27 thoughts on “OPEN FORUM!

  1. A repost from 4 years ago – and boy, has a lot of it come to pass. I wish it hadn’t.

    I discussed the attempted airbrushing of history here by the removal of several monuments to the Confederacy or its adherents online some time ago. At the time I would have described the feeling underlying it as what I would call a moral panic, similar to the overwhelming fear surrounding role-playing games in the 1980s or the unreasonable response to New Zealand’s Mazengarb report. However, moral panics usually ebb and flow and eventually the majority see how silly they really are. I was wrong, this was not a case of a moral panic. This was a case of a chisel often used by the left, that of iconoclasm, finding an opening and being used to chip away at society in an attempt to recurve it in their image. It’s now spread to Columbus memorials, and is starting to seep into memorials to the Founding Fathers.
    Iconoclasm, defined broadly as the organized destruction of images or symbols, has been around pretty much since man started erecting symbols and memorials to individuals, groups, ideas, or anyone or anything deemed important enough to build a lasting memorial to. Sometimes it was practiced in straight-up war between nations or civilizations, as a way to damage the enemy’s morale, although it ran the risk of making him angrier instead. Sometimes it was practiced in internecine conflicts, when one group seized power over another. Occasionally it has been performed simply as a matter of political policy, without actual armed conflicts.

    Examples of the first category include the sack of the Jewish Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius’ destruction of the Persian fire temple at the Throne of Solomon, and the Muslim policy of destruction of religious symbols of those they defeated: the Persians’ holy standard, the original church at Santiago de Compostela, and countless Hindu idols and temples.
    The second category is comprised of events such as Roman emperors destroying the statues and monuments of the emperors they had just overthrown, the destruction of British monuments in Dublin during the low-intensity Irish War of Independence, the throwing down of the memorial to Napoleon in the Place de Vendhome during the short-lived Paris Commune, and the widespread destruction of Armenian holy places during the Armenian Genocide.

    Finally the third category is incidents like the (in some cases extreme) destruction of English Catholic shrines, statues, and churches during the Reformation, including irreplaceable relics such as Canterbury’s shrine to St. Thomas a Becket, Theodosius II’s destruction of pagan Greek temples in the early Byzantine Empire as Christianity took hold, and Soviet demolition of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior to make way for a never-built Palace of the Soviets.

    In all of these cases, the destruction was to deliver a visible, tangible, indelible massage that couldn’t be ignored to those who had erected what was destroyed: “You are wrong, and therefore what you hold dear is without value and not to be respected. What is more, you have been shown to be powerless to protect what you hold dear, therefore you are defeated and you are intrinsically less than we who can destroy it.”
    In some of these cases the destroyers were ultimately proven wrong. The Soviets ended up on the ash heap of history, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was rebuilt, and there it stands to this day. In others the appetite for destruction petered out once the new regime was in place and considered legitimate. No one still talks of yanking down Fusiliers’ Gate in Dublin or destroying the monuments to the various Victorian-era Irish regiments that still dot the Emerald Isle, the government of the Republic is busy enough delivering the services it is charged with delivering. Unfortunately, in other cases, the destruction was permanent. Even the ruins of what was once the Throne of Solomon are now lost, the Zoroastarians now scattered like dust throughout Asia, and the Armenian nation, just now being allowed a chance to prove its worth, will never get most of the physical link to its history back.

    Like it or not, it is possible to wipe a people and their memory from the face of the earth, and it starts with the destruction of any reminder that they did exist or do exist. The questions before us are manifold: is it within the purview of any people to judge another people or their memory worthy of such a cleansing from the historical record? If so, is it anyone’s right to actually take that step? If so, how, and what precedent does it set?

    I find the idea that any people or what they hold dear is so wrong that it is worthy of deletion from the historical record problematic. Too often that idea is associated with tyranny, conquest, and even genocide, whether real or cultural, and too often that idea is associated with rash and destructive action. None of these things are what supposedly civilized people should aspire to. One does not prove that a stick is crooked by railing against it, by hiding it away, or by breaking it. The best way to prove that a stick is crooked is to lay a straight stick down next to it, that those who see both may make their own informed decision.

