Star Tribune columnist D.J. Tice offered predictable and flawed push back against needed truth telling at Fort Snelling.
Tice’s opinion piece — Fort Snelling: New Vision, Old Wounds — focuses on plans to renovate and reinterpret the Fort, plans which would give a prominent place to acts of injustice and cruelty that were part of Minnesota’s founding and whose legacy continues today. Plans would bring forward stories about the brutal concentration camp below the Fort that held Dakota women and children following the Dakota War of 1862, a camp where hundreds died. It would talk about the Dred Scott case and the fact that Scott was held at Fort Snelling.
This new narrative would challenge the political correctness of a prior age.
Tice uses several common arguments to push back against such truth telling.
- The Plan is Too Critical of the Past: Tice mixes the Fort Snelling debate in with recent efforts to remove Confederate statues in the south and to restore the name Bde Maka Ska to Lake Calhoun. He wraps them under the broad heading of the “new censorious spirit” of our age. (Censorious, according to Merriam Webster, mean hypercritical, fault finding, or carping. It’s basically a put down for those seeking change.)
- The Plan Needs More Historical “Balance”: Tice seems to argue that it’s okay to add some stories of past injustices, but apparently we shouldn’t overdo it. History needs to be balanced.
- The Plan Victimizes Veterans: Tice cites retired National Guard Gen. Richard C. Nash, raising concerns that the fort’s military history will be pushed aside and replaced with more painful stories. This “zero-sum” thinking raises the fear that adding to the historical narrative unfairly diminishes the Fort and veterans’ stories.
Tice’s closing paragraphs argues for a blame-free and “balanced” historical narrative:
One might wish for an approach to history in which the very purpose is to try — not so much to condemn or to justify — but to understand the passions and motives of all peoples of the past. Yet maybe a truly balanced view of history has always been too much to expect.
It is, though, what Minnesota should strive for.
Tice’s narrative doesn’t go for balance. He prefers emotionally charged words, such as “censorious,” “score-settling,” “reproachful,” and “villainous whites and victimized minorities.” Continue reading