Dear The Future,
I am sorry for having offended you. I am sorry for my shortsighted opinions and for my stubbornness in sticking to old, worn out ideas, offensive words and phrases, and ethics that have not withstood the test of time. I am sorry for my inability to see the accepted truth and morals so undeniable in your future time. Despite how obvious they are to all in the future, I cannot easily see them from here. I apologize for failing to be in that small minority of my own time that saw the truth.
I give no excuse for not knowing better and seeing more clearly. In my own time, ignorance of the law does not excuse breaking it. But we do dictate lighter punishments for those who did not have the mens rea when they commit a crime, so I ask that I be judged with mercy for how I have lived and the words I have written. I do not beg not to be judged. Instead, I humbly ask to be judged as you would have yourselves judged by those who will undoubtedly come after you, for surely the future will see your own customs just as backward and evil as you see mine.
Matt Gold, Dandridge, TN and NY, NY, 2014
The morals and social mores of my current time and place (early 21st century USA) are vastly different from what was accepted even 1-2 centuries ago. Going back in time a thousand years or so, or switching locations, brings us to a world with dramatically different guidelines of good and evil. The determination and execution of justice is wildly different across time or distance. I anticipate it will be just as different a few centuries into the future, though I will not be around to see it.
I own pets, a dog and a couple of cats. They bring me great joy and are wonderful companions. Yet it would not be hard to see how the future may consider the keeping of animals for companionship an immoral form of slavery. It may be viewed as a barbaric relic from the past. A brutal past when people determined when animals would eat, when they could go outside, where they could go and when they had to sleep or wake up. We choose their mates based on specific physical characteristics or we remove their ability to reproduce. Perhaps I am blinded by the morals of my time.
From a more extreme perspective, we do not give our children equal rights as adults until the age of 18, even though they may be entirely capable of making decisions before then. Effectively, we do not give them rights over travel, rights over their reproductive choices, rights to vote on their own taxes, the ability to choose where they live, the right sign a contract, etc. There are many reasons I consider valid as to why this is true, but it is entirely possible that at some time in the future, the enslavement of our own children for their early life may be considered a terrible injustice.
For much of history, if you conquered people, it was your right to enslave them. Slavery was not considered an evil, but rather the just spoils of war. Today, slavery is considered to be one of the worst evils to blemish the past of mankind. In the past, intimate relationships between men and young boys was accepted. Today it is given some of the strongest punishments and it brands those who have such relationships as dangerous to society for the rest of their lives.
From the direction of what was once considered evil now being acceptable, homosexual relationships in certain past times were punishable by death. Today, many people and governments accept these relationships as equal to any other relationship and punish those who discriminate against them. The manner in which the past treated these relationships is considered monstrous. The list of the differences between what is acceptable in the past versus the present day is enormous. We should anticipate this list will always change as we step forward into the future.
Today, some words are considered inherently offensive, regardless of whether or not they were offensive at the time they were put into print. Words used to describe minorities that were accepted by all (including those minorities) in the past are no longer accepted in current speech or print. Words that had no derogatory meaning at the time have acquired negative connotations, long after the innocent authors who wrote them passed away. Books that used them are no longer considered acceptable reading for young, impressionable minds. Certain ideas or symbols are now considered to be so full of hate that they warrant expulsion from a school, lest students be exposed to them and offended by them.
I do not know what words I use, or which ideas I have, that will be considered hateful in the future. I do not know which aspects of how I live my life will be considered thoughtless, selfish, immoral, and utterly insane. But of this I am certain: that the judgement of the future on myself and my own time will be harsh. This is how every future society views the customs of the past. It may only be mellowed by the knowledge that I myself, and many of my time, could not see beyond our own customs.
If there is an interest in reading my words at some future time (one can only dream), I hope some things I have said are timeless and still speak to future readers. The best reason to put down and discard my writings is because I have nothing worthy to say. Please don’t discard them because my words and ideas are offensive. My only desire is to communicate my thoughts, to search for art, passion, humor, and insight. It is never to offend the sensibilities of my readers, though that may be the only certain byproduct. To write is to risk offense and I intend to continue writing.
If you find my writings offensive, laugh at them, laugh at yourself, and get over it. The world is a far better place when people laugh at themselves. You must laugh at what is sacred to you. You must find humor in that which you care about intensely. That which cannot survive laughter is too fragile to survive inquiry. An idea that cannot survive a bit of ribbing is nothing worthy of your time. If you love it that much, it is surely strong enough to withstand laughter.
“The final test of truth is ridicule. Very few dogmas have ever faced it and survived.”
H. L. Mencken