The New Jersey Star-Ledger’s Paul Mulshine took on the “national effort by the left to cleanse history of historical figures with checkered pasts.” In The alt-left's attack on history: And they think Trump's crazy?, Mulshine notes that “New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio [sic] has called for a review of the historic relevance of public monuments in the city.” Among them are monuments to Ulysses S. Grant and Christopher Columbus.
Like a lot of conservatives, [[U.S. Senate candidate Jeff] Bell argues that the effort to remove historical artifacts has its roots in the Stalin methodology that George Orwell highlighted in "1984."
"Orwell satirized the idea of a 'memory hole' and now the left is starting to have a memory hole for anything they don't believe in," he said. "They don't want Americans to be proud of their country. They want to change the story into a triumph of evil."
True enough. But Mulshine goes on to include Confederate monuments in the category of historic American artifacts that deserve to be preserved. That’s where we differ.
First of all, there is no “alt-Left”. The Left has always been anti-American, at least since the rise of the New Left half a century ago. It stands to reason that they’d want to remove true American heroes, and morally equate a Washington with a Lee. Under cover of the white nationalist, alt-Right controversy, the New Left is making a direct assault on reason, individual rights, limited rights-protecting government, and free market capitalism.
Having said that, count me among those who would remove statues that hold up Confederate leaders among America’s heros. They are no such thing. True, history is messy. Most historical figures were mixed bags, morally. Plus, context is everything. We should be very careful about where we draw the moral lines. It should not be taken lightly. Many factors must be balanced. But we can and should draw moral lines.
People like George Washington, despite being a slave owner, fought for and help Found a country based on the principles of political equality that rips the “justifications” for slavery to shreds. It is they who gave the philosophic firepower to the Abolitionist Movement led by people like former slave Frederick Douglass. Christopher Columbus’s courageous explorations and discovery of the New World, extending Western Civilization with its science and progress to a primitive land, ultimately setting in motion the chain of events that resulted in Founding of the United States of America.
Confederate “heroes” fought to create and protect a reactionary breakaway nation that explicitly rejected the proposition that all men are equal in unalienable rights. The Confederacy had to reject those principles and turn its back on America: slavery could not indefinitely coexist with the Declaration of Independence, America’s philosophic blueprint. One or the other had to go, and they knew it. The Confederates dumped the Declaration of Independence.
You don’t have to excuse their ownership of slaves to recognize the great achievements of a Washington or a Jefferson. America inherited slavery, and thanks to visionary leaders like Washington and Jefferson, America became part of the solution. They were on the right side of the struggle for a fully free country for all people, and on balance we have a much better country and world for their heroic efforts. The Confederacy was part of the problem. It was willing to reject America’s Founding principles and tear the United States apart to protect a racist slave dictatorship.
We should always remember history in its full context. But that principle does not forbid moral evaluations or require moral agnosticism. The Confederacy is part of history—but not part of American history. The same applies to the New Left. Both promote slavery—in the case of the Confederacy, racist slavery; for the New Left, Marxist egalitarian slavery. Both represent the rejection of Americanism.
The Enemies of Christopher Columbus — Thomas A. Bowden