13 January 2016

Some Thoughts on Removing Monuments

Pulling down the statue of George III by the "Sons of Freedom," at the Bowling Green, City of New York, July 1776 ~ painted by Johannes A. Oertel; engraved by John C. McRae.

From certain quadrants of historical interpretation (particularly in the Civil War blogosphere), we are now seeing an increase in the defense of removing monuments from the American landscape - whether those be Confederate monuments, or those which date to the Founding. When this extremist/radical notion first started to get traction, I was hopeful that most of these same folks would realize the slippery slope this is and at least make an attempt to put the brakes on the Social Justice Warrior route.

But some of the professional historian class are now, at the very least, softening any opposition they once had, succumbing to the arguments of presentism and couching that retreat in wordy, distracting defenses that involve little more than circular reasoning and psycho-babble. I've come to the conclusion these folks simply have too much invested in the SJW Revolution and must remain in the good graces of the warriors less they, too, become a target - CYA mode, if you please.

One of the growing arguments in favor of removing not only Confederate monuments, but Revolutionary era ones as well, suggests that since other countries have toppled monuments (i.e., Stalin, Saddam Hussein, etc.), then the current movement is simply an organic progression as history marches on. The moral reformer historians will also point to King George, III and the toppling of his statue in 1776 as an argument in favor of cleansing American history from our landscape.

All of these examples are poorly constructed, shallow arguments which, if one examines them closely, aren't intellectually defensible. But if you're into virtue signalling, they work rather well.

As I was already thinking along these lines after reading some recent posts on other CW blogs, I came across this observation by commentator Jarret Stepman this morning:
the war on Confederate monuments is part of the most recent effort by national activist groups to strip elements of American history deemed offensive and not in line with their current, ever-evolving political agenda. They wish to do more than create a new political order, and insist that the only way for the U.S. to move forward is by entirely erasing the past.

The anti-Confederate monument activists are not just setting their sights on the Confederacy, but American history as a whole—deep down they make little distinction between the Confederate founders and the Founding Fathers of the United States. There are plenty of reasons for critics–both contemporary and modern–to attack the Confederacy, especially the ideas that were at its cornerstone. Yet neither the ideas nor the personal character of the monuments’ likenesses are particularly relevant in this crusade. All that matters is that they are currently politically incorrect.
And then, the money quote:
The current efforts to fundamentally transform history are fueled by people who believe America has been rotten since day one and want nothing less than total political and cultural revolution.
These observations match up perfectly with many of Professor Gordon S. Wood's criticisms regarding academic historians and modern historiography. (See here, here and here.)

To see all of Stepman's well-written piece titled, Bulldozing Monuments and the War on American History, where he makes important distinctions between previous "statue-toppling" and what's going on now, click here.

1 comment:

Fred said...

The political movement to eradicate history is an effort to assume control of the "collective memory" as described by Dr. Helms in her work for the National Institute for Strategic Studies in the paper titled
"ARABISM AND ISLAM: STATELESS NATIONS AND NATIONLESS STATES" Here is a quite accurate portion that describes just what is occurring now: "Collective memory is the toolshed, tomorrow's ideological arsenal, from which political concepts and sym- bols are selected, reinterpreted, and manipulated both by established governments and opposition groups. It may wait for decades, patiently dormant, only to be reactivated suddenly as an explosive, contagious force."