Destroying Uncomfortable Heritage

Is there any real difference between the Afgans destroying the physical representations of a past that embarrasses them and the US changing place names that remind them of a past that embarrasses them?

Are you talking about Joe, Montana?

IIRC, there was an effort in Nevada a couple of years ago to change Whorehouse Flats to “Naughty Girl Meadows”, which was rejected by the USGS or whoever decides such things as not conveying the same meaning.

Here in Oregon, the latest PC movement involves the word “squaw.” Too early to tell which way it will go. Our major statewide newspaper, The Oregonian, decided a couple of years ago that it would no longer print the names of teams like the Redskins in their sports section. Much hoo-hah ensued.

On a purely local level, the small town where I grew up had a Whiskey Creek which the good ladies of the community tried to change to Pomona Creek back in the 80s. Nobody but the small group of people ever used the new name and eventually the sign reverted to the earlier designation, which continues to this day.

I’m sure somebody will come along and concoct an arbitrary distinction, but the answer is:

NO :frowning:

There is a HUGE difference !
In one case you are destroying an object.
In the other you are destroying the name of an object.

The distinction between an object and the name of an object is not an arbitrary or unimportant one. If you wish to disagree, I have the name of a bridge in New York that I will gladly sell to you :slight_smile:

I have the name of an island in New York that I would gladly sell you. Actually, several names for the same island. Blackwell’s Island. Welfare Island. Roosevelt Island. That island has changed its name more times then John Mellencamp. Names change all the time. While it is often very lame (here in New York the neighborhood formerly known as “Hell’s Kitchen” is now called “Clinton”…which do you like better?) it is a far cry from destroying an offensive or undesirable object or place. Imagine if they just razed Hell’s Kitchen instead of simply renaming it. Big difference.

But both placenames and physical objects are evidence of history, and both of Yuck’s examples show people trying to hide a history they don’t like by removing that evidence. The actions are different, but the intentions are the same.

As another example, when the Communists took over Russia, they renamed the city of St. Petersburg “Leningrad.” I’m sure that they sincerely wanted to honor Lenin, but they didn’t just pick St. Petersburg off of a map; the old name was a Christian reference that the atheistic Soviets didn’t like. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Leningrad is once again “St. Petersburg.”

Ever since I’ve been in the DC area, I mainly use the public transportation. Once, while waiting for a train at the Metro Center station, I was intrigued by a small family speaking what I took to be Russian. The mother was nearest so I initiated a conversation with her. Se said they were from St. Petersburg then quickly added “Russia”.

A name cannot be destroyed. It can be removed from a particular town, road, etc., but the name itself still exists. Historians and others can still refer to it, and if the people so desire, they can restore it at a later date.

A statue, once destroyed, is gone forever. Perhaps someone might retain a picture of it (although I’m sure the Taliban is destroying images as well), but the object itself is gone.

This is as fundamental as the difference between speech and actions. In the United States speech, which includes the names we call things, is protected. Actions are not. That’s why you are allowed to call someone every dirty name in the book, but not to break his arm.

As for the “preserving history” argument, it doesn’t work for me. At what point do we decide that names are immutable? Should we still be the “Confederate States of America”? Or maybe we should refer to all North American locations by the names the natives gave them. Perhaps those of us whose ancestors came over from Europe should just call the North American land mass “Here there be dragons”.

As a native of Canaan/Judea/Palestine/Israel, I say: to the victor the spoils, and one of the spoils is naming rights.

I am *NOT defending the Taliban, but I think there is a difference between destroying statues that are a violation of Islamic law and blushing when you say “Whorehouse Flats” in front of your grandma. I didn’t say it was right, I’m very opposed to many of the actions taken such as denying pensions and the right to earn a living to widowsn, but it there is a difference.

I suspect that this question will defy a factual answer, so I’ll shoot it over to Great Debates for further consideration.

“Hells Kitchen” was an actual place name? Interesting. I always thought it was sort of a slang reference to a general section of New York.

No, Diceman. St. Petersburg’s name was not changed to Leningrad from St. Petersburg. It was changed in 1914 during the war against Germany to Petrograd, to escape the German sound of Petersburg. THEN after Lenin died it was changed again to Leningrad.
Not to mention that many other cities names were changed, and then changed back. BUT…a name is a name. You can change it back, bring it back if you wish. You can’t bring back a statue that has been demolished.

SpoilerVirgin says

“This is as fundamental as the difference between speech and actions. In the United States speech, which includes the names we call things, is protected. Actions are not. That’s why you are allowed to call someone every dirty name in the book, but not to break his arm”

A US politician recently called his family and ancestors “white n******” and was promptly censored and was forced to apologize (not to his family or ancestors!). I suspect his career has reached its zenith!

What I mean to say is…The evidence contradicts SpoilerVirgin’s assertion.

On the other side, people tear down buildings and stuff all of the time. Few people list their own properties as antiquities!

A US politician did not call his family and ancestors “white niggers”. Sen. Byrd said

What he was doing was using his poetic license to say there are uncooth people of all races and stripes. The denotation of nigger is simply a black person, but it is connotated as a grave insult. A white person acting in the manner as a black. But if you’re afraid that you can’t get you daily dose of the word nigger, head to your local library. No one has taken to Huck Finn with a black marker whiping out un-PC words.

Anyway no-one forced him to apologize. He wasn’t going to jail for stating what he did on Fox News Sunday. It was his own choicee to apologise.

Your assertion would hold if say copies of Huck Finn were burned.

Ahem. As a resident of “Clinton Manor” (about 2 blocks away from “Clinton Park”), I would have to disagree with your assertion. The neighborhood formerly known as Hell’s Kitchen is also the neighborhood presently known as Hell’s Kitchen (though I’ll admit that I haven’t heard the term floating around quite as much in recent years). “Clinton” is a more specific sub-section within Hell’s Kitchen (upper 40’s to lower 50’s, 10th Ave. to the Hudson, in my opinion.

astro, yes, it is slang, but so is every name for a neighborhood, really (“The Village,” e.g.). Even so, “Hell’s Kitchen” has received some official sanction: the little maps of Manhattan in back of many cabs do have a section of the island designated as such.