Depending on the dictionary you go to, there are variations in the defintion of amnesia, but it is usually seen an involuntary lapse in memory, due to illness or trauma. It can also be a self defence mechanism. We sometimes consciously try to forget episodes we are not proud of, or behaviour we regret. The following is from the Mirriam Webster disctionary, interestingly, it uses the example of the Vietnam War, and raises the idea of a ‘wilful forgetfulness’.
Definition of amnesia
1: loss of memory due usually to brain injury, shock, fatigue, repression, or illness
2: a gap in one’s memory
3: the selective overlooking or ignoring of events or acts that are not favorable or useful to one’s purpose or position… Americans seemed to develop a willful forgetfulness about the nation’s longest military conflict, an amnesia that lasted for nearly a decade.— Alan Brinkley
The mistake made in the dictionary is to say ‘Americans’ developed amnesia about Vietnam. In fact the opposite is true, the Vietnam war and the opposition that developed to it were turning points in US history.
The families of the 58,000 Americans who died; brothers, sons, and fathers, never forgot. Nor did the veterans who lived with the scars, mental and physical. Millions of students, activists and workers eventually made a vital contribution in stopping the war, through protesting, marching, and picketing.
It would be more correct to say the American ruling class, government, and news media spent decades erasing the lessons of that war from public consciousness. One of the problems of ‘amnesia’ is that memories can resurface later, bringing the trauma with it, if the US establishment tired to erase the war in Vietnam, US filmmakers fought back with the release of major movies from the eighties on.
Definition of erase
1a: to rub or scrape out (something, such as written, painted, or engraved letters)erase an error b: to remove written or drawn marks fromerase a blackboard
c: to remove (recorded matter) from a magnetic mediumalso : to remove recorded matter fromerase a videotape. d: to delete from computer storageerase a file
2a: to remove from existence or memory as if by erasing. b: to nullify the effect or force of.
The US government was afraid of the example the anti war movement set, and it took decades of covert military actions and operations before the US was able to launch another fully fledged US war abroad in ‘Desert Storm’ 1990.
What happened after the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 in which thirty four men women and children were killed, and the many other atrocities, executions, murders and attacks carried out by people actively supported by the British Military and establishment, is an attempted ‘Erasure’. To wipe the historical slate clean of these crimes.
Margaret Urwin, Justice for The Forgotten, The Pat Finucane Centre, and the families of victims are fighting against this ‘Erasure’.
The British Government’s ‘Legacy’ proposals mean that the perpetrators of crimes such as the Dublin and Monaghan bombings can not only gain immunity from prosecution, but the information they provide can be hidden on grounds of national security. Immunity for the perpetrators, protection for the state, and denial of Justice for the victims and their families.
For more information please visit;
Listen to Margaret Urwin from Justice For the Forgotten.
My novel Across The Water