    Let us look, then, at Christopher Columbus, the latest target of this outbreak of iconoclasm. He is, like it or not, one of the dozen or so most influential people in history. Mohammed, Christ, Moses and the Buddha account for the beliefs of most of the world’s population between them, Guttenberg made the exchange of ideas and knowledge infinitely easier, and Washington laid the foundation for what became the most powerful nation in the world with a Constitution that remains the pattern for representative government, but Columbus was the man who established the link that made it possible for the religious founder beliefs, the ideas and knowledge that Guttenberg made it possible to read easily to reach a hemisphere, and made the founding of the nation Washington set on the path to where it is today possible. The fact that Vikings reached the American continent earlier does not take away from that influence, for they neither stayed long enough to have any influence nor established a continuing link. The fact that the various tribes who had arrived earlier across the land bridge from Siberia (or so the current theory holds) were already here when he landed also does not take away from his influence, for their Neolithic civilization was in no position to influence the world and had few innovations to offer it. The argument that either of these facts somehow reduces him to a historical footnote simply does not hold up under scrutiny. The argument that if he had not landed in America first, then someone else eventually would have has marginally more merit, two continents are impossible to completely miss. Regardless, he is the one who actually did discover America and establish a lasting link with Europe. The same argument could be made with regard to any number of important advances: Edward Jenner’s discovery of the concept of vaccination, Lord Rutherford’s discovery of the nucleus, Isaac Newton’s diffusion of light into colors, but no one argues for toppling these scientific pioneers from their pedestals on that basis.

    Having established Columbus as a figure of greatest achievement, the question becomes does: his character or his other actions wipe out his achievement? The fact of the matter is that he is celebrated as an innovator, a great navigator, and a great discoverer. No one has ever argued that he is being celebrated for or should be celebrated for his great moral character or his humanitarianism. If you are looking for great moral character then I submit you need to look to the great religious figures, who are as much myth as man, and if you are looking for humanitarianism then you should look to Mother Theresa or Albert Schweitzer, who, unfortunately, represent a devotion to helping others that is found in few and far between, and, ultimately, does not represent great achievement or influence, certainly not on Columbus’ level. Unfortunately humans are not angels, and declaring any high achiever who is not morally perfect by today’s standards unworthy of commemoration, celebration, or even mention is placing the proverbial bar unreachably high and placing the question of who can be honored on a slippery slope.
    Apart from his achievements, Columbus came to be a revered figure in large part because, as the highest achieving Italian (yes, he was Genoese, but that’s a distinction without a difference) he became a symbolic figure for the growing Italian American community. Italians had come to the United States since the end of the Napoleonic Wars, but their numbers greatly increased after the unification of Italy in 1861. Most came from the rural south and Sicily, already poor from centuries of foreign misrule and now facing a fairly oppressive new tax regime, seeking better opportunities. The new Kingdom of Italy encouraged them to go, to prevent them becoming a drain on the revenues of the new kingdom, which had debts to pay off from the wars of unification. Frankly they were in a difficult spot when they arrived in the US, not speaking much English if at all, often with few skills other than farming or manual labor, and, as mainly Roman Catholics, not terribly welcome in what was then a largely Protestant nation with a mainly Protestant upper and employer class. Still, they were familiar with doing and willing to do a day’s work for a day’s pay.

    You know or you should know the rest, how they learned English, often altering their names to fit in, unloaded the ships, worked in the factories, tilled the soil, and fought the Confederacy (although the Irish regiments get all the press). Eventually some of those who’d fought started to patrol the streets and fight the fires as the first police and fire departments were organized, and it wasn’t too long before the sons of those who’d come here first were starting to enter the professions and start their own businesses. Still, they were unpopular in many places, meeting with gang violence, unfair treatment by the law, and even a few outright lynchings and other murders. Like other outsiders trying to make their way in, they needed to stand together against those who would make their lives difficult. So they formed fraternal societies and community groups, to ensure support for their own. Most often, they used the name Columbus, the highest achieving Italian of all, somewhere in the name of the groups. As they continued to progress and achieve, they donated monuments to the communities where they had flourished, to say “here we came, here we worked, and here we succeeded.” Most often these were of…who else…Columbus, especially as the 400th anniversary of his landing arrived in 1892. That’s how the statue in Columbus Circle came to be, that’s how the one that graced Newark’s Washington Park until the dead of night in June last year came to be, that’s how the one that stands in Jersey City’s Journal Square came to be, and many more.

