Historical censorship is contemptible
I read with interest the Dec. 7, 2018 letter submitted to The Citizen entitled “Criticism of Historical Figures, Taking Down Statues Not Censorship.” It contains several remarkable and dangerous fallacies and misconceptions that need to be addressed. First, acknowledging that past historical figures like Columbus and MacDonald are not perfect, and may well have done condemnable deeds, is already well established. No one has ever said they were perfect.
However, let’s follow the line of reasoning established in the letter to its rightful and logical conclusion. Shakespeare was obviously a misogynist and racist (Taming of the Shrew, Merchant of Venice). We should ban his plays and sonnets, remove all busts of him and cancel any festivals. The horrific sentiments he advocated “greatly outweigh any contributions he made.” He should have known better. We don’t want his work to influence future generations.
Plato and Aristotle lived in violent slave holding societies and didn’t resist them, so they and their works should go as well, plus they both seemed like patriarchal misogynistic white men. Ban them and all trace of them too. Aristotle virtually invented logic so that should go as well. We don’t want to honour his thought.
Lincoln said at one point that he would support slavery if it meant preserving the union. No excuse for that, since he should never have said anything like that and should have known better. The Lincoln monument should come down and all pictures, photographs and records of anything he wrote, including the Gettysburg address, should be eliminated.
Since Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, advocated sterilization of blacks and the mentally unfit, that organization’s name should not be spoken, and any form of contraception it advocated or now advocates should be made illegal.
Are we clear? There is no end to this, and space does not permit the thousands of available examples we could quote. The inability to see the obvious problem with this line of thinking smacks of zealotry and fanaticism.
And let’s be fair. We should also take down all and any portraits, photographs or statues that we find reprehensible including those of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, since he was responsible for the erection and maintenance of four residential schools and did nothing to stop the practice.
Since slavery is an abominable practice, no one would argue that, we should eliminate the narrative of any race, group or nation that practiced it historically…oh, that would be just about everyone.
Taking down statues and eliminating all records of individuals is what the Soviets did. It smacks of the worst kind of totalitarianism. Do we really want to go down that route? It seems that the author of this letter thinks it is a good idea. But that hyperbolic sentiment is dangerous to say the least. That kind of zealous “correction” of history works both ways as I believe I’ve illustrated.
Far from being objective, this kind of historical revision is deeply subjective and deeply prejudicial. Relegating historical figures to museums is the first step in getting them out of the public eye and eliminating them from the historical narrative. Those statues, of course, will never again see the light of day, just as the statue of McDonald in Victoria will not, despite mayor Helps assurances. This is historical censorship, the most contemptible practice a citizen can indulge in, and we can’t afford it.