Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Revising History: Coming for George

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The revisionists have finally come for George Washington, the father of our country.

The San Francisco Board of Education is considering removing a mural of Washington from a local public school.

The reason? The Board says, "It traumatizes students."

The Wall Street Journal notes the significant damage to our culture when history is erased---regardless of the motives.

Be informed.

The Wall Street Journal says,
"A San Francisco mural has become the latest high-profile target of self-appointed censors who want to erase both history and art of which they disapprove. 'Life With Washington', a Works Progress Administration [WPA] epic depicting scenes of America's first president across 1600 square feet, has been on display at a local school since 1936. Yet the activists and bureaucrats have decided its time has gone."

The president of San Francisco's Board of Education has himself called the mural "offensive, "dehumanizing" and "insulting."

Although no one has come forward claiming to be traumatized, or dehumanized over the past 83 years, prophetic progressives say it is so.

Why is it so?

"Among the densely packed and vividly rendered scenes, including dignified images of Washington in war and peace", the Journal says, "the mural depicts slaves working in Washington's fields and the president pointing westward past the body of a slain Native American."

The Journal says, "Critics vilify these images...."

It's interesting that this mural was painted by Victor Arnautoff, who was a protege of Diego Rivera and a communist.

He included those images, the WSJ says, not to glorify Washington, but rather to provoke a nuanced evaluation of his legacy.

WSJ explains:
"The scene with the dead Native American, for instance, calls attention to the price of 'Manifest Destiny'. The mural also portrays the slaves with humility and the several live Indians as vigorous and manly."

Washington did own 124 slaves, but in his later years, he realized the error and became an abolitionist for a man of his place and time. He came to believe that blacks were neither biologically inferior to whites nor ordained to servitude.

Interestingly, in his will, Washington freed every slave he owned---he couldn't legally free those his wife's family owned---and provided for them financially, stipulating "that this clause respecting religiously fulfilled...without evasion, neglect or delay"---Knowing full well that his will would become public, it was Washington's way of speaking to the nation.

Jarrett Stepman wrote about this in the Daily Signal for the Heritage Foundation.

He says those who seek to revise or in this case "erase" history don't think or seem to care what they are destroying.

He says:

If the board succeeds in politicizing Washington, whose legacy was once so secured and uniting that his home at Mount Vernon was considered neutral ground during the Civil War, then we have clearly crossed the Rubicon of social division.

This is just the latest example of attempts to purge American history of its historical figures. Not only is this trend wildly misguided—how destroying statues and paintings bring an end to racism and prejudice is never fully explained—but it also cheapens the debate over America’s past by ignoring nuance.

From the beginning, it was clear that this movement had far less to do with genuinely criticizing past historical figures, but instead reflected the need of modern radicals to feel good about themselves and think they are “doing something” to stop oppression, be it real or imaginary.

There's little personal cost to those who destroy our history.

Stepman says:

What’s truly revealing about the empty, surface-level nature of these efforts is how little cost is involved for those doing the erasing.
Criticizing slavery and racism in 2019 can get one tenure, public office, and a six-figure salary as a corporate consultant. So brave.
It’s easy to cover up or take down a painting, not so easy to sacrifice the immense benefits of living in the prosperous constitutional republic that problematic men like Washington created.
As David Marcus wrote for The Federalist, it was easy to get rid of Kate Smith’s “God Bless America” recording at Yankee games due to her singing what are now considered offensive songs in the 1930s—but are Yankee fans willing to abolish the Yankees themselves because of their team’s historical role in segregation?
For that matter, are Harvard University administrators and professors willing to give up their jobs at an institution founded in part by a man who owned slaves because its origin was problematic?
Not likely.
It’s far more satisfying to take the less costly step of tearing down a painting or a statue. And it’s much easier to avoid the complicated fact that so many of these supposedly ignorant and prejudiced people built the very institutions they enjoy today.
In their simplistic thinking, surely those who founded a free republic based on consent, and truly “broke the wheel” of tyranny that had been the norm for virtually all of human history, couldn’t be great if slavery was still a part of their heritage.
But to follow this logic forward, we can’t stop with the Founders.
The over half-million Americans who lost their lives and countless others who risked them to end slavery, the “original sin” of this country, also weren’t so great, you see.
Their skin was generally too fair, their motivations insufficiently pure, and most were undoubtedly homophobes who couldn’t have conceived of modern concepts like gay marriage or a man literally becoming a woman.

He says the history erasers believe greatness belongs to those who are "woke" [informed] whose hashtag campaigns raise awareness about offensive art and ensure that society conforms to their ever-evolving whims.

But the truth is, those who wage war on America's history are tacitly acknowledging the benefits of living in America, a free country that allows them to pursue their radical activism, even though it is antithetical to the founding ideals that enable free speech.

These movements are forcing politics to infect every corner of our existence, and that weakens this country. It makes us more hateful toward one another and trains us in the un-American notion that to win arguments, we must quash, liquidate, and erase from all memory those we disagree with.
The Washington mural may come down in San Francisco, but the real damage is not being done to the art. It’s being done to the legacy of Washington, to ourselves.
The past is an easy target for iconoclast bullies, but if Americans don’t want them to keep winning, they will have to begin standing up and speaking out against them.
If not, the destruction of our statues and artwork will merely be symbolic of the destruction done to our country at large.

The progressives understand that, and it's why they work tirelessly to erase the past so the public will be misled in the future.

President Teddy Roosevelt said,
"I believe that the more you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future."

That's the point.

Be Informed. Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Prayerful.