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EP:61:12 : “Historical Context”
ERIA QUINT: Welcome to Showdown, an examination of the Empire’s most important issues broken down from multiple angles. I’m Eria Quint. Today’s topic takes us to Jata, the beating heart of the Davien system. From the first Human city visited by the Banu to the infamous terrorist attacks of 2546 that paved the way for Ivar Messer’s ascension, Jata’s tumultuous past has left an indelible impression on the Empire. But now, a vigorous debate has erupted regarding the question of how best to remember that history.
The Jata Historical Society (JHS) came under fire following a February 11th meeting where they debated what to name of the city’s newest park. The JHS Board of Directors eventually voted to dedicate the park to influential Aegis Dynamics CEO Hana Chan, a move that has local activists outraged and demanding that the JHS reconsider their decision.
Even among Aegis enthusiasts, Chan’s legacy could best be described as problematic. Her 65-year reign from 2643 to 2708, the longest ever among Aegis’ CEOs, featured an impressive list of accomplishments, including the development of the Javelin-class destroyer still in use by the Navy. Yet Chan’s cozy relationship with the Messer regime became a stain on both her legacy and the company’s.
Joining us today to discuss the controversial decision is Jata-based activist and author of The People’s History of Davien, Theo Raja.
THEO RAJA: Hi, Eria. Great to have Showdown taking on such an important subject. On the surface, this might appear to be a local issue, but addressing how we present our history affects generations to come.
ERIA QUINT: Also with us today is Simone Maruyama. She’s a history professor at the University of Jata and a member of the Jata Historical Society’s Board of Directors. Let’s start with you, Ms. Maruyama. How has the JHS responded to the criticism over naming the park after Hana Chan?
SIMONE MARUYAMA: Ever since her name was proposed, there has been a vocal contingent against naming the park after Chan. We’ve been listening to those concerns during every step of the process, but ultimately, a majority of the board felt Chan’s impact on the Empire’s history was worthy of the recognition.
ERIA QUINT: And you disagree, Mr. Raja?
THEO RAJA: To put it mildly? Because it celebrates a woman whose allegiance to the Messers helped them systematically persecute people. I could go into more detail, but what else needs to be said? That alone should be enough to disqualify anyone from having a park named after them, especially when there are so many other worthy candidates to choose from.
SIMONE MARUYAMA: Let me make a few things clear. First, I am not here to defend Hana Chan. Believe me when I say that I find many of her actions questionable.
Second, the view of Ms. Chan expressed by Mr. Raja is overly simplistic and fails to take into account the many positive contributions she made to the UEE. There’s widespread consensus that her stewardship of Aegis lead to many advancements within the aerospace industry.
THEO RAJA: Good and evil aren’t checkmarks on opposite sides of a ledger. Maybe that’s why I can’t so easily disregard whole swaths of Ms. Chan’s life. I mean, one, she considered Illyana Messer VI to be a close personal friend, and two, she leveraged that relationship into massive government contracts, knowing full well that the ships she produced would be used against civilian populations.
She literally helped the government terrorize the people. What good could possibly offset that?
ERIA QUINT: Ms. Maruyama, your response?
SIMONE MARUYAMA: Who would deserve recognition if we only examined the bad parts of their life?
What Mr. Raja fails to acknowledge is Ms. Chan’s important role in developing the Javelin as a battle platform that could go toe-to-toe with the Vanduul. Even more importantly, she was essential to making diamond laminate standard in ship cockpits. Today, people don’t realize just how vital diamond laminate was to improving ship safety. Before its widespread use, many, many more people died every year from their ships getting vented due to cracks in the cockpit.
THEO RAJA: I’m not saying that Ms. Chan doesn’t deserve recognition for her accomplishments. I just don’t believe Jata should openly celebrate someone with such a troubled history.
ERIA QUINT: Mr. Raja, you believe another historical figure from Jata deserves to have the park named after him. Can you tell us about who you’d like it named after?
THEO RAJA: Of course. On September 23, 2546, Terrell Milner was a medic and one of the first responders to arrive on scene after the terrorist bombing. He fearlessly rushed into a building to aid those in need, only to die when a secondary device exploded and the building crumbled around him. Milner threw himself across Alex Tinifel before the building collapsed, saving the young boy’s life from the falling debris. This park would be an ideal spot to celebrate his sacrifice, and make this little known hero of Jata a household name.
SIMONE MARUYAMA: Terrell Milner was on the shortlist of potential names for the park and given serious consideration. When making the final decision though, the JHS had to keep a few things in mind.
One, Mr. Milner’s bravery and sacrifice are already addressed on the historical marker covering the “Atrocity at Jata.” Second, Ms. Chan’s impact on Empire-wide history simply exceeds that of Mr. Milner. For good or bad, the JHS has never acknowledged Ms. Chan’s accomplishments, and we hoped this would be a good chance to do it, warts and all.
ERIA QUINT: Warts and all?
SIMONE MARUYAMA: Yes, the language adopted by the JHS for the park’s historical marker will specifically mention both good and bad aspects of her legacy.
THEO RAJA: Barely …
ERIA QUINT: What was that, Mr. Raja?
THEO RAJA: Yeah, I’ve seen the text, and the negative parts of her legacy appear almost as an afterthought. It says, and I’m directly quoting here, “Ties to the Messer regime cloud her legacy.” That’s it.
Anyone with more than a passing knowledge of Jata’s history knows that’s a grossly inadequate description. Even worse, someone who’s hearing about Chan for the first time walks away with a distorted view of her true impact on the Empire. By recording only a partial history, the JHS are making moral judgements regarding what they deem important.
SIMONE MARUYAMA: Are you suggesting that because we don’t inscribe a full biography onto a marker, the whole thing is meritless?
THEO RAJA: I’m suggesting that you are sanitizing the facts in order to make history more consumable for tourists. Chan’s legacy is deeply entwined with both the Messers and a major corporation that’s been around for hundreds of years. That connection must be made crystal clear before her impact on it can be fully understood. That would probably be best achieved with a permanent exhibit at the Jata History Museum.
Of course, there’s absolutely no chance that Aegis Dynamics would allow such an exhibit to exist in Jata. Trust me, I’ve tried and come up against the full force of their political and economic power. Aegis acknowledges their relationship to the Messers, but they sure as hell don’t want it under a microscope. Particularly in their own backyard.
ERIA QUINT: Ms. Maruyama, a similar question to you. Do you believe a historical marker in this park is the ideal way to present Hana Chan’s complicated legacy?
SIMONE MARUYAMA: I believe our job isn’t to define her legacy. As historians, our job is to present the facts, provide the proper context, and encourage people to think freely and come to their own conclusion.
ERIA QUINT: Thanks to both you for joining us today. We need to take a quick break. When Showdown returns, we’re off to the Corel System to debate whether increased scrutiny at customs checkpoints are deterring businesses from delivering there. Stick around to find out more.