08 July 2014

Did Washington & Lee Cave To Political Correctness?

Some will say yes, others will say this is a reasonable  response:
. . . we will remove these reproductions from their current location and will enter into an agreement with the American Civil War Museum, in Richmond, to receive on loan one or more of the original flags, now restored, for display on a rotating basis in the Lee Chapel Museum . . .
I find the response disappointing, but not surprising; although I must scratch my head over a handful of students forcing a university to remove the flags from what is arguably a historical context and proper setting. Prediction: The issue will not end here. I think I already know what the next target will likely be. Like the compromise over the Confederate flag above the South Carolina state house, this will not be enough in the minds of many. 

But along those lines, don't those who find the flags offensive find the *Recumbent Lee even more so, given Lee's obvious connection to the "offending" flags? After all, the Recumbent Lee shows Lee in a Confederate uniform. I see a glaring inconsistency here, which is why I don't think this is over.  


Update: While I disagree with the decision to remove the flags, I commend W & L President Ruscio for this part of his announcement:
In five years as president of Washington College (and in three as superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy), Robert E. Lee displayed his estimable skill as an innovative and inspiring educator. I personally take pride in his significant accomplishments here and will not apologize for the crucial role he played in shaping this institution. Affection for and criticism of historical figures living in complicated times are not mutually exclusive positions, however, as the scholar Joseph Ellis concluded after his study of Thomas Jefferson. Ellis found it difficult to "steer an honorable course between evisceration and idolatry" when it came to Jefferson. As I have listened to and read comments about Lee these past few months, I have felt the same way. Lee was an imperfect individual living in imperfect times. Lee deserves, and his record can withstand, an honest appraisal by those who understand the complexities of history. His considerable contributions to this institution are part of that record.

Given today's political climate, along with the fact that some of the more vocal critics of Lee and others from our Nation's past DO NOT, "understand the complexities of history", that statement took some courage. 

Update #2:  Some Boston bloggers are deflecting some of the criticisms about this issue by trumpeting the fact that W & L will be displaying the original flags in the museum below Lee Chapel.  So? That could have been done without removing the other flags. Nice try. Note how these folks believe THEY are the ones to determine what is the "proper" way to exhibit these flags. Rather elitist, wouldn't you say?

*I don't believe the next target will be the Recumbent Lee, but for fear of giving someone some ideas, I'd rather not mention it - just in case I'm wrong.

18 comments:

13thBama said...

Meanwhile, John Brown is being made into a hero. Been to Harpers Ferry lately?

Anonymous said...

In an online article dated June 12, 2011, by Jack Stripling, he makes a good point about strateies for dealing with controversy, which I have noticed to be true:

... has brought to the fore discussions that have often been taboo, says Dwight C. Jones, mayor of Richmond...

"Richmond is a very polite place," he says. "And sometimes we leave our bones buried."

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

13B - No, I've not been lately. Progressives don't live by their own rules. There's a statue of Sherman close to the White House with no "interpretive plaque." Yes, the man who expressed a desire to exterminate the American Indian. Could the American Indian make the same argument about the American flag on a college campus?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Not sure I get your point Anon. But thanks for reading.

Jubilo said...

Dear Old Dom.,
The President, who must have been under extreme pressure, provided a reasonable solution. Not quite the inmates running the institution. Still vigilance and proactivity are what is needed for future battles.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Jub - I disagree. Why should a university of thousands bow to a small group making "demands?" Lee Chapel is not just about W&L - in many ways, it belongs to the public at large (at least in spirit and practice). Suppose another group organizes and "demands" the flags stay? Why should the demands of this small group be dominant? It's absurd. The flags have been there, more or less, for over 80 years. The school is names for the man who led the South in its fight to secede. The statue depicts Lee in a Confederate uniform. At the very least, the argument to remove the flags is illogical and based on political correctness and emotion, in my view.

And, as I have already stated, this will not be the end of the complaints. It may settle for a while (though I have my doubts), but it will resurface. Successful protests like this beget more protests.

