The de­sire to erase our his­tory is grow­ing farcical

The Province - - EDITORIAL - Licia Corbella Licia Corbella is a colum­nist with the Cal­gary Herald.

At first I thought it was fake news. I was pe­rus­ing Twit­ter on Tuesday night and read the fol­low­ing head­line: “ESPN pulls Asian an­nouncer named Robert Lee off UVa game to avoid of­fend­ing id­iots.”

I clicked on the link and it led me to an odd rant on a web­site called Out­kick the Cov­er­age. I thought it was a bad joke. I went to sleep. I woke up. It was true. An ESPN sports­caster was in­deed re­moved from cov­er­ing a Univer­sity of Vir­ginia foot­ball game in Char­lottesville be­cause he has the same name as Con­fed­er­ate army gen­eral Robert E. Lee.

The big­gest dif­fer­ence, of course, is that Robert E. Lee is dead — and has been for al­most 147 years! Robert Lee is very much alive, though he will no longer pro­vide the com­men­tary at the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia’s home-opener against the Col­lege of Wil­liam and Mary on Sept. 2.

In a state­ment ESPN said: “We col­lec­tively made the de­ci­sion with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Char­lottesville were un­fold­ing, sim­ply be­cause of the co­in­ci­dence of his name.” Sheesh. “It’s a shame that this is even a topic of con­ver­sa­tion and we re­gret that who calls play-by-play for a foot­ball game has be­come an is­sue.”

Re­gret, how­ever, tends to be what hap­pens when you spend your time over-think­ing ev­ery­thing in an at­tempt to never of­fend oth­ers. The U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion and Cana­dian Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms don’t guar­an­tee the right to not be of­fended. In fact, both doc­u­ments guar­an­tee the op­po­site — the right of peo­ple to say of­fen­sive things.

The ab­surd de­ci­sion by ESPN was made af­ter white-su­prem­a­cist lowlifes, car­ry­ing Nazi swastika flags, marched to protest the re­moval of a statue of Lee, who fought to pro­tect the “south­ern way of life” in the U.S. — an­other eu­phemism, this time for the evil of slav­ery. Trag­i­cally, Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a neo-Nazi loser al­legedly used his car as a weapon.

Since that vi­o­lent event, a small but loud mi­nor­ity of peo­ple are look­ing to have other mon­u­ments re­moved, in­clud­ing blow­ing up Mount Rush­more and de­stroy­ing the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., mon­u­ments of U.S. found­ing fa­thers Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton and Thomas Jef­fer­son be­cause both men owned slaves. This de­stroy-the-mon­u­ment and erase-his­tory trend has mor­phed into the farcical. Sadly, it doesn’t stop at the 49th par­al­lel.

Closer to home, the El­e­men­tary Teach­ers Fed­er­a­tion of On­tario ap­proved a mo­tion this month call­ing on school boards across the province to re­name schools bear­ing the name of one of Canada’s Fa­thers of Con­fed­er­a­tion, Sir John A. Mac­don­ald, “in recog­ni­tion of his cen­tral role as the ar­chi­tect of geno­cide against Indige­nous Peo­ples … and the ways in which his name­sake build­ings can con­tribute to an un­safe space to learn and to work.”

Canada’s first prime min­is­ter was both a great na­tion-builder and a deeply flawed hu­man be­ing. He drank too much and, like most peo­ple back then of all races, he was a racist. How­ever, it’s safe to say that he was no ar­chi­tect of “geno­cide,” which is de­fined as “the de­lib­er­ate killing of a peo­ple or na­tion.” Yes, Mac­don­ald was in favour of res­i­den­tial schools and called Indige­nous peo­ple “sav­ages.” It’s a ter­ri­ble word, but it was the word used at the time. Un­til re­cently, Canada’s Indige­nous peo­ple were called In­di­ans. If non-Abo­rig­i­nals use that word to­day, they’d be la­belled racists. Does that mean politi­cians who used that word re­cently should be stripped from the his­tory books? This is tread­ing on slip­pery ground.

On­tario Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne put things well when she said, “We need to teach our chil­dren the full his­tory of this coun­try — in­clud­ing colo­nial­ism, our Indige­nous peo­ples and their his­tory, and about what our founders did to cre­ate Canada and make it the coun­try it is to­day … We need to un­der­stand our his­tory, the good along with the bad.”

If we don’t do that, then we’ll be deal­ing with some­thing a lot more dan­ger­ous than fake news. We’ll be deal­ing with fake his­tory and the in­abil­ity to learn from the past.

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