Monday, January 5, 2009

History as a Bludgeoning Device

Recently, in comments posted all over the Blogsphere concerning the Israel/Hamas War (2009 edition), I've noticed something that I suppose is not at all new.

The propensity for some commentors to use history as a cudgel when it comes to making their argument.

History can be a guide when it comes to our present and future actions. We can learn from the successes and mistakes made by those who came before us. We can even consult it's annals when attempting to scry the future, but turning it into a weapon against common sense is a demonstration of historical ignorance itself. Just as judging history through modern eyes is wrong, so too is using it to prop up modern wrong-doing.

Note in the above linked commentary how many people attempt to bring up various historical facts (or manu-facts as the case may be...) to justify one side or the other. History has it's place in a debate, but how about when advocating oh, say for example, Hamas' recent and on-going rocket attacks on Israel? Arguing who got there first, decades, or even centuries ago, does not really lend justification to this violent aggression.

Proof you ask? Very well then...

Suppose Germany was bombed tomorrow by let's say, Belgium. Improbable, but humor me. The international community (minus the usual ultra-peace devotees) would join together in condemning the bombing as an act of war, right? Would anyone of serious political stature put forth the comment that Germany can't complain due to their aggression in the 30's and 40's by people long since dead or punished?

I know, I hear the arguments brewing already, but I have one more scenario for you:

Later this evening, your (insert family member title here) is abducted and sold into slavery by bandits. When you call the Police, they posit that you cannot file a report since the United States was in the habit of owning slaves itself for a century or two. You don't have the right, because people who are unquestionably dead and gone by several generations, and may not have even been related to you did something bad that ties in to your current problem.

Sure. You wouldn't do anything about it. I'm wagering that you would.

Like say, call for air strikes and send in the ground troops.

So please, kindly refrain from bludgeoning anyone about the head with distorted historical context, and stick to what truly matters:

The facts as they pertain to the issue at hand.