Not journalists, surely, based on what we’ve seen so far. Will you? That’s not a rhetorical question. The rush to airbrush history, distort the historical record and strangle art and culture in pursuit of ideological indoctrination and constriction of dissent, imagination and thought itself is well underway in the United States, not yet as furious and violent as related movements that occurred during China’s cultural upheaval and the French Revolution, but still driven by the same kind of irrational fervor.
It certainly is frustrating sitting here on a tiny island of rationality, lamely pointing out where cultural perils lie, knowing that the net effect of my analysis is somewhere between nil and the societal influence of the local nut case carrying a placard in the park. I cautioned against a rush to avoid the ludicrous and cynical effort by civil rights leaders, Democratic politicians trying to somehow panic African-Americans into trusting Hillary, and social justice censors by pulling down Confederate flags now, as if the emblems had a smidgen, a wisp, an atom’s worth of culpability for Dylann Roof’s crime. I even launched a new Niggardly Principle to show the way, remember? Here it is again:
The Third Niggardly Principle
When suppressing speech and conduct based on an individual’s or a group’s sincere claim that such speech or conduct is offensive, however understandable and reasonable this claim may be, creates or threatens to create a powerful precedent that will undermine freedom of speech, expression or political opinion elsewhere, calls to suppress the speech or conduct must be opposed and rejected.
Never mind. Politicians have little integrity or courage, and certainly no ability to foresee the inevitable. If Nikki Haley and her fellow Southern governors legislators past and present had any of these qualities, they would have known that continuing to associate their states with the symbol of the Confederacy and all–-ALL—it stands for was a ticking cultural time bomb that should have been defused long, long ago. The flags should have been taken down when a fanatic, censorious mob of ideological zealots wasn’t in the ascendance, and wouldn’t take a belated decision to do what should have been done years—decades— before to mean that they are in control, and could finally dictate cultural conformity, because that’s what authoritarian leftists do.
Business is soulless and often without principle. It is the last entity that we should ever expect to do what is necessary to protect the flanks of free speech, will and thought. Anyone who wants to have a Confederate flag in a collection, on a jacket, or on a wall of their room should be able to purchase one. The disgraceful statement by Walmart’s CEO immediately tossed kerosene on the left’s flaming censorious passions. Good people—you know, like the people who run Walmart– don’t want to offend anyone, he suggested. Perfect. Let’s see, what can we send down the memory hole now?
Whatever they can find and think of that is connected in any way to slavery, racism and the Confederacy, apparently. And more.
The flag mania has already beyond reason: the National Park Service is pulling all items that include the Confederate flag from its gift shops , even at the battlefields. So if a 10-year old who is fascinated with the Battle of Gettysburg and wants to set up a diorama of the pivotal battle complete with little flags, the store at the battlefield itself can’t nourish his interests, because “Black Lives Matter.” What sense does it make to ban the flag and not toy soldiers of the men who fought under the flag? Well, it doesn’t, right? “Black Lives Matter.” And surely selling photographs of the generals who led those men, and books that contain photos of them, and films, like Ted Turner’s epic “Gettysburg,” that portray those generals as human beings and not racist killers who have been secretly whispering to Dylann Roof in his fevered dreams, can’t be permitted either.
I am not exaggerating this slippery slope, or how far the carnage may reach if rational people try to hide until it blows over.
In Memphis, they want to eliminate a prominent statue of Confederate cavalry leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was a city councilman, an alderman for two terms, a wealthy citizen who helped rebuild the city after the war. No question, he was slave holder, a slave trader, and involved with the Ku Klux Klan in its early years. He was also one of the most impressive, effective and courageous military leaders on either side of the Civil War, and a fascinating historical figure by any measure. GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell, always with his finger in the air, wants Kentucky to take down a statue of Jefferson Davis, a Kentuckian who has a prominent place in U.S. history. Arizona is considering removing his memorial from a highway; a statue of Davis in Richmond was just vandalized with a spray-painted “Black Lives Matter,” appropriate because the President of the Confederacy helped shoot the nine Charleston parishioners.
