Few days ago, I went with a friend to check out the war museum as we’re considering using its halls as a potential venue for an event. When we arrived and talked to the front desk, they let us in to check out the venue.
The venue, which is normally used for wedding banquets, was interesting. There were a lot of big tanks, tankers, bombs, canons and various military vehicles from different times and places, which is interesting from a technological progress perspective, but can also be disturbing when considering the primary use of this machinery that is to kill. I mean we can debate the war politics, its effectiveness and legitimacy, all we want, but I think very few would disagree with the fact that it results in the loss of many lives, whether of military personnel or innocent civilians.
Now, I find the idea that war needs to be in a museum, highly problematic. Naturally, I would never pay to visit the place, but since we were already allowed in, I might as well check what’s in it.
I admit that it was interesting. I didn’t take the time to properly tour and look at everything, but the museum documented few centuries worth of history with a large emphasis on the second world war and Canada’s role in it. There was a different range of things. From maps and historical information, to weapons and military uniforms and helmets (I tried one on), to mock sounds of airplanes and bombs and damaged homes which is interesting and educational but also triggering for someone like me who has actually witnessed a war attack. We also saw Hitler’s own car! His Mercedes that Canada out of all countries has possession of. One would question why would Hitler’s car needs to be treasured and looked at, but isn’t this the ultimate point of museums?
To me this is the real issue. That we collect things from history and cherish it because it is part of history. What we fail to do though is learning from history. I expected the War Museum to be more problematic. I mean, besides the massive haunting vehicles and machinery in LeBreton Hall, there wasn’t anything inherently bad or uninteresting about it. My concern is mostly about the fact that there was no reference to the negative implications of war. We look back at WWII and think of the important role Canada played and we remember and celebrate the many soldiers killed on duty, but what about everyone else? Innocent civilians, children, workers, farmers of many nationalities, religions and races were killed, displaced, orphaned and forced to live in poverty as a result of this war and every war. When people discuss the lives lost and destroyed during wars, the justification is often that these are necessary and unfortunate steps needed to destroy evil and make the world a better place. It seems that nobody acknowledges that victory (if it can be called that) includes the bitter reality of killing innocent lives. Certainly there is no acknowledgement that there is an alternative to war. And who is questioning the ridiculous amount of money, research and technology that goes into developing and expanding destructive weapons and war machinery. Money that could be put towards the multiple alternatives of war.
Without getting into the current politics of war (which I have very strong opinions on and I found highly problematic), the War Museum fails to provide visitors with the basic criticism about war and the war industry. It is an unfortunate product of our society that accepts things as they are with little questioning and critical thinking.