You’re throwing away the last XX years!
– nearly every unwilling partner at a relationship’s end
When I looked up when Henry Ford lived, I quickly stumbled onto The Henry Ford museum and was amused to find that it includes a page entitled “Stories of Social Justice and Injustice” on which are pictures of, and stories about, smiling Black Americans and tough (read: masculine) looking women. (I scanned for any articles specifically about Jewish Americans and found none, so at least there was that saving grace. You’ll understand my relief for that shortly.)
Why would I be amused to find this on the site of a museum dedicated to the innovator of assembly line mass production? A man who famously paid his workers well enough that they could also be customers? Who is quoted ad nauseam in everything from business publications to billboards to self-help books even these 75 years after his death?
Well, because he was also a man who for several years wrote a column in The Dearborn Independent, a newspaper he owned and had distributed in all of his dealerships and placed in every car sold, entitled “The International Jew: The World’s Problem.” He was also a man who funded the printing of 500,000 copies of a Russian-based already-debunked document called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion that claimed the existence of a Jewish-led shadow state bent on world domination. Really. He was also a man who was awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from the Nazi regime in 1938; Nazi death camps had been in operation for five years at that point, just to give historical context.
As it turned out, The Henry Ford museum does touch on this unfortunate history, a glancing article buried on a page that’s buried within other pages that’s filled with contextual excuses for his anti-Semitic views.
Only once in all the countless times I’ve seen Ford quoted has the author noted his problematic history and that was in an article with an anti-racist theme so, yeah, makes sense.
Would acknowledging his fiercely anti-Semitic efforts somehow blot out the history of his innovation? Would it somehow tank the auto empire that, last year, ranked as the 4th largest in the world? Would it make his thinking about workers’ pay less valid?
Not any more than a relationship ending can suddenly vanish the romantic dinners that launched the couple, or the road trips with long, disclosive conversations or the shared home projects or the snuggles or hand-holding or kissing or lovemaking that were woven into the relationship.
Not any more than acknowledging that George Washington held over 600 enslaved people on Mount Vernon over the course of his life, for whom his own logs showed a paltry food ration, can change his enormous impact on the foundation of America.
Acknowledging the complexity of humans, our history and our institutions can’t erase their value, unless we trade one kind of oversimplification for another.
If you’re feeling your gremlins pulling you to oversimplify your recollection of the past, experience of the present, or expectations of the future, consider coaching; it’s a heck of a tool for not only exploring the complexity of what has been, is, and will be, but to be with each in ways that are self-affirming and productive.