In our previous post we noted how more enlightened societies look at their ugly, bloody history and how the wise ones use that history to teach the next generation about the mistakes that were made.
The overarching thesis is you can’t rewrite history, but you can learn from it.
Sir John A. McDonald, one of the Fathers of Confederation is currently taking a beating in Canada. Sir John had some unpleasant things to say about First Nations peoples, circa 1885 than can only be described as murderously racist. Does this undo his role as one of the Fathers of Confederation and make it our obligation to rename hundreds of schools and buildings?
George Washington, one of the founding Fathers of the United States, along with Thomas Jefferson were slave owners. Does that undo their role in the founding of America and the immediate renaming of every monument, office, bridge and post office across the US?
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the man who lead America through World War II, did not exactly hold the best of intentions towards Jews. Does that undo all the things that FDR did to help defeat the Axis powers? Do we rename towns now?
JFK was suspect as the first Catholic President of the US, people fearing that his religion would tarnish his decisions, biasing them toward some kind of weird Papal enclave, all Americans being forced to eat fish on Friday. We’ll overlook JFK’s penchant for a lot of pussy as just Kennedy family hijinks. Oh, wait, that’s sexist. Quick! Rename the airport.
In history every group has been on the wrong end of the stick. There is the classic sign “No Jews, No Dogs, No Irish” from the history of New York City. Or the sundown towns like Hawthorne CA, in the 1930’s that had the sign “Nigger, don’t let the sun set on YOU in Hawthorne” (Sorry to use the N-word, but that was what was written on the sign)
Cartoons were used for propaganda in WWII. Do we burn down Disney Land because Walt was anti-Axis? Come on, if those weren’t racist, stereotype hate images in the various cartoons on that link above, what the hell else could you call them?
Christoper Columbus, hailed for millennia as the ‘discoverer’ of America was just some lost seafarer in search of India. When he wound up in San Salvador, we was dead-nuts certain he was in India, therefore the folks who met the boat, were absolutely, positively, Indians. Was Columbus an invader? Do we rip up Columbus Circle because of history?
The list is relentless and endless. We suspect that even our earliest hunter-gatherer ancestors posted a note inviting others from the wrong side of the river to fuck off. That is what people did and some still do. It doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t excuse their behavior.
What it does is force us to acknowledge is context. The historical perspective of “Back then, this was how a lot of people thought and acted. We don’t do that now.” is what needs to be considered. It needs to be taught.
It needs to be taught, not in schools, or from some formal syllabus designed by committee and blessed by every affected group. That will ensure nothing gets done.
It needs to be taught by parents. Every day. You teach by example. Treat everyone with respect.
And if you don’t know the history, go learn it, so you can answer the questions when they come to you with “Daddy, why did that man call that other man a dirty (insert name of group here)?”
You might find your own biases, prejudices and beliefs change from knowledge of what went on before.
That’s why history can’t be rewritten.