Champlain under fire
Being careful not to offend the disadvantaged or marginalized is an admirable goal and the use of unkind labels is a practice best left behind. Being tactful and sensitive to the feelings of others is a worthwhile pursuit. Scouring our language for words, phrases and labels that support offensive stereotypes has been the business of the ‘politically incorrect’ movement since at least the 1960 ‘s when the ‘N’ word was given the boot, and good riddance.
Since that time, particularly in the 1990s, political incorrectness has generated its opposite politically correct, which is a pejorative term used to describe an idea that has gone too far. Proponents are often referred to as ‘thought police’. It has been the source of much humour and considerable rolling of eyes because it requires us to deny a truth in favour of avoiding offense or worse, support for a political ideology.
question in the twenty first century has now become “How far do our good
The case of one Samuel de Champlain comes to mind inthis year, the 400th anniversary of his arrival in Georgian Bay. In a definitive, Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Champlain by David Hackett Fischer published in 2009,the author claims that even the greatest of explorers has been sacrificed at the altar of political correctness. Could it be that the man who crossed the Atlantic twenty seven times in his life exploring and mapping the east coast of North America, founding and establishing New France, has been the victim of political correctness and redefined by the right arm of political correctness known as ‘revisionism’?
Fischer claims that political correctness in the last half of the twentieth century includes “a revulsion of great white men” on the heels of a half-century of iconoclasm with Champlain as a favourite target. He continues to argue, “As these attitudes spread widely during the late twentieth century, Champlain began to fade from historical literature. He all but disappeared from school curricula in France, Canada and the United States.”
Surely, history best fulfills its goal of understanding the past when it is fact- based and less well when subjected to present day ideological editing. Political correctness may have been well intentioned but goes too far when it inhibits discussion and understanding of our own past. The history of Canada’s relationship with First Nations over the past four centuries can only be described as tragic, but blaming Champlain is akin to blaming the Wright brothers for subsequent unforeseen use of airplanes for destruction.
Champlain was a cartographer, master sailor, geographer, diplomat, artist, soldier, writer, explorer and most importantly a visionary. His vision for New France was to create a society in the New World where people of different cultures could live in harmony. His grand design remains a template for our diverse society today.
His accomplishments can only be described as ‘great’- politically correct or not.
And the last word on political correctness goes to the former mayor of Carmel by the Sea, California, AKA: Rowdy Yates, AKA: Jed Cooper, AKA: Dirty Harry.
“A lot of people are bored of all the political correctness.”