NO, the Monument Stuff Won't Go Away

In a remarkably candid commentary in Glamour (August 12, 2018), feminist Samantha Willis applauds the efforts to pull down monuments and plaques honoring those whom she and her allies consider flawed historical figures. Even after these social warriors get rid of all those Confederate monuments that the Daughters of the Confederacy inconveniently erected (there used to be at least 400 of them), they will then have to go on to other wrecking tasks. Ms. Willis ends her article with this revealing paragraph:

Debates about historically and socially significant symbols will likely keep rolling through the country. Whether the monuments and flags stay up or come down, whether we rename roads and schools to reflect standards of our time instead of the past, it’s clear that women enrich this national dialogue. By sharing their diverse perspectives gleaned from a range of identities and life experiences, women play a critical role in contextualizing the ideals and people in American history that we choose to memorialize—and those that we won’t.

Among those civic leaders the author praises for taking the initiative in removing unseemly sights is San Jose civic leader Sylvia Arenas, who successfully campaigned to remove a statue of Columbus that had been in front of city hall. Another praiseworthy progressive is Mark Viverito, a councilman for New York City’s Eighth District, who succeeded in removing the statue of a James M. Sims, a nineteenth-century medical researcher who had used slaves in surgical procedures.* But Ms. Willis is less concerned about judging the dead by her state-of-the-art PC standards than she is about the goal. She wishes to reconstruct historical memory on the basis of what she considers to be “diverse perspectives gleaned from a range of identities.” In term of whom we are allowed to honor, this means that “all problematic men must go.” Confederate warriors, Italian explorers, and perhaps ordinary white Christian males need not apply for her diversity mosaic. Encounters: My Life wi... Paul Gottfried Best Price: $5.16 Buy New $12.01 (as of 05:30 EDT - Details)

Allow me to observe that those who think like Willis, Arenas and Viverito are not driven by modest ambitions. And American conservatives who believe they can buy off such adversaries by giving in to their latest demand are deluding themselves. First of all, what these people mean by “diversity” does not include all ethnic groups and not all genders (assuming there are more than two) equally. A few weeks ago my young friend Darren Beatty lost a job as a speech writer for the president because he was spotted sitting next to a fiery critic of immigration Peter Brimelow on the same panel. CNN and Washington Post then did an encore by going after Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow who was also observed talking to Brimelow in Kudlow’s home. (In these characterizations, Brimelow went from being a sometimes intemperate opponent of immigration to a “white nationalist.”) Such associations are deadly to one’s reputation, unlike having the media show Bill Clinton or Barack Obama happily chatting with Louis Farrakhan.

This is the same Farrakhan who is a racist, Holocaust-denier and stridently anti-Semitic. Why are the same standards of perfect liberal purity not demanded of friends of Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton that have been inflicted on those who were seen around Brimelow? If someone truly opposes all racism equally, he or she would be far more concerned about Farrakhan and his pals than about Beatty or Kudlow being viewed in close proximity to an anti-immigration journalist. But members of conservatism, inc. don’t insist on these standards. They’re usually too busy ducking the Left’s blows. They mostly meekly go along with the Left’s judgment of who is a racist on the Right, while responding only in passing to high-placed leftist politicians chumming around with black racists. One could only imagine the media outcry if David Duke rather than Louis Farrakhan was seen standing next to a politician, providing it was a Republican one.

This fear of being shamed by the Left is even more obvious in way established conservatives respond to the war against historical figures whom we used to admire.  It’s hard not to notice those establishment conservative journalists who are loudly denouncing Confederate memorial statues erected in the 1890s as monuments to white racism, who call for removing Confederate Battle Flags from public view as an “anti-American” symbol, or who publicly denounce Robert E. Lee as a traitor to the Union. Some of those who claim to be on the Right may actually believe these positions. But I suspect that others are hoping that the need to virtue-signal will go away if they march to the Left’s drumbeat one more time. As Ms. Willis shows to her credit, leftist organizers and activists pursue an incremental strategy in taking over our culture and politics. And they know full well that the respectable opposition will cave on most cultural issues. Revisions and Dissents... Paul E. Gottfried Best Price: $19.18 Buy New $22.40 (as of 09:10 EDT - Details)

It is not being claimed that every act of vandalism against monuments that social warriors carry out is intended to advance an explicit goal. Adolescents may think that it’s just fun to deface Confederate monuments or vandalize Jefferson’s statue at the University of Virginia by decorating it with the epithets “racist” and “rapist.”  But there is nonetheless a very clear agenda that the Left is following in its efforts to capture historical memory in the context of controlling our culture. Unlike a conservative establishment that wishes to avoid being embarrassed, the Left knows how to impose its will.

  • Although the father of modern gynecology, James Marion Simms did in fact perform surgery for vesico-vaginal fistula on slave women, an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics points out that he performed the same operation (with less success) on white women. Simms also found a surgical cure for the condition that has benefited women of every race. The descriptions of his primitive surgical procedures had nothing to do with racial oppression. Surgery was simply quite primitive in the 1840s. Fortunately our medical techniques have advanced since then.