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  • Writer's pictureBridget Cook-Burch

It is Dangerous to Silence Stories. . . And It Is Empowering to Bring Them Back

Do you remember history class? I know not everyone is a history geek like me in high school and at university, but I remember something that was told that forever stuck with me:

Winston Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.”

What did that matter? Not just that “to the victors go the spoils.” No, for centuries, only the victors of great and terrible battles and wars had the wherewithal and the resources–as well as the coercive forces possible–to manipulate the way history was both written and read.

As time has passed, luckily we have talented archaeologists who find pieces of our history that might have been forgotten–pieces of other sides of the story, but even the evidence they discover only tells a tiny fraction of the story. While some lucky cultures have been able to keep their ways of life, beliefs, and customs intact, despite what has been thrown at them, no one culture has gone completely untouched by war.

We have an entire set of cultures in our own backyard that have been immensely impacted and almost destroyed. The multi-faceted and multi-cultured Native Americans. Tribes across the continent endured heart-wrenching loss during imperialism and colonialism. I grew up in a town that thought they had a good plan with an “Indian School”. The attempt was to assimilate them into white culture so they would be tamed and be able to live and become employed like whites. It didn’t work.

Instead, for a time at this school and around the nation, Native Americans were strictly outlawed to share their stories of their peoples, most of their dances (any considered dangerous) and many of their songs–since songs are stories in musical form. Stories were stolen from them, the very way in which they taught their children their way of life for centuries. This one selfish act - out of fear of losing control - almost wiped out an entire culture of people!

Stories are not only what gave breath to Native American culture, but they give meaning, perspective, and wisdom to all who listen. Have you ever read or listened to a story that blew your mind? Suddenly you had incredible new knowledge gained by simply reading or listening? Stories and histories have the power to give voice to the voiceless, change hearts and minds, and so very much more.

Healthy society thrives on stories!

Think about it. Without stories, we would not have the technology, the science, or any revolutionary acts to transform the world into what it is today. Take the story of Rosa Parks, for instance. Her story inspired millions of Americans of every color into a revolution, but without it, would there be the change that there is now?

Unfortunately, there are voices and stories that are being stifled and silenced in our very midst, even in the twenty-first century. In today’s headlines, it’s tragic seeing what atrocities are being committed in Ukraine, yes, but did you recently see how Vladimir Putin blocked his own people from using Facebook in an attempt to stifle alternative views to his regarding what is happening in the war. There also are journalists being pulled out of Russia and the Ukraine in fear of being put into prison. Putin is attempting to take away his people’s ability to tell their own stories–and therefore their own truth.

This does a great disservice. For one thing, we begin to equate every Russian with Putin’s face and personality, instead of the millions, billions of varied faces, personalities and stories from across that vast region of the globe. We forget that they are unique, have children, are raising them and inspiring them as best they can with their own stories, but now have to keep many of those stories secret, or quiet just to survive.

We now know how dangerous it is when the ability to tell a story is taken away. As generations of survivors of one pandemic, war, revolution, or another, we know that taking away the simple freedom to speak truth could impede or even threaten all of humanity's survival.

History used to always be written by the victors, but we are now more capable than ever to eradicate that old way of writing history, and instead read, listen and allow all perspectives to be heard and remembered. There are things being done now even outside and inside of Russia because people know it is vital to have more than one perspective.

I was fascinated and cheered to find that the BBC is broadcasting shortwave radio into Russia and Ukraine like they used to do during WWII! Many family members, friends and journalists are doing what they can to make sure that Russia has a way to communicate with the outside world. Other social media platforms are being threatened, but what I see is that this is an awakening. . . an engaging of community to recognize just how valuable freedom of speech is to all those affected by the forced silencing.

Please know that your stories have value.

AND so do the tales of strangers living oceans away.

I invite you to use your voice and writing skills to continue those stories. In my eyes, stories are a tool to be used to inspire and change the world . . . one reader’s or listener’s ear at a time.

And one last question for you:

Do you have a stifled or silenced story that deserves to be written?

Check out our website for all kinds of free, affordable and valuable resources so that no voice is silenced.

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