Digging Up the Past

The Internet remembers everything…even when we’d like to forget. Is it right to use that against today’s politicians and leaders?

Many of you have heard about the Virginian governor, Ralph Northam, and the recent revelation that he did some really insensitive things in medical school. It seems there’s been a recent trend of famous people’s pasts coming back to haunt them, and social media makes it easier than ever before for people to look into someone’s history and find something they don’t like.

Edit: Governor Northam has since tried to “gaslight” the public in claiming that he is not the person in the yearbook photo on his page. After pulling a move like that, it is clear to me that Governor Northam has NOT changed and is simply trying to save his image. In hindsight, he is the worst example I could have used for this post. For the remainder, please pretend that I am talking about someone who is actually worthy of forgiveness.

The precedent for this trend is understandable; the decisions that someone makes in the past can heavily influence the way they treat people in the future. In the governor’s case, multitudes of executive decisions can now be called into question, with potential racial influence being the main concern. While Governor Northam is certainly subject to criticism and scrutiny, he should not have to resign over something a younger, dumber version of him did over 30 years ago.

Now just so we’re clear, I have no tolerance whatsoever for racism. Such a viewpoint – that skin color or heritage brings about any kind of inherent superiority – has no basis in fact, leads to the harm of innocent people, and is just trashy in general. I do, however, believe that people can grow and change. I don’t buy into the “once a ($thing), always a ($thing)” mindset, mainly because I, personally have grown in my own ways, as has just about everyone.

My version of intolerance when I was young and “edgy” came in the form of atheism. Here’s an actual conversation I had with a random stranger about 4 years ago:

Wow, I really showed that guy(!)

I fully invite you, the reader, to look through my old Reddit account for other cringe-inducing things I said and did when I was in high school and early college. There’s a reason I created a new Reddit account, both to change my username and to absolve myself of association with the older, dumber me.

What I mean to get across is that people change their ways and their views over time. I would chew out the old me for talking to anyone the way I talked to that stranger on Omegle; I do not agree remotely with my smug superiority complex of yesteryear. If I can change my less-than-admirable ways over the course of four years, I’m more than willing to believe that someone can change over the course of a decade or three.

Now, does this mean that everyone changes, or that we shouldn’t take these past actions into account? No, of course not. Governor Northam and the like should definitely be scrutinized and even criticized for the way they’ve acted in the past. This does not, however, warrant the end of their careers. I am more than willing to give these celebrities and politicians the benefit of the doubt, provided they act on their word

Of course, it will help anyone in the long run if they just don’t say and do awful stuff in the first place.

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