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Post Remembering Juan Negrin in Spain Today
Created by John Eipper on 08/30/17 4:06 AM

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Remembering Juan Negrin in Spain Today (Carmen Negrin, France, 08/30/17 4:06 am)

To my knowledge, there are three institutions with the name of Juan Negrín: the Fundación Juan Negrín in Las Palmas, the very recent Asociación de amigos de la Fundación JN in Valencia, which was created this year (http://www.lasprovincias.es/agencias/valencia/201701/08/nace-valencia-primera-asociacion-861018.html ), and the Agrupación Ateneista Juan Negrín within the Ateneo of Madrid (in which I am not involved).

As far as I know that is it, in spite of his having been, among many other things, Prime Minister for almost 9 years (from 1937 to '39 in Spain and until 1945 in exile, needless to say not recognized by all). No streets, just a hospital, again in Las Palmas, a huge hospital, partly built on what was the family's land--which led my uncle, a doctor, not to attend its inauguration.

The discussion about memory and streets or statues seems to be a complex debate, but in fact it is very simple, it is just about what the officials want to transmit to the future generations.

In Paris for instance, we do not have a "rue Napoléon," but we do have a "rue Bonaparte," Not the same message.  On the French coast and in Denmark, bunkers have become museums.

In Madrid, a number of streets are about to be rebaptized, taking away a number of names related to Franco. There was a discussion about having one put in my grandfather's name, but it seems the matter was put aside. However they will name one for Besteiro who already has a metro station and who joined Casado to give the coup de grâce to the Spanish Republic. (By the way, the text concerning Casado in Wikipedia needs a total rewriting!) In spite of the fact that Besteiro had been a well-respected person, he ended up betraying the Republic; this does not seem to bother those working on Spanish memory at the Alcaldía.

Ignorance? It's certainly a confusing message for the Madrileños! And let us not mention the Valle de los Caídos which has not followed the European instructions to change its message! (http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-EN.asp?fileid=17417&lang=en )

In Frankfurt's Städel Museum, there is a bust of Franco (the replica was given by Hitler to Franco), but next to the sculpture is a long explanation about who he was, on what occasion it was done and how the artist was forced to do it, next to it is another piece of art expressing the real hidden feelings of the artist.

So basically, a monument or whatever will only express whatever one wants it to transmit.

The problem arises when the message (not the monument) is contradictory and/or unethical and in particular if, under these conditions, it is supported by the politicians. And if the politician is unethical, we have a real problem!

Next question: how does one define ethics in history?

JE comments:   One silver lining of even the most controversial monument is that it teaches history--not through the monument itself, but through the debate surrounding its preservation or removal.  And yes, to address Carmen Negrín's final question, this is when the question arises of historical ethics.  Without a public discussion, history is static, irrelevant, and ultimately forgotten.

Ukraine announced just a few days ago that it finally removed every one of the country's 1320 Lenin statues.  I am surprised this wasn't done years ago, but it's a lot of stone and bronze to move around.  Shouldn't the cash-starved Kiev government sell the surplus Lenins?  What theme park or eccentric gardener wouldn't want one for display?  Maybe Roman Zhovtulya, who is presently in Ukraine, can tell us what the government is doing with the statues.


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  • Ethics in History...and my Memoirs (Robert Whealey, USA 08/31/17 4:16 AM)

    Carmen Negrín (August 30th) raised an important question: "How does one define ethics in history?"

    As one who sympathizes with Spanish democracy, I define this in my draft memoir in the Table of Contents below.

    There are Jewish ethics and Christian ethics. See especially the Section on Civilizations.

    Returning to my manuscript, I invite questions or suggestions for improving the style.

    Democracy requires a continual debate within each nation-state in the EU and within each of the 50 states in the US.

    The Constitution of the US guarantees the free exercise of individuals to a free religion. This includes

    Atheists.  Like Voltaire, I am a skeptic about life after death. Carl Sagan, an astronomer, was a rationalist

    and an atheist. My ethics are limited to Newton's solar system.

    JE comments:  Thanks, Robert!  At 420 pages, this is a most impressive book-in-the-making.  Is the draft complete? 

    The Table of Contents lists treatises on politics, philosophy of history, comparative civilizations, and religion.  Where is the part about you, Robert?  Shouldn't you rethink the title "Memoirs" and go with something more accurate, such as "Keep Thinking:  A Historian's 80 Years of Reflection"?

    Finally, how do you address the often non-democratic nature of political Christianity, which in the US is monopolized by the Evangelical Right?

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    • Finishing One's Memoirs (Robert Whealey, USA 09/01/17 4:48 AM)
      No, to answer John E, the draft of my memoirs will never be complete.

      But the Sections from FDR to Reagan are reasonably complete. I am working on Section 11 on Governor Dukakis right now, since I know him personally. Part II on Religions and Civilizations is reasonably complete. I may live 1, 2, 5 even 10 more years. When I die, I hope my daughter Alice will find an editor.

      Trump is in an Epilogue.

      I make no predictions about his future and the fate of the Constitution.

      JE comments: Hang in there, Robert! As our Illustrious Founder Ronald Hilton often said, WAIS needs you.  (I'm going to append the 1915 Kitchener poster.  It's a classic.  Just replace "your country" with WAIS.  As a matter of fact, can anyone do this for us with Photoshop or equivalent?  Kitchener would be the perfect poster child for WAISdom's next fundraiser--he's stern, authoritarian, and motivational.)

      And yes:  Trump is an epilogue...but to what?

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