UPDATE: Because the first two news sources I had were in error, I originally posted that the event described occurred this week. It did not: it occurred in October of last year.
Just a few hours ago, I was explaining to a usually wise and rational commenter why her willingness to allow periodic purges of statues and memorials honoring those individuals who past members of our society determined were worthy of continuing honor. The figure in question was Robert E. Lee, not one of my personal favorites, but a generally recognized military genius and easily a man whose life and accomplishments included several justifications for permanent memorials. My favorite: Lee personally vetoed the Confederacy’s fallback plan of taking the war to a guerilla stage, extending the conflict indefinitely. It might well have worked, but Lee refused. I’ll happily grant him some perpetual statuary for that. But the self-righteously intolerant practitioners of presentism want Lee cast as a an irredeemable villain, and his statues toppled. There are many reasons why this kind of self-imposed cultural amnesia is offensive, harmful and stupid, but in my exchange with that usually wise and rational commenter, I focused on the slippery slope, writing,
You cannot articulate what the stop is on that slippery slope that doesn’t end with blowing up Mount Rushmore.
Imagine my surprise, not to be proven right, for that occurs often, but to be proven right so quickly by a news report I just read concerning a protest by more than 200 political correctness maniacs inside the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Their goal: take down the statue of former of Theodore Roosevelt—historian, author, scholar, orator, political philosopher, war hero, patriot, cowboy, explorer, public servant, the father of conservationism, the creator of the National Parks system, President and one of progressivism’s founding pioneers—and, of course, one of the Mount Rushmore Four. The protest’s organizers, NYC Stands with Standing Rock and Decolonize This Place, called the statue of the former New York City police commissioner and former New York governor a “stark embodiment of the white supremacy that Roosevelt himself espoused and promoted,” adding in a statement that “The statue is seen as an affront to all who pass it on entering the museum, but especially to African and Native Americans.” The protesters carried signs that read “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” “DECOLONIZE THIS MUSEUM,” and “ABOLISH WHITE SUPREMACY.”
Of course they did.
The news report I first read was wrong in one crucial respect: it told readers that the protest was this week, when in fact it was almost a year ago. It doesn’t matter. The point is that Teddy is on the hit list too. It isn’t just Confederates and slave-holders.
These history-vandals are not benign, sensitive souls seeking only to remove unpleasant memories for those too immature and easily-triggered to view a statue of a flawed and complex man without only being able to recognize his worst moments. They are anti-American descendants of the Jacobins and Western clones of Mao’s cultural revolutionaries, dedicated to remaking the past to compliment their intended future and the ideology, myths, biases and false narratives necessary to achieve it. What they want to do to the cultural history of the United States mirrors the destruction wreaked by ISIS on religious and historical structures. They are cultural cancer, and the rational members of the progressive movement who underestimate where this fervor leads are irresponsible and naive.
These are individuals taught to dislike American values and dishonor American history. They lack the knowledge, humility and respect to appreciate the brilliant, courageous and visionary people who sacrificed so much to make the United States possible, and who gave them the tools of liberty that the vandals abuse today. Are they worse than the white nationals they battled with in Charlottesville? Certainly not worse, probably not as bad, but this is just Rationalization #22 at work. No, they aren’t the worst thing, but they are bad enough. And like their neo-Nazi foes, they are motivated by hate. In their case, it is hatred of American values, history, and culture.
First they came for Jefferson Davis, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Southerner, and he was a fool…
Then they came for the General Lee, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not an admirer, and disagreed with his iconic status
Then they came for Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt…
I was at the impressive FDR memorial in Washington, D.C. recently. That Roosevelt was a misogynist, a sociopath, and a ruthless, ruthless leader..but he saved the nation, and probably the world. He also locked up Japanese-American citizens for the crime of being Japanese. I found myself wondering how long it would be before the statue-topplers come for him…and what kind of country this will be when our society refuses to honor Franklin Delano Roosevelt.