I am thoroughly convinced that this country has lost its collective mind.
Ostensibly sane people are now arguing about whether it’s “appropriate” to remove monuments to a truly sordid institution that made it acceptable to own another human being.
To be sure, this is partly Donald Trump’s fault. Consider this from the Wall Street Journal:
Standing at the center of this tumult is President Trump, who in a succession of statements and tweets since Saturday has tried to make himself understood on the status of Confederate statues and the people who wish to preserve them. Suffice to say, it hasn’t gone well.
The practical political lesson is that there are good reasons why U.S. Presidents and the people who work for them try to choose their words carefully when commenting on public events. Myriad political forces–some active, some dormant–sit beneath America’s political life, and what a President says can put those forces powerfully, even dangerously, in motion.
Absent Mr. Trump’s comments, it is doubtful that the counter-Confederate movement would have extended to the attempted renaming in Austin of Robert E. Lee Road or that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo would be demanding, as a “stand against intolerance and racism,” that the U.S. Army rename two streets at Fort Hamilton in southwest Brooklyn commemorating Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
All of that is correct. But then, the Journal says this:
We’re glad to have the clarifications on the false equivalence between Confederate generals and the Founding Fathers, but we hope these clarifiers will be around when campus demonstrators or even historians start demanding that the Founders’ legacies be repudiated because they owned slaves.
Let me just be clear, because even liberal media outlets are clinging to this absurd “false equivalence” narrative: there is no “false equivalence” if what we’re talking about is owning slaves.
Either you owned some slaves or you didn’t own some slaves.
This is as black and white as black and white gets (on multiple levels).
You don’t get a free pass for being a slave owner because you helped found a country that went on to be a beacon of democracy.
In fact, if we’re all being brutally honest, being a slave owner and then turning around and penning eloquent manifestos about how you “hold self-evident” the “truth” that “all men are created equal” is the worst kind of hypocrisy imaginable.
Imagine the balls it took to simultaneously own slaves and write those words with a straight face.
So when I read the Journal say things like “we hope these clarifiers will be around when campus demonstrators or even historians start demanding that the Founders’ legacies be repudiated because they owned slaves,” it is difficult for me to contain my incredulity.
The Founders’ legacies should be repudiated because they owned slaves. There’s no question about it.
Let me give you a hypothetical.
Let’s say I buy my own private island next month. Over the course of the next two decades, I transform that island from a backwater in the middle of the ocean into a thriving economic powerhouse with a GDP per capita that exceeds that of Qatar.
I also take in the maximum number of immigrants from war-torn countries that my island economy can feasibly accommodate while still ensuring that everyone is well to-do. In other words: my island government is as benevolent as benevolent gets.
My island is also a democracy and although I’m the executive, there are stringent checks and balances in place to contain my power.
My island has a vibrant free press and as a people, our pretensions to virtue become world famous.
There’s only one “small” problem with my island utopia: my booming economy is based on slave labor.
As it turns out, when I bought the place, I proceeded to enslave the native population who I beat mercilessly on an hourly basis via a gang of cruel task masters armed with bullwhips. They aren’t paid (they’re slaves after all), I use ethnic slurs when I talk to them, I rape the women, and the last time one tried to escape in a row boat, I shot him.
Now, when the rest of the world discovers what’s going on behind the scenes of my island “paradise”, do I get to absolve myself of guilt by pointing to my island’s high-minded ideals, booming economy, thriving democracy, and sky-high GDP per capita?
Of course not. In fact, chances are an international coalition would move in to remove me from power by military force.
Assuming my island country manages to go on existing after I’m tried in the Hague for crimes against humanity and thrown in prison forever, would anyone suggest that it would be a good idea for the government on my island to force the children of the freed slaves to attend schools named after me or walk past giant bronze statues erected in my “honor”?
Again: of course not. That would be patently absurd.
Which is why it’s equally absurd for America to pretend like we have to worship statues of slave owners for all eternity just because they founded the country.
So yeah, lets take down the statues of Thomas Jefferson.
And while we’re at it, let’s remove monuments to anyone else who was complicit in subjecting an entire ethnic group to one of the most abhorrent injustices in the history of the world.