Yeah, I know, I spend pretty much all my time a good chunk of my time here bitching about how lousy America is, to the extent that you might ask why I don’t already move to Canada or something. Well, I might some day. Given my education level and field I’m pretty sure I could get enough points to get in. It would be nice to live in a country that actually does attempt to live up to the values that Americans merely claim they believe in. See, there I go again! But the truth is that there are good things about America. Here’s one. It’s rare for me to agree with anything done by Israeli hard-liner Naftali Bennett, but this was precisely the right thing to do. Poland decided to pass a law that’s designed to make it illegal to blame Poles for helping with the Holocaust. Obviously many did, but this conflicts with the story Poland wants to tell about itself as one of Hitler’s victims, rather than as his collaborators. Of course they can be both, but that’s what the study of history is for. Politics is, frequently, the opposite of history, trying to make nice clean narratives about ye olden times as a pretext for enacting some load of bullshit in the present. Honestly, this is such a stupid law, how are they going to even implement it? Confiscate all copies of Ida from video stores? Is Kieslowski’s Decalogue only going to have nine commandments from now on? You really do see the clueless old guy element to this, much as with Brexit and Donald Trump elsewhere. Poland has already been discussing and dealing with this for decades, enacting a law like this puts it hilariously behind the curve. Anyway, Poland is run by garbage people at the moment, we all know that. But lots of other countries simply refuse to engage with past atrocities. Even before Erdogan decided to make himself King, Turkey has never allowed accountability over the Armenian genocide to occur, and one has to wonder if it ever will. And it’s not like this is just about only the periphery of the West, either. A lot of French people were mad when Emmanuel Macron acknowledged that his country’s colonialism was awful. It was a “controversy.” People are touchy about their history. They want it to be a record of their awesomeness. But it never is, unless you ignore much of it.

I am a pessimist about race relations in America. However. It’s impossible to imagine such a gag-order bill passing the U.S. Congress, in relation to slavery or the Native American genocide (not that it’s commonly called that here, but this is another story). Even now, defending the Japanese-American Internment and the “pro” side of the Vietnam War are basically just esoteric obsessions of small coteries of right-wing cranks. In other countries, they could easily be things that are banned topics, whether by the heavy hand of the law or the softer methods of social dissuasion. So, we suck, but at least we can say that we suck. That’s not nothing!

(At least until Trump bans it all in his MAGA!Plus executive order of 2019. Hopefully just kidding about that…)


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