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Sunday March 14, 2021
My newspaper runs a daily feature, Today in History. It lists significant events that have happened on this particular day, long ago.
It makes me feel very old. Because I was there for at least half of every day’s listings. No, I wasn’t there when Charlemagne declared himself Holy Roman Emperor. Or when Nero fiddled while Rome went up in flames.
But you’d be surprised how much has happened since 1936.
I had just had my third birthday when Hitler invaded Poland, in September 1939, starting World War II
I was in London when Chamberlain returned from his visit to Hitler, declaring “Peace in our time.”
On our way back to India, in 1940, the rear deck of our ship was piled high with depth charges, in preparation for the Japanese attack that everyone knew was coming. Even if it didn’t happen until December 7, 1941.
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: history, Gandhi, long life
The name “Winston Smith” probably doesn’t immediately bring someone to mind. Good -- that’s what author George Orwell wanted. He deliberately made Smith, the central character in Orwell’s most famous novel, 1984, an unassuming, ordinary, fade-into-the-wallpaper civil servant.
Winston Smith did a very ordinary, unassuming, kind of job.
He rewrote history.
Every day, the Ministry of Truth had him amend news reports that had appeared in the pages of London’s most prestigious newspaper, The Times, to make them match to the government’s latest policies. If Winston Smith were alive today, he wouldn’t be working in a musty back room. He’d be out on the streets toppling statues.
Tags: history, 1984, Orwell, Winston Smith, statues
Today is the 18th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, September 11, 2001.
My wife and I were wakened early that morning by a frantic call from our daughter, who lived one time zone east. She sobbed, “Turn on your TV! You have to see this!”
Through the rest of the day, we watched, transfixed by the tragedy. Over and over, we watched the two planes bank, smash into the towers, with a gout of exploding fuel erupting through the far wall of the tower.
We watched as the buildings collapsed like a house of cards.
Of course, there were two other hijacked flights. One crashed into the Pentagon. And another, possibly intended for the White House or Congress, where the passengers refused to sit passively and let it happen. They overwhelmed the hijackers.
I wonder what would have happened if the passengers on the two flights piloted into the World Trade Center had shown similar initiative.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: history, 9/11, World Trade Centre, hijacking, sacrifice
I’ve been reading Conrad Black’s 1106-page history of Canada, Rise to Greatness.I can’t recommend it. For two reasons.
First, because it’s written at a level of turgidity rarely achieved since the Victorian authors. The friend who loaned me the book said he had to read it with his dictionary open beside him.
Second, though, because this book is not really about Canada – it’s about Black’s obsession with high-level leadership, an elite to which he thinks he belongs. So although there are voluminous references to Sir John A. Macdonald’s speeches to parliament, there is not one word about the actual building of the transcontinental railway that linked a fledgling Canada “from sea to sea.” Alexander Mackenzie’s journeys to the Arctic and Pacific Oceans get shrugged off in two sentences. David Thompson’s mapping of the Columbia river system gets a single line.
Tags: history, Canada, Conrad Black, leadership
Stanley Park in Vancouver may soon disappear. No, not because developers want to replace its towering Douglas firs with condo towers – though I’m sure the notion has them salivating like Pavlov’s dogs – but because the park’s name may be changed.
Not that Lord Stanley himself did anything wrong, other than donating a silver cup to the National Hockey League. He’s simply a representative of his time that saw the original inhabitants of North America as “sauvages,” savages with no rights.
So the Vancouver Parks Board has started a “colonial audit” to identity the ways in which earlier generations of later arrivals wronged the Indigenous peoples who once occupied the shores of Burrard Inlet.
All this is part of a movement to rewrite history the way it should have been. And in case there’s any doubt, I’m against it.
That probably puts me into a group that the Prince George Citizen’seditor Neil Godbout derided as “historically-illiterate, culturally-entitled white people.” So be it.
What we have is what we have. To deny it is to deny what makes us, us.
Tags: history, Stanley Park, Cornwallis, Macdonald, Amherst, Voldemort
Canada will be 150 years old this Saturday. I was asked by the organizers of the Canada Day celebrations to put together a historical presentation about the churches of Lake Country. Eleven, by my count, for a community of 14,000.
So, last Tuesday morning, I drove around to all the current churches, to take pictures. I already had pictures of the earlier churches, thanks to the Lake Country Museum’s archives.
On Tuesday mornings, I discovered, Lake Country is a religious dead zone. Locked doors. Empty parking lots. Closed gates. Silence…
Tags: churches, dead zone, history, Canada Day, museum