Next step: anyone who ever defended slavery. South Carolina’s Senator John C. Calhoun was one of the three legislative giants, along with Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, who dominated the nation’s policy debates in the pre-war period. In Minnesota, activists are demanding that a lake named after him be renamed. If Calhoun is to be dishonored, why wouldn’t the same logic sweep out Clay, who crafted the compromises that allowed slavery to creep into the territories, or even slave-holding Presidents like Polk, Jackson, Monroe, Jefferson and George Washington?
Working forward, surely Woodrow Wilson can’t escape historical airbrushing off the scene. There is a prestigious Woodrow Wilson Policy Center, and his home is a public attraction, like Washington’s, Jackson’s and Jefferson’s—shutter them: “Black Lives Matter.” The Rockefeller family-restored Colonial Williamsburg is a monument to slavery as much as anything else: turn it into a non-racist shopping center. While we’re at it, let’s change the name of the racist Rockefeller Center, too.Oh, come on, Jack: it’s not that bad.
Oh yeah? A CNN anchor asked whether or not the Jefferson Memorial should come down, because, I gather “Black Lives Matter” more than the Declaration of Independence.
I often drive over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge; I also drive on streets and highways named after General Pickett, Chief Justice Taney of Dred Scott infamy, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and, yes, Jefferson Davis. I find it strange to find myself on Taney Street, then again, it gave me a chance to explain to my son about Taney, the court case, and the Fugitive Slave Act, because that’s what public references to the past do and are supposed to do, keep us connected to the past, good and bad. Good and bad, because you need both to understand the present, and also because today’s good may become tomorrow’s bad. Still, “Black Lives Matter,” and that’s more important than historical literacy and nuanced comprehension of the past.
The slope is getting steeper and more slippery yet: what about the arts? Well, the New York Post’s movie critic wants to use the statue-toppling frenzy to shelve “Gone With The Wind,” and with it the pinnacle of black actress Hattie McDaniel’s career, who steals the movie (and who famously said, when chastised for playing stereotyped black characters, “I’d rather play a maid than be a maid!”). “Casablanca” will be toast: Sam is as stereotyped as you can get. John Wayne has a man-servant in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” who is either a slave or close enough for horseshoes: there goes that film, director John Ford’s output, and maybe the Duke’s more than 200 films as well. (Well, Westerns are racist anyway.) I assume all the music of Stephen Foster will have to go, as well as–-finally!—that racist “Huckleberry Finn” book, as well as anything else that racist author Samuel Clemens wrote. When purges go wild, literally nothing is safe.
Especially at risk is anyone who dares to stand in the way of progress, when that progress is really ideology drunk on power and its own unchallengeable virtue. Former Senator, Marine and war hero Jim Webb, who is not afraid of anything, has been one of the few to try, saying,
“This is an emotional time and we all need to think through these issues with a care that recognizes the need for change but also respects the complicated history of the Civil War. The Confederate Battle Flag has wrongly been used for racist and other purposes in recent decades. It should not be used in any way as a political symbol that divides us.But we should also remember that honorable Americans fought on both sides in the Civil War, including slave holders in the Union Army from states such as Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, and that many non-slave holders fought for the South. It was in recognition of the character of soldiers on both sides that the federal government authorized the construction of the Confederate Memorial 100 years ago, on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. This is a time for us to come together, and to recognize once more that our complex multicultural society is founded on the principle of mutual respect.”
Says the Washington Post. ominously: “Former senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) appears to defend Confederate flag,” meaning that he defends slavery, Jim Crow, Dylann Roof and doesn’t think that black lives matter. You’ll have to do better than that, Jim, but it’s a start.
The flag is a lost cause not worth fighting over now, but every American who cares about freedom of thought and who doesn’t want to endure a real, dangerous, speech and thought restricting cultural witch hunt needs to speak up, stand up to this leftist mob and risk the consequences.