The Retroactive Effect of Information

Wasn’t working on a whole lot of sleep yesterday, but today’s looking a little better. Saturday night the family decided to have a collective “sleep-out” in the family room, in front of the Christmas tree. The plan had been to take it down Sunday (though that’s been postponed until this evening), and we thought it’d be fun to have one last night in front of it. And, of course, it was quite nice, but sleeping on a futon mattress ain’t all that conducive to a good night’s rest. At least not anymore.

And Sunday night was another reminder of my advancing age. Apparently, I can no longer stomach the spicy foods I’ve known and loved my entire adult life. All it took was a little sausage to keep me up with indigestion most of the night. Then again, maybe it was nature’s way of chastizing me for eating sausage in the first place — since, in theory, we’ve cut pork products from our diet.

And to top it all off, Pam made me (well, suggested strongly that I) shave off my sideburns; the style may have looked younger, but the rapidly increasing number of white hairs quickly countered the desired effect.

Despite my advancing decrepitude, we did get a lot done this weekend, thanks in no small part to the unseasonably warm weather. We almost completely finished clearing the back yard of autumn debris — no small feat given the number of trees back there. And we had planned to go visit the new Udvar-Hazy Center, but the household workload (and our daughter’s distinct lack of enthusiasm) led us to postpone the visit until next weekend. I was anxious to go not only because of my keen interest in aerospace (hey, I was an Air Force brat, and come on, they’ve got the Enterprise), but because I’m curious to see what they’ve done with the Enola Gay.

I don’t really have a (strong) position on the controversy: whether or not the exhibit should emphasize the thousands killed in the world’s first nuclear attack. On one hand, I don’t know if an aircraft display is the right place, but on the other it does seem inappropriate to completely ignore the consequences of the plane’s mission. I think the Post’s got a decent proposal: Make at least a passing mention of the casualties.

Particularly given a historical perspective that’s gaining popular awareness: Contrary to years of what might be termed propaganda, the dropping of the bombs may not have been necessary to stop the war. Nor did it necessarily prevent a greater loss of life should a ground invasion have been attempted — an invasion which is now claimed was not even on the table (at least not seriously).

Okay, a clarification: I am not personally making this claim. I don’t know enough about the topic to make a reasoned judgment (though I am curious to learn more). But recent documentary evidence has suggested that it was the Soviet entry into the Pacific arena that led to the Japanese surrender, and not the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the assessment being that the strictly pragmatic Japanese leadership didn’t care about the civilian losses (which probably says more about the Japanese mind-set than the American). We’re also seeing a resurgence of the claim that the attacks were meant more to intimidate the Soviets than the Japanese — in effect, the first salvo in the Cold War. Seen in this light, the attacks could easily be seen as war crimes (though given the comparative casualty rates between these attacks and the conventional bombing runs, it’s tough to see exactly where that line would be drawn).

But what I find interesting is that for the first time in more than half a century, it’s no longer the exclusive domain of the victors — in this case, the United States — to determine the historical record. With the advent of the Internet, information has truly become democratized. Yes, 90 percent of it’s crap, but as for that remaining 10 percent, it’s no longer possible to quash the voices of dissent.

“Revisionism” in a historical context almost always has a negative connotation. And perhaps this latest point of view won’t take the hold that its proponents so sincerely desire. But if a more balanced historical perspective helps us better understand the forces shaping current events — say, an imperialistic invasion based on deliberate deception — then I think this is a good thing after all.

(P.S.: I’m not going to take a position on the ads likening Bush to Hitler, other than to condemn the RNC for falsely claiming they were sponsored by the MoveOn.org Voter Fund. The ads were individual submissions for a contest, not approved, endorsed, or aired. In fact, the ads were immediately rejected by the contest judges. Yes, Bush is a fascist, and exaggeration to make a point is certainly a legitimate form of expression, but Duh-bya didn’t slaughter millions. His body count is still only in the thousands range.)


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