From “The Ethics Incompleteness Principle” Files: Memphis, Tennessee’s Confederate Statues

A better application of the Ethics Incompleteness Principle would be difficult to find than the decision by Memphis, Tennessee to remove a huge monument to Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, and an even larger heroic equestrian statue (above) of Nathan Bedford Forrest, swashbuckling Confederate general and (allegedly) the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan,  from two public parks.

As we have discussed here in great detail, I am unalterably opposed to the current mania among our Left-leaning friends and neighbors  of tearing down statues, monuments and memorials honoring  past historical figures because their lives, beliefs and character do not comport with current day standards or political norms.  This primitive exercise in historical censorship has been especially focused on famous and notable figures from the Confederacy, although recent efforts have targeted George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and even Theodore Roosevelt. Of the attacks on memorials to Confederate figures, I wrote,

[ Union veterans]  didn’t think of the former Confederates as traitors, or racists, or slavery advocates. They, like the Union veterans, were just men of their times, caught up in a great political and human rights conflict that came too fast and too furiously for any of them to manage. They were caught in the same, violent maelstrom, and knew it even 50 years earlier. Soldiers on both side wrote how they admired the courage of the enemy combatants they were killing, because they knew they were, in all the ways that mattered, just like them. It was the Golden Rule.  After the war, these soldiers who had faced death at the hands of these same generals, officers and troops, did not begrudge them the honor of their statues and memorials, nor their families pride in the bravery of their loved ones.

Yet now,  self-righteous social justice censors who never took up arms for any cause and in many cases never would, employ their pitifully inadequate knowledge of history to proclaim all the Civil War’s combatants on the losing side as racists and traitors, and decree that they should be hidden from future generations in shame. We have honored men and women for the good that they represent, not the mistakes, sins and misconduct that are usually the product of the times and values in which they lived. In doing so, we leave clues, memories, controversies, differing views, and stories for new generations to consider and better understand their own culture and society, and how it came to be what it is.

Those who want to tear down monuments to the imperfect, whether they know it or not, are impeding knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and understanding. They want only one view of history, because they will only tolerate one that advances their ideology and values—just as the Americans of the past believed in their values. Foolishly, I suppose, they trusted future generations to act on their own ethical enlightenment without corrupting the historical record.

I feel strongly about this, as the tone of that post, far from my first on the subject, shows.

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Integrity Gut Check: Who Will Have The Courage To Oppose The Left’s Cultural Purge?

STOP

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.

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