I was going to write an Ethics Dunce post about Jamie L.H. Goodall, a staff historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History who wrote a truly stupid piece for The Washington Post headlined “The Buccaneers embody Tampa’s love of pirates. Is that a problem?” Goodall is triggered by the fact that the NFL’s now champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers carry a nickname that romanticizes pirates, who were bad people.
Of course, everyone knows pirates were (are, since there are more pirates operating now than back in the “Arrrgh!” days) bad, but they were scary and tough, see, and teams are named after scary and tough symbols, sometimes. Only people who have nothing better to do but to try to bend others to their will make the fatuous kinds of arguments Goodall does. ( “There is danger in romanticizing ruthless cutthroats…Why? Because it takes these murderous thieves who did terrible things — like locking women and children in a burning church — and makes them a symbol of freedom and adventure, erasing their wicked deeds from historical memory. These were men (and women) who willingly participated in murder, torture and the brutal enslavement of Africans and Indigenous peoples.” ) Oh yeah, we had to get the racist angle. I wonder how the good people of Pittsburgh managed to have a much-loved baseball team called “The Pirates” for more than a century without anyone, or any of their many, many proud African American and Caribbean players feeling that they were honoring raping and pillaging. Perhaps it’s because the team doesn’t and neither do “Treasure Island” and “The Pirates of Penzance (which I have performed in and directed).
The problem isn’t the Buccaneers; it’s the far too successful ongoing strategy of the oppressive Left, which seeks to keep anyone with normal sensibilities and an appreciation of history, literature, humor, whimsy and proportion constantly apologizing and retreating under a barrage of manufactured indignation and artificial moral superiority. The blunder has been that instead of responding to the power-hungry ideologues and their allies like Goodall who make these claims with the mockery and contempt they deserve, those under assault make the mistake, again and again, of saying, “Well, if it bothers you that much, okay. We’ll give you what you want. After all, it’s only a name.”
But it’s not only a name. It’s a word, a street, a mascot, a flag, a logo, a book, a song, a movie, a statue, an artist, a leader, a President, a Founder, a culture, and a nation. The strategy and its purpose should have been obvious long ago, and it should have been fought against hard, right at the beginning, with all the fury and determination that goes into any other existential battle. Or a war.
As I said, I was going to write this post about Jamie L.H. Goodall, but her idiocy is already a cliche, and at this point, arguing over team names is a distraction. (Too bad, though, as I had a fun post ready explaining how almost every professional sports team name was vulnerable to woke attack.) But I realized that the recent action by San Francisco’s school board represents the metastasized end game in the totalitarian Left’s cultural bull-dozing plan.
The school board voted 6-1 to eliminate one-third of the city’s school names, including those honoring Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, James Madison and both Roosevelts (yup, there goes Mt. Rushmore!) , plus Presidents Monroe, McKinley,Herbert Hoover and James Garfield; John Muir, the naturalist and author; James Russell Lowell, abolitionist poet and editor; Paul Revere, Robert Louis Stevenson (speaking of “Treasure Island”), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Daniel Webster, and current California Senator and former city mayor Diane Feinstein.
Mostly, San Franciscans are upset about Feinstein.
Read (if you dare) the spreadsheet in which the board explains its justifications for dishonoring so many individuals without whom the nation would literally not exist, Not only is the thing riddled with typos, misspellings, grammar mistakes and factual errors, it shows a group responsible for educating the city’s children that itself lacks minimal critical thinking skills, historical perspective, and the sense God gave a lemming. There is no appreciation or understanding of the challenges facing real leaders, or real human beings for that matter. Race is everything, and if an individual of massive achievements and gifts to the nation and culture didn’t magically comprehend ideas and principles that took generations to prevail in our society, well, they just should have, that’s all. Virtually every important American historical figure who lived before 1950 would fail the tunnel vision standards of this board of fools. Robert Louis Stephenson wrote a poem for children that was disrespectful of Inuits. Cancelled. Abraham Lincoln may have saved the nation and ended slavery, but the board disagreed with his wrenching decision to execute 38 Native Americans…because they don’t know what the hell they are talking about. I do. From the Ethics Alarms post on Lincoln’s decision:
It is a perfect example of how pure ethical conduct can become ambiguous, complicated and indeed impossible in the context of national leadership, and especially war. Those examining such difficult decisions long after they occurred are prone to do so using hindsight bias, and handicapped by various degrees of ignorance regarding the challenges of high-stakes leadership generally. It is certainly true that Lincoln was no lover of the Indians: he had fought against them in his only military experience, and like most men of his era, Lincoln was a believer in white superiority. Still, he deserves ethics praise and respect for taking the path of sparing as many as he thought would be politically palatable, recognizing the importance of his primary duty, winning the war, and his greater ethical mission of ending slavery. It was a great utilitarian challenge, and no President was better at navigating these than Abraham Lincoln.
But they cancelled Lincoln anyway.
The names of San Francisco’s schools are a trivial matter: I attended Parmenter School in Arlington, Mass. for six years, and I still don’t know who Parmenter was. I do know that hack, semi-literate bureaucrats like those on the San Francisco school board are not fit to judge any of the towering intellects, public servants, artists and heroes they just presumed to erase from their city, and by evidence of their abysmal lack of logic and warped partisan judgment, are not fit to oversee the education of anyone.