It’s hard to think Captain James Cook who discovered Australia, and John A. Macdonald, our first Prime Minister would have anything in common besides liking a good, stiff drink.
But now in 2017 they both find themselves at the centre of historical revisionism. Cook’s 19th Century statue bearing a plaque that he “discovered this territory” on August 22, 1770 is under attack. Indigenous people are up in arms and say they were there tens of thousands of years before and want the plaque changed.
Back home, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario union have voted to rename the schools bearing Macdonald’s name. He’s part of the generation of leaders to have opened residential schools. All of this feigned indignation in the wake of Confederate statues being covered or removed south of the border as they serve as painful reminders of some of the darker moments in American history.
Some call it a culture war. Others call it political correctness run amok. I call it a total eclipse of sanity.
Where do we draw the line on historical revisionism? Why stop with Mcdonald’s name on schools? How about tearing down the statue of suffragette Nellie McClung on parliament hill who was one of The Famous Five to get women recognized by courts as “persons” in the British North America Act, 1867. After all, she was a key proponent of eugenics – a pseudo-science at best which favoured sterilization and segregation of those with mental health issues to improve the “race quality.”
And then there’s UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who in 1945 ordered the fire-bombing of Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony, killing up to 25,000 mostly civilian victims in a city which had little strategic value and at a time the Nazis were on the verge of capitulation. There are dozens of schools in Ontario bearing his name. Let’s rename them all while we’re at it.
Let’s not forget US President Harry S. Truman who ordered the US military to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. 129,000 people were instantly vaporized. And within the first two to four months the acute effects of the bombings killed almost a quarter of a million people. Luckily, we have no schools named after him.
The point is that there are a lot of good people who have done bad things. The bad things were often understood at the time as good ones. It’s all about the context and understanding that we just can’t rewrite history and erase the bad parts.
I can just see this radical political correctness jump into other areas. For example, the erogenous area of the vagina is called the G-Spot, after male gynecologist Ernst Grafenberg who identified the area in an article called The Role of Urethra in Female Orgasm in 1950. Imagine that. A part of a woman’s body that can lead to strong sexual arousal is named after a man. Sharpen your pen revisionists, surely, we need to find the G-Spot a new name.