Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"A great many things keep happening" -- but me posting is not one of them.

I've been very busy lately and posting will probably be light for a while. I'll try to dig up some draft I forgot about and put it up.

Tom R asked me my views about Taiwan's renaming of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall as the "National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall" (pro side argued here).

Briefly: I dislike renaming things in general. And when they have been renamed, I approve of people going back to the old name. For example, renaming St. Petersburg as Petrograd and then Leningrad was a bad idea. Good to go back to St. Petersburg.

But what about if the now repudiated regime actually built the city or street or bridge or memorial or whatever? So that it never had any name other than the objectionable one? (Like for example, Washington DC, which has no pre-American plutocracy identity). Or Sukhbaatar city in Mongolia? Named after the founding hero of the revolutionary-morphed-into-Communist regime there which democratized in 1990? I'd say let 'em stay the way they are.

But Chiang Kai-shek is a bad man! Well, I'll grant a lot of your points about him, but it is not truthful, to say that this is the "Democracy Memorial" when it was built to commemorate Chiang Kai-shek. And as Gresham Machen reminded us in a different context, "honesty is not one of the lesser matters of the law."

History is messy. Communists build economies. Colonialists kill hundreds of thousands and leaves great railways. Little islands acquire their independence by becoming the redoubt of a corrupt party that abhors their cause. Cleaning up names is a way of cleaning up the ironies of history. And that's a bad thing: one that keeps on happening.

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