long time, I cringed whenever I heard someone talk about a novel or a poem bearing witness. The word “witness” bothered me. It felt hollow and privileged. It felt like something an entitled American writer would say, a writer who could author a book and walk away. I was not that person, or at least I didn’t want to be …

STORY

It Takes a Village to Create a Nation’s Memory  | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

It Takes a Village to Create a Nation's Memory 

Returning Jews and Local Communities Worked Together to Lead Germany Toward Historical Reckoning

In the early postwar years in the German town of Warendorf, no one contributed as much to facing the difficult past as Hugo Spiegel. He was not a learned man. He was Jewish, however. And his story tells us something important about how German communities confronted their history.

The central insight is that a country can’t face up to its past alone. Germans needed help from Jews who came back to their hometowns after the war …

STORY

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