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Who Mourns for King Leopold?

George Ranting...

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Traveling throughout Europe, and other countries, I am struck about how little I know about history. Or rather, how little I know about how much history there is in the world.
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In Europe, there are plenty of beautiful green spaces and parks and within those parks are statues and monuments to somebody I've never heard of. In most cases, these people lived hundreds of years ago and had something to do with the early beginnings of the city. For instance, there is a giant statue of King Leopold I in Brussels. Leopold I was a German prince who became the first King of the Belgians following Belgian independence in 1830. He reigned between July 1831 and December 1865. He established the House of Saxe-Coburg yadda-yadda, blah blah blah.

After being 'tidal-waved' trying to comprehend Scottish history and then trying to take in Irish history, I started to get a little exhausted trying to follow each country's long history of foundings, wars, revolutions, independences etc. etc. Don't get me started on the myriad of Saints that seem to be mentioned in some church somewhere. St. Giles? Never heard of him until I got to the U.K. where there were about 3 churches and two hotels and a square named after him. His story? Apparently St. Giles was a vegetarian hermit from Greece whose humility was so revered that some rich people built a monastery after him. After his death, a cult developed and spread through parts of Europe including Ireland. That's it!
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So after awhile I begin to think "So What?" "Who Cares about St. Giles or King Leopold?" "What does they have to do with the 'here and now' and being in the "present?".

If either one of them came back to life and walked around, would they still be worshiped? Would anyone even care if they even came back to life? How relevant would they still feel? In St. Giles case, he might even be upset that his likeness is everywhere and that people would know who he was because, after all, his original intend was to be a hermit and get away from it all! What could King Leopold I do? Would he walk around and proclaim, "I made this country!" To which others might reply, "Who cares King Leopold! Get the hell out of here already!"
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I think I can partly understand the need for some young people here to react against this old history of their home country. European history is (by and large) bloody, old, antiquated and filled with folks with massive egos and delusions or mistaken for being some kind of divine/magical creature. what does their past, perceived "great" deeds have to do with the 'here and now' of our lives? Of course there are the big names that are known around the world and for very good reason like Napolean, Jesus and St. Francis. These people really did change the world with their actions or ideas. But folks like Leopold or St. Giles and many, many others, are relegated as simple footnotes in history unknown to most except to certain historians and, of course, Wikipedia. But who needs them now? Their time has come and gone and all that is left is another statue or church that young people pass by while staring blankly into their smartphones hoping to see something new and "fresh".
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Posted by woa 12:06 Archived in Belgium

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