Tag Archives: memorials

Dead President Ethics: The Post Mortem Odyssey Of James K. Polk

James K. Polk is one of my favorite Presidents, in part because he has never received his due for being spectacularly effective, if unwavering ruthless in achieving his goals. By the standards of fulfilling his own stated objectives, a President can’t be more successful than Polk. He pledged to expand U.S. territory to the West, Southwest and North, and did so, then served only one term, as he had promised. Polk also wrote a fascinating diary, essentially an autobiography.

His relative obscurity arises in part because he was a one term President, but primarily because he existed in the shadow of his fellow Tennessean, Andrew Jackson, who was more flamboyant, more influential on more political fronts, and had far more than four years in the spotlight. He was also much taller. Poor Polk lived just three months after leaving office, dying of cholera in 1849, in Nashville. Tennessee. The laws of the time held that those who died of that dread disease be buried within 24 hours to prevent epidemics, so the former President of the United States was  laid to rest in a mass grave less than a year after leaving the White House.

A year later, Polk was removed from the mass grave and buried on the grounds of his Nashville home, Polk Place, in accordance with the will he drew up five months before his death. Polk, a lawyer, stipulated that his body and that of his wife be buried there, and that after his death and his wife’s, the property should be held in trust by the state, which would be bound allow a blood relative to live there. Unfortunately for the dead Polks, the ex-President made a tyro’s drafting gaffe. After Polk’s widow Sarah died in 1891, a court voided the terms of the will because it violated the common-law Rule Against Perpetuities: a property owner can’t bequeath property to unborn future generations. So Polk Place was sold to private interests, eventually razed, and today there is a boutique hotel on the property. On Sept. 19, 1893, Polk’s body and Sarah’s were moved again, to the Nashville grounds of the Capitol.

On a small patch of grass within a stone’s thrwo of the Capitol, the Polks’ grave is lies in a modest but attractive classical monument framed by Greek columns, with an inscription declaring  that Polk “planted the laws of the American union on the shores of the Pacific.” It was designed by William Strickland, the architect who also designed the Capitol itself and George Washington’s sarcophagus at Mount Vernon in Virginia. But Polk’s Jackson problem continues: his gravesite is dwarfed by a nearby equestrian statue of Old Hickory, and tourists virtually ignore it. And while Jackson’s grave at the Hermitage, his family plantation, is a major tourist draw in Nashville, Polk remains—that is Polk’s remains remain—an afterthought. When President Trump visited Nashville last month, he laid a wreath on Jackson’s tomb, and saluted him in a speech. As for the perpetually dissed 11th President, the campaign jeer of the Whig Party running against the first Dark Horse candidate in 1844 apparently remains appropriate: “Who is Polk?”
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Down The Slippery Slope: Yale Embraces Historical Airbrushing

john-c-calhounFrom The New York Times:

After a swelling tide of protests, the president of Yale announced on Saturday that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun, the 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina. The college will be renamed for Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale.

The decision was a stark reversal of the university’s decision last spring to maintain the name despite broad opposition. Though the president, Peter Salovey, said that he was still “concerned about erasing history,” he said that “these are exceptional circumstances.”

“I made this decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” Mr. Salovey said on a conference call with reporters. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”

And there we go!

How cowardly and equivocating  Salovey is! If he’s concerned about erasing history, and he should be as an educator, then he should have the principles and fortitude not to engage in it. But “these are exceptional circumstances,” he says. This is right out of the Rationalizations list: The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times” and The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.”  For good measure, he adds a third rationalization, The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.”

Of course it’s not the right thing to do. The right thing to do would be to teach the smug protesting young ignoramuses, who only know that Senator Calhoun was a slavery supporter as if that is the reason he is regarded as one of the great Senators in U.S. history (it’s not), any more than Andrew Jackson is defined solely by “The Trail of Tears,” that history is complex, cultures evolve, leadership is hard and even the most accomplished human beings are flawed gaspachos of greatness and sin. That would be the right thing because Yale is allegedly an institute of higher learning. This is the act of an institute of political correctness, intellectual laziness and stereotyping.

There were other rationalizations embedded in Salovey’s betrayal of history and culture, such as..

1A. Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”

Sure you can, if you have any integrity and care about your obligation to educate rather than capitulate.

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

And what cause would that be, sir? Your sophomoric students are demanding that important historical figures be airbrushed out of existence like Soviet Politburo figures out of favor, and Yale’s cause is supposed to be teaching  young minds to be more tolerant of the complexities of the real world. Now Yale’s cause is “Find the path of least resistance, and maybe they’ll calm down!”

15. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

This is only true if Yale is unable to articulate why it is important not to banish historical figures from the nation’s past as soon as activists get wind of a weakness they can exploit to bring themselves power. Continue reading

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Ethical Quote of the Month: Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Leron Gubler

cosby-star

“The answer is no. Once a star has been added to the Walk, it is considered a part of the historic fabric of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Because of this, we have never removed a star from the Walk.”

