Monday, April 25, 2005

China, Japan and the Historical Narrative


The protests and rioting in China is one of the clearest examples of the need for proper representation of history. While you cannot over-dramatize the events, no matter how harsh the event might be, you cannot marginalize or mitigate the event either. The Japan that produced such horrors as the 'rape of Nanking' is not the same Japan of today. Even so, recognition of one's past is the only way to prevent repeating that past. The difficulty, especially in the case of grade school textbooks, is in how the meaning of the event is conveyed. History is as much a narrative as any novel, the only difference being that historical narrative is based in evidence. But the meaning and impact of that evidence is a part of the narrative. When the evidence is given little attention or otherwise shuffled off to the side, the meaning is changed. Our own past of action against the Native Americans is representative of such marginalization in history.