Damnatio Memoriae: One journalist’s perspective in the face of recent events in Oregon

In the New York Times article, “Erasing the Face of History,” Sarah Bond discusses the Roman and Egyptian practice of blotting out the names of horrible rulers, scraping their faces off of coins, defacing artwork of that person until it was unintelligible, and generally wiping them from the face of history like wiping off a squished bug from your wall. This idea is called ‘damnatio memoriae’, or ‘condemnation of memory’ to those who wisely have not suffered through learning Latin.

Damnatio memoriae is a strange idea to us, especially us who write the paper you’re holding. In a world of Facebook and Twitter, content full of the cute, the funny, and the horrifying fly by us in an ever swelling tide that says: “Dear God, the world is ending, but here, have a cat playing a keyboard to ease your pain.” Whether you are a conservative, a liberal, or the ever elusive moderate, many of you will agree that in this past election, the world has gone a bit nuts because of someone with a bad haircut and a power trip. We, the media, have been churning out articles as fast as the world will eat them up. Trust me, the White House doesn’t leave us without something to scrape off Twitter for too long.

I really wanted to write a column about how, as a Jew, I am deeply frightened by the similarities in the treatment of the Muslim community to how my people were treated not so long ago. I really wanted to write about how sad it is that a man with the disposition of a toddler that takes to Twitter to tangle with other countries became a president we voted for. I really, really wanted to delve into how bad things are getting for the LGBTQIA+ community, and don’t get me started on the fury that boils in my Hispanic blood at the mention of that wall. Yet, as I tried to start to write those articles, I found that giving that man more press, more fuel, more hits on Google when one types his name, was a disgrace. I do not want my name to float under a title that features that man’s name.

There is power in a name. I would like mine to appear beneath some of the good that is coming of these past few weeks. I would like to offer the power of the press to those who are fighting for equality, for justice, for peace, for love, for education and understanding. For those who aim to stitch closed the mark on history that has been left by what has happened here.

So, here’s to Kate Brown, who is fostering hope here in Oregon and beyond with her defense of the value of women’s healthcare, her executive order banning federal officials from tracking down undocumented immigrants in Oregon starting February 3rd, and her bold defiance.

Here’s to the Women’s March, an estimated 3 to 5 million strong and growing. Here’s to all of you scientists working to prove climate change over and over, and here’s to you scientists affected by the travel ban. Here’s to you, Judge James Robart for lifting that ban.

Most of all here’s to you, dear reader. Whether this article warmed your heart, or made you write an angry email to my editor (this is a column, it in no way reflects the views of LBCC, The Commuter as a whole, or the individual writers besides myself), you’re thinking about the issues, and that’s what really matters in the end. Whether we agree on who is or is not ignorant, I think we can all come together and push forth our own positivity and vitality into this whirlwind of information we exist in. Perhaps, if we all aim to do this, we can begin to bridge an invisible wall that has already been built between us.

All in all, blot out the negative, and push forth the positive, and if, to you, that means blotting out this article, I’ll support your freedom to do so with a free Sharpie.

Story by Moriah Hoskins