    Celebrating the landing was done as early as 1792, and parading began in 1868 in San Francisco. As Italian Americans progressed, the celebrations became as much about the achievements of their community and their nation as about the landing. Since most Italian Americans (who today form about 7% of the US population) are concentrated in the east, most of the large celebrations and noticeable statuary are in the east. Columbus Day became a Federal holiday in 1937, after newspaper publisher Generoso Pope, who founded the New York Celebration, successfully lobbied FDR. For most, it’s a holiday marked by parading, maybe a wreath laying, music, food, and all things Italian, and frankly, not too much controversy until now. The extreme left spewed some of the same rhetoric that’s trying to go mainstream now, but it was usually just dismissed as the far left nonsense it was and still is.
    The fact is that the far left isn’t about righting historical wrongs or about helping others. It’s about a few true believers telling everyone else what to do because they know best. That brings us back to the beginning of this article – the message of the left to those who don’t agree with them is “You are wrong, and therefore what you hold dear is without value and not to be respected. What is more, you have been shown to be powerless to protect what you hold dear, therefore you are defeated and you are intrinsically less than we who can destroy it.” They want to destroy tradition values, and one way to do that is to destroy symbols and holidays associated with them. The initial mistake the left made was aiming too high with the War on Christmas, which ultimately failed, too many people hold Christmas too dear to simply give in to attacks on it. However, now the left sees a different angle to attack traditional values from. If one set of statues can be forced down by claiming being offended, then why not another, and why not try to kill the holiday that goes along with that second set? If they are successful, they have set a precedent where anyone who claims they are offended is essentially God, and anything that offends that person must be removed, no matter its significance to anyone else and frankly, no matter the historic context or whether the offense is well founded.

    I think before this goes any farther we, the Italian Americans, the sons of Columbus and Garibaldi and Balbo and Tesei and Basilone and La Guardia and Scalia and so forth, need to stand up for ourselves, draw the line and say “no, this is unacceptable, no, we won’t accept the judgment of others on our history who don’t know that history, no, we aren’t just pawns to be moved off the board of someone else’s political game because we are no longer useful, no, we won’t just step aside and let everything we built up be destroyed, no, we aren’t going to let you condemn our heritage because another heritage claims they are offended, therefore they take precedence. Ignore us or attempt to impose your will on us by force at your peril.”

    It isn’t fair to judge the past by today’s standards, and especially not by this year’s. It isn’t fair, and it’s a disservice, to try to hide the past, or condemn it, or try to paper over it. It’s grossly unfair to discount every achievement that came before this year as tainted. It isn’t our role to somehow undo everything that’s been done up to today, as it that were even possible. Don’t be ashamed of history, and don’t be afraid of the truth. Don’t try to wash out the record, and don’t try to rewrite it, Omar Khayam’s moving finger has already written and moved on. Honor the good parts, learn from the bad parts, and try to do better as you move forward.

    • Great comment, Steve! I have three close friends (former brothers-in-arms) who are Italian-Americans. All three (and their families) are very proud of their heritage, and fiercely and unashamedly patriotic Americans. Two of them are very active in the K of C. I’m sure they would agree wholeheartedly with your remarks.

      • Biden issued proclamations for BOTH Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day. Actually that’s probably the adult thing to do, like with Christmas and Hanukkah. Leave it to the grown-ups to observe one, the other, both, or neither, as they wish. He also doesn’t want to piss off the Italian-American community, who are still pretty powerful in some states. I don’t think it’s about Columbus, the Indians, or whatever, it’s about creating another competing holiday, like with Independence Day and Juneteenth, and competing other stuff like the US national anthem vs. the black national anthem. The left is effectively daring everyone to stand on one side or the other, and mark themselves, presumably for when they have more power and can come for the right.

    • … the destruction of British monuments in Dublin during the low-intensity Irish War of Independence …

      The lads didn’t blow up Nelson’s Pillar until the 1960s.

      … In all of these cases, the destruction was to deliver a visible, tangible, indelible massage that couldn’t be ignored to those who had erected what was destroyed: “You are wrong, and therefore what you hold dear is without value and not to be respected. What is more, you have been shown to be powerless to protect what you hold dear, therefore you are defeated and you are intrinsically less than we who can destroy it.” …

      Bluntly, no, because by and large those who did it had already dismissed the others from consideration. They were actually doing it for themselves, to register to their own satisfaction that they had discarded those things. The effect on the others was irrelevant to the destroyers – by and large.

      … In others the appetite for destruction petered out once the new regime was in place and considered legitimate. No one still talks of yanking down Fusiliers’ Gate in Dublin or destroying the monuments to the various Victorian-era Irish regiments that still dot the Emerald Isle, the government of the Republic is busy enough delivering the services it is charged with delivering…

      But see above about Nelson’s Pillar.

      • “The lads?” Mmmmhmmm. Like the IRA were a bunch of nice guys you could have a beer with instead of a bunch of gangsters who knee-capped people with power drills and had children deliver messages while they held their moms at gunpoint. Sorry, no sale.

