I'm going to very unfairly pick up on a single word used in an interesting blog over on Active History about the need for remembering the past. In the post (see it here) about the currently popular themes of rememberance (Titanic, Vimy Ridge) Laura Piticco comments several times on the need to 'respect' the past, and of showing 'respect' for the past.
[Sorry for what follows Laura. You don't deserve to have me riffing on your wording, but here goes...]
What a common, and what an odd idea: this perceived need to respect the past. Why does the past deserve our respect? And why respect and not indignation, or anger, or fascination?
When people start talking about respecting the past, it makes me start to yawn, to think of official moments of silence, of history as it is meant to be - no discussion, sit down and finish your dinner, eat your vegetables, this is good for you, you'll thank me for this one day, etc, etc, etc, kind of history.
Some things in the past deserve respect. Others deserve indifference or irreverence. And deciding which is which is ultimately both about finding out what happened and then attaching meaning to it. In other words, it's about politics. And we're going to disagree. That's as it should be.
The only thing we really owe the past - and we owe it this in spades - is our curiosity.