We cannot judge history or its central figures through today’s rosy lens without applying context.
The manufactured controversy over Churchill is one example. He became an incredibly skilled leader but he was also the product of his times. We all are. No historical figure could withstand the purity tests of today. Not Martin Luther King, Caesar, FDR, Genghis Khan, Ho Chi Minh, JFK, Kohl, Mao or Pierre Trudeau.
Certainly, there are historical figures that can be universally condemned including the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein and Idi Amin.
Tragically, the list is long and the despots and their symbols can rightly be buried in dark museum corners rather than parks or in front of capitols.
In the U.S., it never made sense to me that Confederate flags, generals and political figures would be on prominent display even though I understand the institutional racism behind the modus operandi. After all, they advocated for slavery and lost a devastatingly brutal civil war.
Further, the injustices, inequities and brutality towards African Americans from slavery, to Jim Crow, to institutional barriers including commerce, education, justice, politics and health are very real and impact the African Americans to this day despite incremental improvements.
However, condemnation of many historical leaders based on today’s standards, with no context, is puritanical. Destroying, damaging or removing statues of George Vancouver or Sir John A. McDonald because they were imperfect by today’s standards is intellectually lazy and it relies on an equivalency argument that reeks of desperation.
As for Churchill, his human imperfections are completely understandable and not so egregious. He loved the British Empire for all its accomplishments and despite its imperfections and mistakes. But, he was one of the England’s greatest people and saved the United Kingdom and arguable more countries from absolute tyranny.
Let’s stop yelling at each other.