Ten years ago, I considered Italy to be the land of pizza and pasta. If I were alive a thousand years ago, I would have considered it to be been the crown jewel of the Holy Roman Empire. I still consider it to be the land of pizza and pasta, but now, I also consider it to be the country that caused the death of more than 760,000 Ethiopians (>50% civilian) during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia during World War II, not to mention other Italian colonies, of course.
The relics of the past are still there: the castles, the churches, architectural marvels forever ingrained within the pages of every art history textbook thoroughly seasoned with evidence of a colonial past. Constructed by thousands of slaves without any knowledge of calculus and concavity, the Pantheon had been the largest and only free-standing dome for a substantial period in history. And now, as a casual tourist, all I can do is appreciate its aesthetic value.
I wonder how far along in history can I appreciate things without thinking about the past. I certainly can enjoy the relics built during the classical period without consciously thinking about the thousands of slaves that have died in during its construction — the United States still had not been “discovered” then — but I cannot quite feel the same way with the churches that were built during the peak of colonialism and misuse of institutional authority by the clergy.