Thursday, April 08, 2010

Can One Fairly Judge Yesterday’s Deeds By Today’s Standards?

That's the question my friend Greg over at Rhymes With Right asks:

I have, time and again, been confronted with precisely that question in recent days. Looking back at the events of the past, there are those who wish to judge individuals and their actions based upon the morality of 2010, as if those standards are universal and eternal. Little consideration is given to the fact that moral standards have changed – that which was deemed morally licit or legally just might not be viewed as such today.

Consider the recent dust-up over the Virginia declaration of Confederate History Month. Now I have no problem commemoration of the Civil War – indeed, as a social studies teacher I would like to see a greater focus on historical study and commemoration of historical events because of the historical illiteracy that afflicts our society. Personally, I’d prefer that April be declared Civil War History Month rather than Confederate History month, to honor and commemorate those on both sides who fought (and often died) in defense of their principles and their conception of our nation’s founding principles as contained in the Declaration of Independence. But for Virginia – home of the Confederate capital and site of most of the major battles of the conflict – to focus on the Confederate side does not offend me. But some have taken grave offense at the commemoration, based both upon the defense of slavery that was a part of the Confederate cause and the assertion that the Confederate cause was one of “sedition and treason”. And yet most Americans in the immediate aftermath of the war recognized that those who fought for the Confederacy did so for reasons that transcended slavery and that both the Union and the Confederacy were espousing legitimate views on the nature of the American experiment. After all, the Declaration of Independence itself is premised on the right of “one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.” Yet to the modern sensibilities of a certain segment of the American populace, one which usually argues against an ethnocentric imposition of contemporary American values on other cultures, there is a peculiar desire to re-judge that earlier era by today’s standards and declare any different interpretation to be evil rather than simply incorrect. After all, those who fought on the Confederate side were, by the lights of the time in which they lived, patriots.

A similar revision takes place today regarding sexual abuse that took place within the Catholic Church in decades past. Such abuse was often not reported to authorities for a variety of reasons. Indeed, many families were reluctant to call the police in such instances because of the stigma that attached to the victims of sex crimes in that earlier age – especially teenage boys who had been sexually involved with adult men.

Read it all here..and I will likely include my own thoughts on the the Virginia declaration of Confederate History Month in due time.

please helps me write more gooder!

No comments: