| Saturday, November 8, 2008 - 11:11 pm |
Dub. I like you, son, but I'm going to stomp on you hard because I feel you are worth the effort.
You make a well reasoned, well informed argument that supports what happens when you lose the big picture in the details. Forest for trees, if you like. You are wondering the path of historical revisionism and I will tell you how and why that is a very dangerous thing.
Let's begin with the why.
One great strength of our free Western societies is that we have nearly unlimited access to good information. While our history is inevitably corrupted by policy, politics, and ideology, the materials to get a semblance of objective truth is readily available to us.
However, when fundamental landmarks of time that are critical to our understanding of our world, our societies, and ourselves are intellectually bent or distorted through "alternate interpretations", the danger of losing the "big lessons" increases dramatically. Diversity of opinion is a wonderful thing in free societies, but some events are just too important to screw around with. Your grasp of history is commendable and impressive. The average guy's is not. Regular people need things simple at times. And some times, despite all the argument and debate between experts well versed in all the minutae of an event, the simple version proves to be the most beneficial for UNDERSTANDING and PERSPECTIVE. History is valued for the lessons it teaches us, not for the amassing of useless trivia.
Much revision of the traditional, widely accepted interpretations of grand events has occured throughout our past. In my view, this has generally not been beneficial to our societies. The reasons for this revisionism are varied. Some is deliberate misinformation. Some is just a by product of over analyzation of events that can lead to improper conclusions that, for whatever reason, stick in the collective conscious.
A prime example would be that the American Civil War was primarily fought over the issue of slavery. That revisionist conclusion was largely a deliberate effort to rewrite a past that was more complex than people of the time wanted to admit. That erroneous position has caused a great deal of damage to American society that can still be felt today. That was a case hiding complex, uncomfortable facts in a simplistic conclusion.
The danger of revisionism lies in the confusion it creates. Friends become enemies. What was prioritized and effective at the time becomes trivial and irrevelant in the revision. What was trivial and irrevelant at the time becomes central and critical in the revision. The net effect is that the lessons that we MUST learn and retain as societies are either twisted into something else entirely or merely lost in a quagmire of opposing views. And then we repeat our mistakes.
Mere ignorance can be corrected with a small effort. Misinformation tends to be transformed into rigid belief structures that lead to conflicts. The examples are legion and I will be happy to provide you with many, should you wish.
Now on to how you are revising.
The first point, you already retreated from; but, allow me to use it as an example of the dangers involved.
By stating or implying that the Warsaw Pact was in a defensive posture throughout the Cold War infers that Western Europe was in no danger. If there was no threat, the cooperation of the NATO countries was pointless. The stationing of US troops in Europe was not the ultimate commitment of my nation to your security, but can now be interpreted as a parasitic occupation. What was a shining example of international cooperation and mutual commitment to be strengthened and encouraged to grow, can be now twisted into an argument for the opposite. Just because we reinterpret a few facts. This has occured over and over again in both our histories, and seldom has it proven to be beneficial.
What got me really fired up with you was your observations about the Holocaust. If there is a single event in the 20th century whose history MUST be preserved intact and unvarnished, this is it. The lessons are simply too important to be forgotten or diluted.
The Holocaust began when The Jewish Question became an issue in German politics. It accelerated through KristallNacht, the forced relocation to ghettoes, numerous experiments with various mechanisms of genocide, and concluded with gas chambers and ovens. What Hitler personally decided and what was formulated by underlings is utterly irrevelant to the scale and horror of what happened and why.
A free, enlightened, modern society voluntarily surrendered itself to sociopathic madmen. Millions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and Jehovah's Witnesses were relegated to the status of vermin and slaughtered. Those are the facts that relevent. Specious positions about whether the methodology of how the NAZIs would dispose of their "problem" influenced the fact that it even happened is reprehensible. It takes one of the most tragic episodes of the failure of freedom in human history and reduces it to a political drama. Would the Jews have died in such numbers if some other party had prevailed upon a less "efficient" system of eradication? This is all you have to contribute, Dub? Is this what the Holocaust is to you? Just a minor "what if?" scenario for debating historical trivia?
Some few things in life need to be respected at all times. Not to be trivialized. Not to be relegated to "just another argument."
You coupled this utterly insensitive, if not offensive, argument with a joke about the existence of Israel?!?!
Son. I am not Jewish or connected to it in any way, but even I find this to be too much. Free peoples should be free to discuss everything. But with a glaring HOWEVER, some issues must be handled with great care and sensitivity. It is simple respect.
Free speech is a wonderful tool, but like any tool it can be used constructively or destructively.
Please think about that.