The excavation of a mass grave believed to contain the remains of people executed during the Spanish Civil War.
It strikes me as ironic that a ruling last week in the European Union’s highest court of law on a person’s “right to be forgotten,” stems from a case out of Spain.
In essence, what the European Court of Justice said is that when it comes a person’s comings and goings and romances and crimes, such things need not be perpetuated forever in the online universe. Basically, a person has the right not to have a random Googling of their name result in a whole screed of dirty laundry.
But that the case comes from Spain, where a generation or two or three of institutional forgetting has passed in the wake of the Francoist years, was particularly curious.
Spain’s 1930s Civil War has largely been forgotten, along with the lionshare of its victims. Franco scrubbed the slate clean in his nigh 40-year dictatorship, doing his best to make sure that those who wound up on the wrong side of history would never have a history told.
These victims, which included the poet Federico Garcia Lorca and tens of thousands of other nameless persons, ended up in mass graves. In the wake of Franco’s victory, more victims were pulled from their homes at night and never heard from again. These are people who I doubt would have invoked a right to be forgotten.
And the victimization does not begin and end with the dictator’s bloodlust. Still thousands more perished as martyrs for their faith, politics, work or art — on both sides of the ledger.
Forgetting is an all too human evolutionary characteristic and, in the ECJ ruling, perhaps a blessed one. But in the case of Spain’s earlier amnesia, there remains an unfortunate lacuna.