It seems to me that historical revisionism in the name of political correctness in this country is taking our confused culture into unchartered territory that is as absurd as it is dishonest to history itself.

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

Since man is imperfect, and always will be, our self-righteous attempts to erase some of the ugly truths of our history will only serve to hide from future generations lessons of life and the essence of history: truth.

Teddy Roosevelt was a great man who left a very positive legacy, not the least of which is our treasured national parks. Yet TR was bigoted toward American Indians. Franklin Delano Roosevelt interred Japanese Americans during WWII. Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, was known to regard blacks as inferior to whites. These were great men, but flawed like the rest of us.

Once you start “cleaning up our history,” where does it end? It is by knowing our past, however misguided, that we are able to move ahead and take pride in what we have overcome.

This unbridled revisionism, destroying statutes and paintings of past American leaders, has brought us to a juncture that has my head shaking in disbelief. The American Ornithological Society (AOS) has announced a major undertaking of Herculean proportion that comes under the mantle of politically correct historical revisionism that ascends to a new level of audacity. AOS is going to do away with the naming of songbirds after people and, apparently, is going to rename birds named after past individuals, whose beliefs or behavior do not measure up to AOS’s moral standards.

Maine bird columnist Karen Holmes, who writes a bird column for the Northwoods Sporting Journal, recently listed just some of the birds that are named after people, for example, Wilson’s Snipe, Wilson’s Warbler, Franklin’s Gulls, Lincoln’s Sparrow and Nelson’s Sharptailed Sparrow, to name a few. Holmes says that the new names will try to convey something about the birds themselves, such as plumage variations, differences in song or even DNA.


McCowan’s Longspur will be renamed because it was named after a slave owner.

As Holmes explains, this is a huge undertaking that is complex and long-lasting. Talk about a make-work project. The folks at AOS must be bored with conventional assignments. AOS is reaching out for public input from birdwatchers the world over. If you are a serious birdwatcher who has been cataloging all of your sightings over the years, this great renaming has got to be a whole new ball game.

As for me, a casual bird watcher and an old school traditionalist, I think that this whole undertaking is for the birds.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, an author, a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. Contact him at

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