Richard Hoover said...

My wife just made the point that there is no such scouring of history, say, at Oxford or Cambridge-- it's all there, recorded in paint, canvas and stone.
Rather, President Ruscio is capitulating to the well-worn device, that everything must be "welcoming." With that as the guide, I fear that, one day, our history will be obliterated to the point that few will know where they, the University and our country ever came from! Can one imagine what more must take place before the black students who started all this feel "welcome" at Washington and Lee?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Richard:

Despite the fact others poo-poo the fact that this is a "slippery slope", it most certainly is. They're just in CYA denial. Quite frankly, I have no idea what the actual racial component/mix of the offended group is. I'm sure there are also white students who would voice the same opinion on the flags. Why didn't they put the issue to a vote among students and alumni? Why should a small group be allowed to force the issue upon everyone else?

President Ruscio's defense of Lee and his reference to "the complexities of history" applies to Lee Chapel and the flags as well.

And, in addition to those denying this is a slippery slope, they are also denying this is political correctness. It most certainly is. And, again, to be consistent, the Recumbent Lee would have to be seen as just as offensive. Lee is the iconic Confederate figure and he's depicted in a Confederate uniform for Heaven's sake.

No, I don't think the statue will be the next target, but rest assured there is a "next target" - whether its this group or another. Mark my words.

Thanks for the comment.

Chaps said...

If the university wants to take down flags associated with racism, they may have overlooked one:

http://ts1.mm.bing.net/th?&id=HN.608053818970017627&w=354&h=300&c=0&pid=1.9&rs=0&p=0

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Any symbol can be misused, as you demonstrate here. The CBF has been misused, the Amer. flag has been misused, the Christian Cross, etc, etc, etc. The flags in the Chapel were NOT being misused. This is simply another PC assault, despite what the flat-earthers say.

BorderRuffian said...

Mr. Ruscio may not have the final say on the flags.
The UDC (by contract) are custodians of Lee Chapel.
Have been for nearly 100 years.
And probably invested a lot of time and money.
Let's see what they have to say.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

BR - not sure about that. We'll have to wait and see how the UDC reacts. My feeling is that W&L has final say so. The whole issue is emotion and agenda-based. It is NOT based on logic nor historical accuracy. All the comments about the flags being "replicas" are irrelevant. They were still germane to the Chapel and in a historical setting and have been in place for over 80 years. Even those opposed to public display of the CBF in the past have now abandoned that position for this newer, more radical approach. Such is the world of the progressive historian.

Chaps said...

That was my point: all flags can be misused. If I remember correctly, in the 50's, the SCV tried to prevent the KKK from using the CBF, arguing that they (SCV) were rightful owners of the flag. Courts ruled that the flag was in the public domain and that anyone or group could use it.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yes, the same courts that now uphold its ban. Works well, doesn't it?

Dick Stanley said...

Progressives definitely don't live by their own rules. The ones in Mass. are protesting, at the moment, federal flights of Texas border illegals into the Boston area. Easy to be for open borders as long as you don't live near one.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yes, I hear Martha's Vineyard is nice. ;-)

ropelight said...

The flags added color, texture, and significance to the chapel, their presence made it unique, there was nothing else like it anywhere. It's Robert E Lee's burial site, the flags were a fitting part of it and they belonged on display there every bit as much as Lee's sarcophagus.

Removing the flags isn't necessarily desecrating Lee's grave, but it is disrespecting his resting place by robbing his memory of essential elements that symbolized his contribution to Virginia's and our nation's great conflict.

It's a shame W&L's current leaders lack the courage to stand up against ignorance and bigotry. They missed a special opportunity to instruct a new generation of students in the lessons of mutual respect and cooperation Lee embodied during his post war years at W&L, lessons a better leader taught previous generations.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"They missed a special opportunity to instruct a new generation of students in the lessons of mutual respect and cooperation Lee embodied during his post war years at W&L"

They sure did. Again, its all about presentism and a modern political agenda. It's absolutely disgraceful.