Stéphane Couca
October 21, 2017

By instrumentalizing history, our contemporaries take the risk of shooting themselves in the foot. In order to stop the cycle of repentance, it must be remembered that history is violent and that every people has a troubled past.

“Was George Washington a slave owner? “ , Asked Donald Trump maliciously reporters who demanded the removal of a statue of General Lee on August 15 in Charlottesville.

General Robert Edward Lee led the Confederate troops during the American Civil War. A patriotic choice for this native of Virginia, in a conflict whose stake far exceeds that of slavery. But in recent months, multiple protests shake America: should we consider General Lee as a bastard or as a hero? A member of the southern aristocracy, owner of slaves, General Lee was a man of his time. He was also a brilliant strategist who allowed the vanquished and humiliated southerners to regain some pride, but the American left is entangled in anachronism, judging the work of the general with his contemporary values. It mobilizes to debunk the statues of the general who bloom in the South, raising ricochet the anger of the radical American right.

But judging history with glasses of the present is absurd: of the first eighteen American presidents, thirteen were slave bosses. George Washington, the most revered of the founding fathers, is concerned. Should we debunk the statues of George Washington?

“History is tragic,” said Raymond Aron, and it is always dangerous to have the court of contemporary morality judge the historical facts or the characters of the past. Endless and dangerous logic. Take another example: that of South Korea.

During the Vietnam War, his soldiers accompany the American armies. On site, Seoul troops sexually enslave several thousand girls. The descendants of these rapes, called “Lai Đại Hàn” , are still today rejected by Vietnamese society.

An unglamorous past that does not prevent Korean associations and authorities from continuing to complain to Tokyo about the violence committed by Japanese troops on the peninsula during the Second World War. The financial compensation granted by the Japanese does not calm these sorcerers apprentices of history.

Ditto for slavery, where Western repentance masks the responsibility of some black peoples in triangular trade: after all, Europeans “bought” in Africa slaves captured and sold by other peoples of the continent.

With each request for repentance, let the other person know that he is about to launch an infinite and absurd gear. It should bring him to his senses.