History gets rewritten every couple of generations and the story gets told through the lens of the narrator and with all current sensibilities imposed in the past. We see things that were done in the past and recorded as progress described as a tragedy. We witness heroes fall as their prejudices, foibles, and exploits are re-examined and seen under the world view of the present. In Canada, we are witnessing a movement to change the names of bridges and schools because of the actions and intentions of the historical character who was honored by the naming. We see statues and monuments, in southern states, being removed and history being rewritten or re understood.
When I first heard the news of bridges, schools, and airports being potentially renamed because of the character and values of the person who they were named after, I thought “that is ridiculous”. I wondered how we could judge a person’s action with hindsight and how could we rewrite what we believed to be true. When I reflected for a few hours, I realized that at its best history is only factual for the writer (and as they say usually the victorious dominant group). I am sure that any conflict would be seen differently from either side of the battle line.
Are my revelations and the suggested changes (and the ones that are happening) a sign of maturity or more political correctness gone wild? Should we stop commemorating people in public spaces because eventually someone will have a concern or be offended? I almost wrote legitimately or not offended but then wondered if that is ever an appropriate qualifier for offense. Should we undertake better diligence before we honor someone with a street name? Or should we just call it the 6 St Bridge or Second Avenue or Calgary International Airport? Can we still honour people that we feel have made a significant contribution? Can we adapt when we realize that others don’t see the actions the same way? Should we?
If we discovered, uncovered or acknowledged that one of the First Nation’s leaders we have named a public institution or roadway after was masochistic, or misogynistic, or had killed dozens or hundreds should we remove his name? If Nobel prize winners from the past didn’t live up to today’s social norms, what should we do?
The issue isn’t simple but I have heard all the simple answers. I hopr yo continue to wrestle with this issue and hope that you do too.