As a sentient being born in the 1960s, I don’t remember not knowing about the Holocaust. So only two things genuinely shocked me when I visited Israel’s Yad Vashem last year:
First, the Garden of the Righteous Gentiles wasn’t quite the lush oasis I’d been expecting. It was more like a row of Charlie Brown Christmas trees shoved into possibly the only stretch of parched earth left in that famously well-irrigated country.
Second? The gift shop. I mean, that it existed. In retrospect, refraining from going inside was a mistake, because then I was free to speculate on what might be for sale. Crematoria snow globes? Jedem das Seine welcome mats?
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights gift shop is already open for business online, but the $310-million (and counting) museum proper is still under construction for now. The ribbon-cutting has been pushed ahead from early next year to 2014. Or maybe 2015. Or, some of us hope, never.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights started out as “the dream of CanWest founder Izzy Asper” and/or (according to everyone else) one of those beyond-reproach philanthropic “gifts” the rest of us never wanted and usually wind up financing. Whenever these good-for-you “legacy” projects are waved in my face, I feel as if I’m being forced to give head to the Hindenburg.
So First Ladies inevitably champion “literacy,” and who could possibly object? Well, me, for one. The average newspaper’s “Letters to the Editor” demonstrate that this whole “teaching everyone to read and write” business has gone too far. And even decades later, only a few brave souls dare criticize the 1980s’ “feed the starving Ethiopians” fad, which succeeded only in feeding the egos of celebrities and their smug, sheeplike followers.
“Few can logically argue against the value of a human rights museum as an entity,” one Canadian columnist recently declared. In the timid Trudeaupia of even ten years ago, perhaps. But not here and not now.
If the late publishing and broadcasting baron Israel Asper hoped his parting “gift” might stifle mean-spirited whispers about “Jews running the media,” that part kind of worked, because if that charge was true, his pet project would have gotten way better press.
The mildest criticisms revolve around the puzzling location of this new national museum not in Ottawa or Vancouver, but Winnipeg, AKA “Winterpeg.” (Picture Minneapolis with more mosquitoes.)
Other concerns are more serious.
“They took all the rights/put ’em in a Rights Museum,” one Canadian blogger likes to joke. Kate McMillan (along with me and some other troublemakers) is all too familiar with the consequences of questioning our nation’s multi-million-dollar “human rights” religion.
There is something perverse about building a “human rights” monument in the same country where one human rights commission prosecuted a publisher for reprinting the “Muhammad cartoons” and another banned a preacher for life from quoting “homophobic” Bible verses, even in private correspondence—to cite two of the most egregious cases.
Furthermore, there’s the obvious deduction that Asper really wanted another Holocaust museum to rival Yad Vashem and its Washington, DC counterpart. But Canada being “diverse” and “multicultural,” that simply wouldn’t do, so the project devolved into a more “inclusive” atrocity exhibition.
While watching the Museum’s costs balloon by over fifty percent since 2003, Canadian taxpayers have also witnessed the nation’s ethnicities squabbling over the square footage their favorite “crimes against humanity” will be allotted.
Ukrainians have been particularly vocal, demanding special recognition for the “Holodomor,” which, despite its vintage, suffers from a late start out of the public-awareness gate, not to mention that clumsy portmanteau name. (Many crimes are deemed unspeakable, but the Holodomor is the only one that’s also unpronouncable.)
“Is it the museum’s intention to teach our children that all human rights flow from the Holocaust?” one woman shouted during the museum’s first annual public meeting, which soon turned into a debate about whether there was already “too much concentration” on the concentration camps.
The Chinese community demands exhibits on the “head tax” and the Chinese Exclusion Act. Other voices are demanding other rooms. They’re being assisted by the “more than 160 experts in human rights [!]” at the University of Manitoba.
Arni Thorsteinson recently resigned as museum chairman for reasons unknown. I like to think it was a rare display of selfless principle in what’s become a carnival of self-aggrandizement, institutional incompetence, and toxic identity politics.
From the beginning, Canadian Jewish blogger “Scaramouche” has chronicled the depressing saga of “the Mausoleum,” this Giant Shrine to Victimhood on the Prairie. (Although, s/he warns wisely, “you can be sure that political correctness will preclude certain victim groups—women in Saudi Arabia, for example—from having their stories told.”)
We’re informed that, along with “the Mass Atrocity Zone”—I wish I was kidding:
At the top will be the Tower of Hope, at the end of the “journey” will be a Garden of Contemplation. (As part of the fundraising, naming rights are being sold for virtually every room and display, so that should be the “Stuart Clark Garden of Contemplation.”)
Izzy Asper’s daughter Gail oversees the manifestation of her father’s quixotic dream. She promises the Canadian Museum of Human Rights will be a “place of hope and promise,” adding:
You don’t want to see a place where people want to leap off the Tower of Hope in despair.
Certainly not if you’re hoping tourists and schoolchildren will travel to a windy, unfamiliar Manitoba outpost for a “cheap holiday on other people’s misery.”
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