Have we gone too far?
As national protests, rioting, and looting in response to the murder of George Floyd naturally burn themselves out, in the embers has emerged the next evolution of a cultural revolution, taking the form of destroying and tearing down statues of numerous historical figures, ranging from the usual suspects of Confederate generals to, strangely enough, Christopher Columbus. Movements to remove statues commemorating Confederate generals and leaders have been pushed for decades but this long bubbling threat extends beyond Nascar banning Confederate flags or the erasing of the ultimate sin of America from our history. Since plenty of valid arguments for the removal of Confederate memorials exist, tearing down statues of Confederate figures can be, at least, somewhat justified, though the act should be conducted democratically rather than revolutionarily.
If the vandalism and tearing down ended at the enduring symbols of slavery and a long-dead nation built on its preservation, the ends would be consistent with the means, since the ends revolve around justice for Floyd and a grander battle against police brutality. Instead, some of the victims of these protesters highlight not the pursuit of justice but, more devastatingly, an outright declaration of war on Western civilization. Statues of Columbus, a common rival for the Left and the undeniable catalyst for the birth of the West, soon succumbed to the mob in cities like Miami, Boston, Houston, and Minneapolis, among many others, despite having nothing to do with police brutality or greater accusations of systemic racism in America. If the protests intend to combat racism within the police system or broader swaths of oppression, then graffiti communist party symbols on statues of Columbus hint at something for more sinister and revolutionary than the initially noble objective of stamping out racism.
Going right at the symbols of America itself, CNN analyst Angela Rye has gone so far as to suggest all statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to be torn down, explaining “American history is not all glorious… George Washington was a slave owner. We need to call slave owners out for what they are. Whether we think they were protecting American freedom or not, he wasn’t protecting my freedoms – my ancestors weren’t deemed human beings to him.” Tearing down a statue of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, or Stonewall Jackson can be defended but where do our founding fathers, those who conjured a principle of governance that even Frederick Douglass described as “entirely hostile to the existence of slavery”, enter the accusations of modern systemic racism in America?
Though somewhat meager in their attempts, America lays witness to a burgeoning cultural revolution against itself and larger Western civilization, fueled by a combination of poor historical recollections and a decontextualization of historical figures. Destroying statues is a common revolution tactic, being employed by the Chinese Communist Party during their own cultural revolution. As a physical representation of the tearing down of America and rewriting of history, the protesters have struck some of the most essential figures in American history. Keeping accusations of systemic racism vague then justifies and almost demands revolution to end the nebulous miasma of modern racism, if followed to the premise’s of “America is foundationally racist” logical conclusion.
We can see this revolution currently unfurling in Seattle, where anarchist protesters have taken over six city blocks and seceded from the United States. Known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ, the “aggressively socialist society”, according to the self-appointed Minister of Education and Agriculture Jack Golf, issued a list of insane demands to Seattle lawmakers, including the abolishment of the Police Department and the criminal justice system, dismantling of the prison system, and banning of armed force. Their pursuit to outright abolish justice would result in obscene chaos and would relegate America to the abyss of being a third world country, bringing the turmoil of CHAZ, a rudderless mob probably overtaken by warlords and a d-list rapper, as the national status quo.
Taking out the context of History
For the more poignant cultural revolution at hand, radical progressivism, a mounting ideological reconstruction of America birthed in the 1960s, exists in direct opposition to American values of liberty and self-governance by definition. By celebrating the role of technocratic elites, progressivism adheres to the belief a socially and economically dominant government can attain Great Society. Of course, this cuts directly against the basis of consent that the Constitution laid out for the rule of government, as no longer would the people own self-rule. So, if progressivism is to be achieved, America must die. Western Civilization must be disintegrated. And it begins with the imagery of tearing down the statues of its symbols.
If the protesters only targetted Confederate statues, then they would have not abandoned the supposed intent of their protests. But now they have moved into a blind rage against all historical markers of America. Vandalizing the 54th Massachusetts Monument, an abolition aligned monument to the African-American troops on the northern side of the civil war, or defacing a statue of abolitionist Matthias Baldwin shows their senseless crusade against American history and their attempts to slaughter the West as we know it.
