Destroying History.

Yesterday a bomb fell on the Islamic Museum of Cairo:

“They’re estimating that 20 to 30 percent of the artifacts will need restoration,” she said. “The Fatimid ceramics right near the entrance are happily intact, but at least three of the glass mosque lamps were destroyed.” (The Fatimid Caliphate ruled much of northern Africa from 909 to 1171.)

I know this is a bit of a side note to the usual content of my blog, but I just can’t resist sharing my sorrow and outrage.  I can not imagine any ideology important enough to necessitate destroying the shared history of humanity, whether it’s this, the Al Qaeda destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, the Nazi destruction of Jewish synagogues, Torahs, and Talmuds, or Bedouins damaging and hoarding early Dead Sea Scroll finds through ignorance and greed.  Just the other day in class we learned about Alexander the Great’s destruction of the Persian palace at Persopolis, a palace that would surely yield great artistic finds were it left to be destroyed only by the forces of nature.  And that was 2,000+ years ago!

The gates to the palace at Persopolis.  Source:

The gates to the palace at Persopolis. Source:

Of course, it is only expected that there are major cultural differences in how history is treated.  I remember being very surprised at the way the Boudhanath Stupa was interacted with by the local Nepali and Tibetan Buddhists.  They used it: walking around and on it, doing prostrations on it, giving flower offerings on it.  I remember thinking that if it were in America we would more likely put a rope around it and block access.  Here in California, we have the Spanish missions, which are educational to schoolchildren and sordid memories to Native Americans. Like the stupa, most (I think all) of them are still used as houses of worship and tourist attractions.  As far as I know, no Native American group has lobbied for their destruction.

This has been a bit rambly.  Mostly, I hope nothing too valuable was destroyed, and that nothing was destroyed beyond repair.  Our history is what makes us human, separates us from animals with no sense of culture or group identity.  Without it we are just stuck in the present.

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