In my esteem the only questions in life worth considering are those that don’t have a clear-cut answer. From debate can come some elements of truth.
Many years ago, on a European tour, my wife and I spent some time in Munich. We also took a sidetrip from that German city and went out to Dachau – the notorious former concentration camp – one of many such hideous manifestations of human awfulness. We took the train to the little town and as we got off and we walked along the station platform I couldn’t help but wonder what locals thought of their awful fucking place being a tourist destination.
If those locals were past a certain age I only hoped that they felt pretty dreadful about it.
Well, we toured the camp and its grounds – all nicely sanitized those many years after the fact. But, it was still a stark reminder and it burns in my memory bank to this day – much as did the Ann Frank House in Amsterdam that we’d seen a couple of weeks earlier.
I believe such reminders not only keep us connected to humanity’s grim past, they also serve to remind us of where we must never-ever go again. Unfortunately we learn little from history and tend to seek expediency as we face adversaries in the world. But it’s a dangerous path.
So, as I say about Dachau and what I say is that it’s good that it’s there and as awful as the place was in terms of legacy, I am happy I went because I saw it in its reality, it wasn’t just a mention in a history book.
And what I say about Dachau I am afraid I also feel about St. Michael’s Residential School in Alert Bay. The school is slated for the wrecking ball and the majority of people, both white and aboriginal, are happy to see the last of the place with all its charged memories. But, there is debate and even in the Native community there are those of the opinion that it should stay as that stark reminder. A stark reminder of a racially motivated assault on a people whom we, in our white guy, Christian (so-called) ‘wisdom’ had officially decided should ‘assimilate’ and the Church of England and the federal government were dead-set on so doing with that school and others like it. They had already destroyed the potlatch and stolen all the artifacts they could, so why not ‘re-educate’ the people to a new form of ‘doublethink’.
I must confess I have never been to Alert Bay, but it’s a trip I hope to make. Wendy has been however, and she tells how that frightening old structure looms spectre-like over the town and Cormorant Island.
My opinion on the matter won’t make a whit of difference and I assume they are going to go ahead and raze the place, but I also feel there might be another consideration. Tearing it down lets everybody off the hook kind of easily.