Winnipeg is not exactly bashful. It brands itself “Heart of the Continent,” and the sign you see as you approach the center of town is about 2 stories high. The sign is in front of its signature attraction: the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, one-third of a billion dollars of aspiration toward universal recognition of basic human rights.
I found myself surprisingly moved as I went through exhibits showing how Canada treated native peoples, Chinese immigrants, West Coast Japanese farmers during WWII, not to mention the human rights failures and atrocities in other countries over centuries. I had always thought Canada was different. But it is not. It has had its black marks, its rays of light, and its continuing struggles to meet its aspirations.
I had also thought the US had most of these struggles behind it. Yet the struggles continue, and in many ways it seems we are going backwards.
This sign said it well: “Like every other human institutional endeavor, justice is an ongoing process. It is never done, never fully achieved. Each decade, each year, each month, indeed each day, brings new challenges.”
As I toured the museum I noticed scaffolding and workers in various locations. I asked a staff member if the museum was brand new and still being finished. She said “no, it’s four years old, but cracks appear and it needs constant work to maintain.” I was amazed at the allegory.
One thought on “Dispatches from the Field: Heart of the Continent”
Interesting, to be sure. You’ll find the Holocaust Museum in D.C. and I’m sure the African American History Museum (although it was not open when I was last there) equally moving (as is the plantation tour from the slaves’ standpoint in New Orleans. As Rick Steves says, “keep on travelin'”.
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