Apologizing for History
This weekend, I wanted to get out and do something fun. That turned into a trip to the Museum of American History, which is right near the Washington Monument. It was cloudy out, with rain predicted…and humid and hot.
The museum can be a lot of fun. Like their Transportation history exhibit, or the one on food (with Julia Child’s kitchen). There’s even the office of the man who invented the first video game. It’s pretty cool looking at how different creative people are.
There were also two exhibits which apologized for history. I got a problem with that.
- History’s best value is if we take all of it into context. Apologizing takes a piece of it entirely out of context, and devalues the rest.
- When the rest is devalued, we don’t hear about the positive things people did.
One of the exhibits that went on apology mode was on the Japanese internment during World War II.
What happened to the Japanese in the U.S. was a terrible thing. I was glad for the opportunity to read George Takei’s biography, because his internment camp as a child put a different perspective on what happened (it was actually more interesting that the actor part). I also went to an exhibit several years back (think that was at Freer-Sackler) of items made by people in the camps. It was both sad and amazing, because it spoke of the power of human spirit.
But I also have a bit of family history that comes with World War II and the Japanese.
My grandparents lived in San Francisco during World War II. My grandfather was a minister of a church there. My grandmother reported that she had to do a submarine watch on the coast of California.
After the war intended, there was a lot of distrust of Japanese. My grandfather gave them jobs around the church. It was a deeply unpopular thing to do, and he did it anyway. The Japanese honored him about ten years ago.
History is about putting things into perspective and honoring who we are, warts and beauty and all. Apologizing robs of us that perspective, which we need as human beings.