History is far more difficult than myth, especially when it’s our own.
Learning it uncovers uncomfortable truths and makes the simple narratives we’ve told ourselves much more complex.
My tweet about Churchill has certainly made some uncomfortable and others apoplectically angry. It was a simple point – he was a white supremacist and mass murderer.
For pointing this out I’ve been praised and condemned in equal measure. Some have called me brave whilst Piers Morgan labelled me a ‘ginger turd’ – language his producer told me couldn’t be repeated on TV.
Churchill has become a sacred cow for many people in Britain.
We’re told the story of his defeating Nazism and single-handedly delivering us from evil, a gross oversimplification.
Stalin defeated Nazism too. We don’t pretend that absolves Stalin of his terrible crimes against humanity.
The problem with Churchill is that fewer people in the UK seem to even know about his crimes than know about Stalin’s.
Like it or not, Churchill was intensely racist, even by the standards of the time.
He described Indians, for example, as a ‘beastly people’ with a ‘beastly religion’ and affirmed his belief that the ‘Aryan race will triumph’. Fellow Tories, including future Prime Minister Anthony Eden, didn’t trust him because of this.
He told a Royal Commission that there was nothing wrong with what the ‘higher-grade’ white race had done to Native Americans, Aborigines and black Africans.
Textbook white supremacy.
When the Bengal famine struck and four million died, for which he was significantly to blame, he said it was their own fault for ‘breeding like rabbits’. Actually, it was his fault for taking their food away to stockpiles, which didn’t need it, destroying their boats and denying aid for months until photos of the corpses of starved children hit British papers.
Add to that his use of concentration camps in Kenya, poison gas against Russians, Kurds and Arabs, Black & Tans paramilitaries in Ireland, his fierce advocacy of ‘terror bombing’ civilians and plenty more and we should stop pretending that crimes of this scale can be excused for any man.
Surely British identity is not so fragile that facing up to this threatens it?
Ross Greer is a Scottish Greens MSP for West Scotland