Civically, tearing down statues exposes an ugly trend in America. We have lost the ability to read history. Hindered by our ideological vices, we cannot take history contextually. Practically, the protesters clearly don’t understand our history after vandalizing statues of figures that line up with their cause. But, on a deeper level, we no longer can make the separation between man and their inescapable flaws from their contribution to man. Take Columbus, the supposedly genocidal maniac who brought forth a plague of terror upon the native people, as an example. Some states have even begun replacing Columbus day with indigenous people day in efforts to rid him of history.
But the real story of Columbus represents a far more honorable man. Coming from low social status and illiteracy, Columbus revitalized a dying Europe by discovering the New World. The greatest navigator of his time, he spent a decade attempting to convince the Portuguese and the Spanish crown to fund his ambitious journey. He fulfilled Roman philosopher Seneca’s prophecy that a New World was to be found across the ocean. On his day, we celebrate his unparalleled contribution to the founding of Western civilization. Though constantly under barrage for selling young girls for slavery or murdering the native people, he admitted in a letter to a friend of the Spanish crown, Doña Juana de Torres, “I assert that the violence of the calumny of turbulent persons have injured me more than my services have profited me.”
In truth, almost all of the brutality brought upon the natives was by a combination of his crew and the Spaniards that came after him on top of the disease brought from Europe. Columbus even adopted the son of a native leader that he had befriended and raised the boy as his own. Unfortunately, all of this has been largely forgotten due to documents discovered in 2006 that supposedly revealed him as a monster, however, the media coverage at the time omitted the fact the documents were written by Francisco Bobadilla, Columbus’s chief political rival who usurped him as governor of the West Indies. Even Bartolome de las Casas, the first resident bishop of the Americas and the most vehement defender of the native islanders, admired Columbus to the very end.
However, none of this excuses or intends to excuse the injustices of his life or paint him as guiltless in the Spanish’s mistreatment of the natives, rather argue to keep history in context and establish a rich understanding of all sides before casting judgment. Powerful imagery resides in tearing down statues and since statues represent the commemoration of contribution, bringing down a statue of a man whose contribution to Western civilization cannot be matched signifies the desire to tear down Western civilization itself. And, because no longer can we suspend inescapable human flaws and inconsistencies in our judgment of contributions, Columbus’s statues must come down.
Similarly, Rye, among nearly all of the Left, possesses a critically deficient understanding of the Framer’s handling of slavery. Begrudging preservation does not indicate roaring endorsement. Slavery only remained as a bargaining chip towards the South, who would have refused to join the union without the preservation of slavery, otherwise reducing the choices from slavery versus no slavery to slavery versus no union.
The Framers’ fight against slavery may not have come Constitutionally but, through the principles held within the founding documents, they hoped the nation would one day rid itself of the grave evil and still built state-level abolitionist movements. John Jay and Benjamin Franklin helmed abolitionist movements within Northern states, eventually achieving victory. George Washington freed his slaves immediately after his death. John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, all didn’t own slaves themselves.
Jefferson even condemned slavery in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, lambasting King George III by stating, “He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.”
Yet the presence of slavery alone still dismisses the tremendous contributions to the human condition and the pragmatic establishment of philosophical human rights, a notion born of centuries of thought, within a good and just civilization by Framers like Washington and Jefferson and reduces mementos to such contribution as esteem for their injustices, unable to isolate their enrichments to humanity from their own broken human nature.
We often forget tearing down statues doesn’t amend history, it merely reduces complex historical figures into nieve black and white definitions of good and bad. The asterisks that come with history is something we must face head-on, not bury by shamefully removing the statue. We must accept the simple fact that history is quite ugly and dirty and evil and odious and humans do terrible things to each other and will always do terrible things to each other. To brush off history, the key history that built America to its modern stature would be disingenuous and futile. While Columbus or the Framers might have done disturbing acts of evil, every event and figure in history will always come with a hideous underbelly, yet we don’t toss out all of history because we may not like all of it.
Similar to casting off the great American history because of the appalling scar of slavery, the abhorrences of Columbus or of the dozens of humans, the inconsistent and the flawed humans undeserving of hero status as nobody does, do not warrant removal from our history by tearing down statues. In some cases, protesters lose track of their perceived intent and tear down statues solely to upend America. That is the threat present in the protesters’ ultimate objectives. And though a very loud, very tiny minority of Americans, their influence must be taken seriously. If a cultural revolution is allowed to build, the death of America awaits us on the other side. Even beyond the cultural revolution, the nation must also be retaught how to read history.