When emotions run high in regards to historical issues, it is tempting to jump into the fray without much reflection. As many have rallied and demonstrated either in favour of or against the removal of monuments recognizing historical figures, I have chosen to listen, to read, and to reflect. Today I came across two media reports that demonstrate just such thoughtful reflection.
In one, Dr. Donald B. Smith spoke with CTV Calgary, explaining his view that we should be mindful that people like John A. Macdonald were men of their times, not ours. As Smith notes, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about history, while appreciating that we cannot change that history, nor should we seek to erase that history.
In another report, Jack Granatstein expressed similar sentiments when speaking to CBC, adding that there are other ways to recognize the failings of historical figures than to surrender the debate to white supremacists as they become the defenders of history. Granatstein's argument is that history and society are better served when we leave monuments as they are, while we educate those viewing them with additional narratives explaining their role in history.
I tend to agree with these two historians. Rather than seeking to erase history, we should seek to make a better world today based on a sound understanding of our collective history.