Leron Gubler, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, answering a question about whether Bill Cosby’s star would be removed from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Cosby was formally charged with sexual assault today in Pennsylvania, the first time allegations of any of his nearly 50 accusers have resulted in a court appearance. The Cos is out on a million dollar bond.

Exactly.

Variety also quotes the late Johnny Grant, a former chairman of the Hollywood Walk of Fame Committee, who once addressed the status of another fallen star’s place on the walk, saying:

“Stars are awarded for professional achievement to the world of entertainment and contributions to the community. A celebrity’s politics, philosophy, irrational behavior, outrageous remarks or anything like that have never been cause to remove a Walk of Fame star.”

On this matter of ethics, at least, Hollywood gets it, unlike Disney World, Harvard Law School, Princeton, the University of Kentucky, the World Fantasy Award, Connecticut Democrats, the National Park Service, Saltzburg University…and many others.

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More Cultural Bulldozing: Political Correctness Gets H.P. Lovecraft, Woodrow Wilson Of The Geeks

The bust says it all...

The bust says it all…

Really bad and dangerous ideas take hold and thrive because, like a particularly deadly virus, they pop up in so many places at once, especially dark corners and exotic locals. The current progressive contagion of airbrushing history, toppling icons and cultural bulldozing–one of several  habits of successful totalitarians being embraced by the left these days—is such an idea. As usual, defenders of this thought-inhibiting and unjust practice behave as if it is the epitome of common sense and virtue, when in truth it is the  opposite.

To the credit of the followers of the World Fantasy Award (for literature in the fantasy an horror field), the administrators’ decision to cave to political correctness and retire an H. P. Lovecraft bust (designed by black humor cartoonist Gahan Wilson) as its symbol—H.P. was like, Woodrow Wilson, a white, Western culture supremacist —was not met with universal approval. Nonetheless the Award’s head honchos did it.

They did it to mollify the social justice zealots in the organization’s midst, who insisted on sending the message that currently non-conforming ideas and beliefs should be punished decades or even centuries later by pretending that legitimate and important contributions to art, politics, science and civilization didn’t exist, if the man or woman involved stepped across a political correctness line that didn’t exist when it was stepped over. All it takes to justify eradicating any honor, recognition or symbol of cultural gratitude is for a major historical figure in any field to have been shown to have engaged in, thought about (or consorted with those who engaged in or thought about) practices that the current culture, with assistance of many years of debate and experience that the toppled never had, now finds misguided, objectionable, offensive or wrong.

The proper punishment for this retroactive crime, these spiritual brethren of Stalin believe, is banishment, rejection and shame in the very field where the individual’s positive accomplishments reside. This is necessary to keep future generations from being influenced by ideas that might trigger discomfort among true believers of the official creed.

Thus, reason doctrinaire Princeton kids who have figured out The Great Truths at their tender age, Woodrow Wilson’s major contributions of strengthening and burnishing the name of the college, leading the United States for two terms, including through a world war, and devising the concept of the United Nations, no longer warrant respect and memorial, because he was, like so many other Southerners of his time, an unapologetic white supremacist. Of course, so was Abraham Lincoln and much of the nation, but that cuts no ice with the practitioners of merciless presentism. It isn’t just the views of the long dead that are being punished, you see. It’s a warning to non-conforming thinkers alive yet. Watch out! it says. Your thoughts, inspirations and ideas are impure and wrong, and you are still vulnerable to real punishment, not just the post-mortem fate of being defiled and forgotten. Continue reading

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Airbrushing History, Again: If Woodrow Wilson Is At Risk, Can George Washington Be Far behind?

woodrow-wilson

While Paris was bleeding, the predicted anti-white black student power play spread from its origins at Yale and the University of Missouri to 23 other campuses (so far). None of the new outbreaks of victim-mongering, black-dictated apartheid  and outrageous demands had any more justification than the Mizzou Meltdown, but they all entered the competition. Some highlights:

  • Amherst students demanded a crack-down on any free speech in the form of criticism of Black Lives Matters or the protest goals.
  • Dartmouth’s Black Lives Matters members roamed through the campus library, verbally assaulting white students attempting to study.
  • Smith College held a sit-in, and barred reporters-–the new breed of campus freedom-fighters just don’t like that pesky First Amendment—unless they promised to cover the protest positively. There’s one more school that doesn’t teach basic American rights and values….
  • Occidental College is in the middle of a me-too imitation of the Mizzou stunt, with students occupying a three-story administration building all this week, demanding that a series of actions ranging from racist to just unreasonable to oppressive, in the name of “safety” and “diversity”, of course. They are also insisting that President Jonathan Veitch resign. Predictably, the leftist faculty which helped make the students this way are fully supportive. Read the demands here; my favorites: demanding an increase in tenured black professors and black doctors (a racist demand: there is no mention of ability; color is enough); funding for the student group for black men, which is racist and counter-diverse by definition; and “elimination of military and police rhetoric from all documents and daily discourse.”

