Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rewriting History

The Globe & Mail reports: "Fighting words rile historians: Museum's decision to adapt text sets dangerous precedent"

Might this actually be the most idiotic thing I've ever heard? Well no, of course not... but it is seriously obnoxious.

According to the article:

The fight over the 67-word panel, titled An Enduring Controversy, erupted shortly after the Canadian War Museum opened in May, 2005. A group of veterans objected to its saying that "the value and morality of the strategic bomber offensive against Germany remains bitterly contested," and to its contrasting 600,000 dead with the statement that "the raids resulted in only small reductions of German war production until late in the war."
So the museum is in negotiations with veterans to re-word the panel, to be "more respectful" to those who died during the campaign.

Nothing I've seen mentioned about the controversy claims personal responsibility on the part of the RAF pilots and crew who took part in the bombings. What is controversial is the Allies' decision to firebomb Dresden, resulting in 25,000 dead, and arguable claims of a war crime. The point was not to belittle those who served in WWII, but to demonstrate that the Allies were also guilty of the deaths of civilians, of misjudgment, of disregard for humanity. To simply add information pointing out the casualties on the side of the Allied bombers would be one thing, but to reword the whole exhibit to de-emphasize the controversial and historically significant slaughter is more than irresponsible, it is unacceptable.
The article adds that another controversy is brewing:

One, the National Association of Japanese Canadians, says that the war museum's version of the internment of Japanese Canadians underplays the racist and economic forces behind the internment; the NAJC also wants the museum to recognize that despite the treatment of Japanese Canadians, 150 volunteered to don uniforms and fight for Canada. NAJC president Grace Eiko Thomson met with Mr. Guerts four weeks before his departure.

Yesterday, Mr. Eaton said that the museum had been in touch with the Japanese Canadians (Not recently, according to Ms. Thomson). "Everyone's knocking on the door," Mr. Eaton said.

Frankly, I think this is a slightly different issue. As I said, I don't mind adding details; its when history gets edited out that my inner History major raises an eyebrow. Nevertheless, no museum should be constantly adjusting itself to political pressure.

On an unrelated note, the fact that I can't properly publish from GoogleDocs to Blogger is driving me crazy.

1 comment:

Milan said...

I agree that re-drafting the panel is a mistake. That is both on account of how it is already accurate and on account of how bad it looks for a museum to let a group with a vested interest in one view of an event help dictate what is said about it.