The statue-toppling mania as a part of the Left’s cultural revolution and determination to remake history in its own image—a form of thought-control–hasn’t abated; it’s just been eclipsed in the news cycle. For the record, 28 cities have removed close to a hundred statues of Confederate figures alone. Meanwhile, the statue topplers, flushed with victory, are raiding their sights to include Founders like Washington, Jefferson and Madison, politically-incorrect Presidents like Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt, and others. You can read, if you have lots of time, most of the Ethics Alarms posts on this topic here and here.
It isn’t just statues, of course. It is honors of every kind: university dining halls and dorms, Democratic party annual dinners, and much more. The Boston Red Sox have petitioned the city to retract the honor of a having a street by Fenway Park named after the man who made the team the regional institution is is today, and who was primarily responsible for the team remaining in Boston.
The latest mutation of the culturally-rotting virus has Native Americans demanding that memorials and honors to any figure whose legacy offends them must be eliminated. Five years after President William McKinley was assassinated, George Zehnder presented the Northern California city of Arcata with an 8.5-foot-tall statue honoring him. Arcata home to Humboldt State University, placed it in the city’s main square.
McKinley was no Confederate: he was a Union war hero at the Battle of Antietam. He was also a popular and effective President. He was elected in 1896 while the nation was in a serious depression, and was successful enough in getting the economy back on its feet that he was re-elected in 1900, the first Republican to get a second term since Grant. He, not Teddy Roosevelt, led the U.S. into international significance, winning the Spanish-American War, and acquiring Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. He also gave his life for national service, as have all our Presidents who died in office. Ah, but President McKinley also oversaw federal policies that continued the decline of Native American tribes in the U.S., and reservation lands were reduced by as much as 90 million acres. during his administration. Now the Tribal Council of the Wiyot Tribe in Northern California senses a chance at revenge. It is demanding that the statue of McKinley be removed.
Almost four years ago, before the din of falling statues became a faint hum, like locusts, across the land, I wrote about a controversy in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where a fountain at the center of Chevy Chase Circle honored Francis Griffith Newlands, a U.S. Senator who also founded the Chevy Chase Land Co., which in turn created neighborhoods on the Washington and Maryland sides of the circle. Senator Newlands also was a racist, and a proactive one. He was a white supremacist who even attempted to have the 15th Amendment, which granted voting rights to African American men, repealed.
To assist in the analysis of when and whether any honor to a historical figure should be withdrawn, I offered a series of seven guiding principles: Continue reading
Chevy Chase Circle is the official border separating the District of Columbia and Chevy Chase, Maryland. The inscription on the fountain at the center of Chevy Chase Circle honors Francis Griffith Newlands, saying, “His statesmanship held true regard for the interests of all men.” He was a three-term senator from Nevada, serving from 1903 until his death in 1917, but more important to this controversy, founded the Chevy Chase Land Co., which created neighborhoods on the Washington and Maryland sides of the circle. Yes, the founder of Chevy Chase is honored with a fountain in Chevy Chase Circle. What could possibly be wrong with that?
The problem is that Senator Newlands was a racist, and a proactive one. He was a white supremacist who described blacks as “a race of children” too intellectually handicapped for democracy. In 1912, he attempted to have the 15th Amendment, which granted voting rights to African American men, repealed. Not surprisingly, his vision of Chevy Chase did not include black residents, or Jewish ones for that matter.
The Advisory Neighborhood Commission that represents the D.C. section of Chevy Chase wants to remove Newlands’ name from the fountain, and has introduced a resolution calling on the D.C. Historic Preservation Office to rename the landmark “Chevy Chase Fountain.” The reason is his advocacy of anti-black policies.
This is a classic ethics conflict, a problem in which valid ethics principles oppose each other. There are so many conflicting ethical principles and objectives at work here: Continue reading
It has been a rotten week in every way. My good friend and mentor, legal ethics expert/ attorney/ professor/performer David Austern died, leaving me with memories of how much he meant to my life, and how inadequately I thanked him. My son has been off on his first extended road trip without us, giving his mother and I a preview of how much we will miss him as he prepares to leave the nest. And, of course, I simultaneously watched our government fulfill my most pessimistic predictions as it appeared to fairly shamelessly embrace lies and abuse of power as legitimate tools of governance, and lost respect for many, many people I had once thought better of for not only excusing the inexcusable, but embracing a looming threat to democracy.
Depressing, discouraging, frightening, and rotten through and through.
I need a break.
I need hope.
Thank you, Miss Jo, whoever you are. Continue reading
All over America, there are people who are doing wonderful, generous, kind and important things, not for recognition or personal profit, but because something needs to be done to set things right, and nobody else will do it. The only way most of us learn about these ethics heroes is if some enterprising reporter discovers their stories, and brings them to the public’s attention. For every one we hear about, there are probably dozens that remain in obscurity.
One of those Ethics Heroes I have just learned about is Dr. Jeremy Krock, an anesthesiologist by trade, who began the Negro Leagues Grave Marker Project seven years ago. His self-appointed mission is to find the neglected burial places of players from the old Negro baseball leagues, and give them each a grave marker that identifies them and their place in baseball history. Continue reading
Organizations have histories, and that means they have debts to pay. Time moves on, and personnel changes, but the organization that neglects the human beings who played major roles in defining their image, goals, achievements and success has breached its integrity, and violated its Legacy Obligation.
For nearly eight seasons, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra was the face, heart, and soul of the Boston Red Sox. A spidery gymnast in the field who completed the Holy Trinity of Hall of Fame-bound shortstops—Jeter, A-Rod and “Nomah” —who lit up the American League in the mid-Nineties, Garciaparra was a home-grown fan idol. He did everything wonderfully and with panache; Ted Williams, the city’s reigning baseball god, pronounced him his official successor.
Then, suddenly, it all unraveled. Continue reading
The film montage of significant Hollywood figures who have died since the last Oscars broadcast is always an emotional and evocative feature of the Academy Awards, as well as a time to bid a final farewell to various faces that became affectionately remembered parts of our past. Except for fanatic film buffs, there is always the occasional “who the heck is that?” moment, as a the image of a”famous” make-up artist or key grip passes by. But they were all important, in their own ways, and deserve their final salute.
Farrah Fawcett, who died of cancer last year, deserved her final salute too. Yet she was missing. Continue reading