Freedom of speech is so passe.

  • The crazy is getting stronger: The University of Vermont-–from the lands where Bernie Sanders roams— hosted a three-day retreat for students who “self-identify as white,” called  “Examining White Privilege: A Retreat for Undergraduate Students Who Self-Identify as White.”  The goal was to give students “the opportunity” to “conceptualize and articulate whiteness from a personal and systemic lens”  and “recognize and understand white privilege from an individual experience.” This, I submit, has absolutely nothing to do with education, and everything to do with self-obsession and narcissism.

Ah, but my favorite is Princeton, which finding itself third among its fellow Ivies (as usual), this time in concocting an embarrassing and offensive student protest, decided to go for broke.This week, members of the Black Justice League walked out of class and occupied the building that houses the Princeton administration’s offices. They demanded that the school reject “the racist legacy of Woodrow Wilson,” formerly president of Princeton before becoming a President of the United States and Democratic Party icon, by removing his name from anything bearing it. They also demanded “cultural competency training” for Princeton professors and assistants (that is, forced re-education and ideological brainwashing, academia style) teaching at Princeton, courses on the “history of marginalized people,” that is, approved leftist narratives, and  the setting aside of public spaceto be  restricted to the use and enjoyment of black students only, which is properly called self-segregation and racist exclusion.

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The Harvard Law School Seal: Apparently They Are No Longer Teaching Critical Thinking At Harvard Law School

H Law SchoolSee that seal to the left? Apparently that is a racist symbol that must be banned. At least that’s the conclusion a group of Harvard Law School students have come to, thus compelling my conclusion that either Harvard Law School is no longer a trustworthy institution for training young minds in relentlessly logical analysis as the practice of law at 400 bucks an hour requires, or that it is admitting too many students so indoctrinated in mindless progressive cant that they are beyond help.

These young adults need to skip the law and go straight to community organizing.

I’m sure all of you saw the bushels of wheat in the Harvard Law School seal and immediately recoiled in disgust and horror. No? That’s because need a masters in Obscure Harvard History to understand what these fanatics are complaining about:

From the Harvard Crimson:

A new student movement at Harvard Law School is organizing to change the seal at the school, which the students argue represents and endorses a slaveholding legacy. The seal is the coat of arms of the family of Isaac Royall Jr., a slaveholder who endowed the first professorship of law at Harvard.

They have launched a Facebook page and are now in the process of further organizing. They are drafting a letter to send to the Dean of the Law School Martha L. Minow with their positions, according to Mawuse H. Vormawor, a Law School student and organizer of the effort. Students involved in the effort argued that imagery from a slaveholding era has no place at today’s Harvard Law School.

“These symbols set the tone for the rest of the school and the fact that we hold up the Harvard crest as something to be proud of when it represents something so ugly is a profound disappointment and should be a source of shame for the whole school,” said Alexander J. Clayborne, one of the Law students involved.

Vormawor pointed to the research and scholarship of visiting Law School professor Daniel R. Coquillette, who recently published a book about the first century of Harvard Law School, as inspiration for the movement. In the book, Coquillette details the relationship between the Royall family’s slaveholding and the endowment of the Law School.

Thus proceeds the process of airbrushing history, withdrawing credit that has been justly  earned, and judging past figures  by the standards of today. This is a particularly silly example, as the design of the seal is likely to be meaningless to 99% of Harvard law students, not to mention 99.99999% of everyone else. Continue reading

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Down That Slippery Slope They Told Me Didn’t Exist: Connecticut Democrats Drop Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson From The Name Of Their Annual Dinner

Jefferson Jackson Dinner

In the recent post, Stop Your Cultural Bulldozing, America: Disney World Taking Down Bill Cosby’s Bust Is Like Removing The Jefferson Memorial, I described the danger of removing well-earned cultural honors and memorials for individuals who later are found to have engaged in less than admirable conduct by current standards. I wrote in part…

“Sure, it’s uncomfortable having a bust of an unapologetic sexual predator in a Disney World attraction, and it might prompt some uncomfortable question from the kiddies. Well, good. It’s never too soon to learn that human beings are flawed, complex creatures, and that even the most brilliant and talented have dark sides, do terrible things,  and can be cruel, selfish, dishonest and even criminal. We honor Thomas Jefferson for his crucial role in giving this nation life, and defining its mission and values for the ages. We’re not honoring his hypocrisy, his cowardice, his own rapes,  or his slaveholding….

“First they came for Cosby, and we did not speak out…”

There is no stop to this slippery slope, and the political correctness mob will never stop.”

Some people I respect a great deal really went after me for that pronouncement, particularly on Facebook. “Hyperbole!” “Scaremongering!” “Just because a theme park doesn’t want to sport the bust of a rapist and stunning hypocrite in a TV Hall Of Fame doesn’t mean that there is any danger of politically correct zealots toppling the statue of Tom from his memorial!” “There is no such slippery slope,” I was scolded.

News Item: Continue reading

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