        • You’re reading things into it that just aren’t there. Persons understanding what that meant would never read the sentimentality you suggest into the term.

          No, saying “the lads” is just a way of referring to them elliptically so that nothing stands out in conversation. For instance, you could go up to the bar in an Irish pub in London and say “tell the lads there’s work to be done” and consequences related to them would follow, all without drawing undue attention (don’t try that unless you can follow through).

      • Neil Peart, the drummer and lyricist for Rush, who passed away in January 2020 from brain cancer, used to write about his travels and travails. His thought was, “How can I make today a better day than yesterday?”

        jvb

    • I would say being intentionally provocative is unethical. There might be times where it’s called for, but in the example given, I don’t see that ever being a thing. Off the top of my head, it seems to disregard at least a few ethical systems such as Kant, the golden rule, and contractualism,

    • I think the advice of that image to today’s woke young people is about a day late and a dollar short. Most young adults seem to have already caught on to the idea by now.

    • Well, it’s definitely a bigoted statement. Which straight white man from the 1950s? They didn’t all believe the same things. If it were, “do something today…” then it could be written off as just a bit of fun. As it stands, the statement implies that every straight white man in the 1950s would get angry about someone doing something worthwhile with their lives, and would not get angry about anything actually harmful. That’s… dangerously stupid. You can’t be ethical by taking the positions of someone you don’t like and reversing them. You have to identify constructive virtues and practice them.

      • To idiots like the one who wrote that, straight white men were and are monolithic, a bunch of racist, sexist, xenophobic palefaces who are alternately a bunch of cowardly peckerwoods who’d flee from the brothers who’d kick their asses and a very dangerous bunch who’d just as soon shoot or beat anyone darker than Patrick Stewart as look at him and just as soon rape any woman that came within their wingspan.

      • “As it stands, the statement implies that every straight white man in the 1950s would get angry about someone doing something worthwhile with their lives…”

        My thoughts exactly.

      • So let’s take two non-random but straight white men from the 1950s:

        Let us say a Mississippi Freedom Rider and Bull Connor. This may be a smidge past the 1950s but I think it exactly fits the spirit of that cartoon.

        We can presume that both of them were straight white men — what would you be able to do that would make both of them angry?

        Actually, I am sure that there would be actions that would fit the bill, but almost certainly they would be actions that would be abhorrent in 2021 by almost everyone.

        As for the cartoon — my verdict would be moronic, perhaps sociopathic. Unethical would be an afterthought.

        • Oh, an ignorant as well. If you asked those persons about freedom riders, what do you think are the odds that you’d just get a blank stare?

    • It is just dumb. A 1950s straight white male would be at least 60 to 70 years old, assuming a birth in the 1950s. Anyone born before that would be in their 80s to 90s, and most of them have been ignored and declared irrelevant.

      jvb

    • In fairness the modern left wing youths who would follow this graphic’s advice ARE doing everything to make straight white men of the 1950s angry (most of whom spent THEIR youths defeating fascist governments) – those following this advice probably already support the rising fascist government led by the Democrat Party.

  2. Jonathan Turley brings up an interesting subject from a legal stand point, but I think it has ethical implications as well. Should families be allowed to sue or be sued as a result of suicide?
    https://jonathanturley.org/2021/10/08/suicide-torts-recent-bizarre-cases-raise-questions-over-jumper-liability/

    He gives some very interesting cases of jumpers who have landed on a vehicle and destroying private property and killing a woman who was walking down the street and ask if they should be allowed to sue to get back loss income/property/etc from the deceased family or the estate.

    Then there is what happened to my cousin.

    When I was about 15 years old, my cousin killed a man who ran out in front of her car. She was on a highway (not a normal road traveling around 55-60mph), and was blindsided by the man. There was nothing that could have been done to stop the accident from happening.

    She was sued by the family. The man left a note, a police officer witnessed the incident (Surprisingly), and it was proved beyond a doubt that she did what was in her power to stop it from happening. It ruined her and even now some 22 years later she barely has the mental capacity or desire to leave her apartment. When it became clear the family was going to lose the case, they started to demand an apology. Her lawyer all but forced her not to, because to apologize was to admit guilt. Afterwards, they told everyone she was so callous she wouldn’t even apologize for what she did. For a while she was harassed and stalked, before finally moving away where she couldn’t be found. I didn’t hear from here for a long time.

    If this does become a thing, I don’t know why more people wouldn’t try death by cop to make sure there families get something out of it.

  3. An aside — your twitter link goes to an invalid twitter account. If you’re not still on twitter perhaps that needs to go away?

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