Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Time For Honoring Yourself Will Soon Be At An End

How long should honor last?  Should it be eternal?  Should it last only until there is no one around who remembers the person or people being honored?  Should it end when society decides what a person or people are being honored for no longer deserves to be honored?  It's a debate I expect we will be having a lot more in the very near future.

The next forum for that debate will be in Brown County where officials want to "de-emphasize" the honor bestowed to Lieutenant Colonel Austin Straubel--for whom the airport was named in 1946.  Straubel was the first Brown County aviator killed in World War II--dying in a bombing run in the Pacific in 1942--less than two months after Pearl Harbor.  It gives you some idea as to the appreciation society in those days gave to that sort of sacrifice.

But now, having a name like "Austin Straubel" is apparently a "burden" upon the airport.  County officials and some of the business owners on the site say people "don't associate Austin Straubel with Green Bay"  and that somehow reduces the facility's marketability.  They want it renamed Green Bay International Airport--which of course conjures up images of long, glass-encased concourses, huge duty-free shops and cosmopolitan dining options and lounges--none of which actually exist at the Green Bay airport.  What's more, when you book a flight on any airline's website--all you need to do is enter "Green Bay" it brings up Austin Straubel.

All county officials had to do was wait another ten years or so when the final remaining World War II veterans will have all passed away and there probably would be no opposition to the name change.  Until the media started reporting on the outcry from current vets, 99.99% of Northeast Wisconsin residents would have just shrugged their shoulders if asked why the airport is named Austin Straubel.

Of course, it's not just the Green Bay airport that could be "de-memorialized".  There are widespread efforts in the South to remove any and all references to Ante-Bellum and Civil War era honorees.  It is considered to be a "micro-aggression" to have African-American children attend a school named in honor of a slave-holder.  Or to have a monument to a soldier who fought for the Confederacy in a public park or cemetery--even if it might stand next to a memorial for someone who helped fight to end slavery or to bring equal rights to those who had been enslaved.

We put up statues and plaques and name buildings and facilities after people because we DON'T want ensuing generations to forget what they did or what they sacrificed for--whether it is considered to be "good" or "bad" by changing societies.  Like it or not, it is part of what makes us American--and therefore it should not be forgotten.....no matter how "unmarketable" it might be.

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