Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, April 13, 2018
The defining characteristic of an American conservative is his naivete. Following the ill-fated Unite the Right demonstration, the push to remove Confederate memorials escalated. Many conservative pundits treated the iconoclasts’ arguments against Confederate memorials in good faith. In the long run, they will learn the real target is not the Confederacy, but all of European-America. Many non-whites don’t to remove just statues of whites, but white people themselves.
“The monuments should go,” declared Rich Lowry of National Review, denouncing Robert E. Lee for having “betrayed the U.S. government” and having fought “on the side devoted to preserving chattel slavery.” Gracy Olmstead at The Federalist said, “these memorials are splitting us further and further apart.” In the Weekly Standard, Berny Belvedere argued that the removal of the memorials was a “good thing” because they were “backward-looking,” unlike the “forward-looking memorials” which “promote our core values and herald American virtues.”
Yet this begs the question of what those “core values” are and who determines them. Last August, President Donald Trump raised the question of whether the Founding Fathers — the wellspring of those “core values” — would be the next target. In response, the New York Times ran an article that said the President was mocked on social mdia for his comments. The Times added that even “historians” were questioning his opinion.
Among these scholars was Annette Gordon-Reed, credited with advancing the dubious theory that Thomas Jefferson slept with his slave Sally Hemings. As quoted by the Times, Prof. Gordon-Reed said there is a “crucial difference” between men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Confederate leaders. The former were “imperfect men who helped create the United States,” she claimed, while the latter “took up arms against it.”
In a similar vein, NPR published a snarky “fact check” declaring Lee fought “against his country” while the Founding Fathers were “participants in a great experiment in self-government, which has expanded over time to embrace more and more people of all races, not to mention women, too.”
Yet few non-white agitators seem to recognize this distinction. Movements to remove statues or busts of Jefferson are now underway at Hofstra University. Even before Unite the Right, Thomas Jefferson’s statue at his alma mater William & Mary was a target for vandalism. Even the University of Virginia, which would not exist without his efforts and which was once known as “Mr. Jefferson’s University,” is now host to a coalition of non-white student groups demanding “required education (either inside or outside the classroom) on white supremacy, colonization, and slavery as they directly relate to Thomas Jefferson.”
George Washington is also under fire. In a recent video, Ami Horowitz found support among students at George Washington University for changing the name of the college. “It’s not to say that he wasn’t an important man back then, it’s just saying that in this day and age it’s not as important I don’t think,” says one young woman. A young black man suggests we must “reupholster the systems that built us” and says Washington’s ownership of slaves is the first thing that comes to mind when he hears the first president’s name.
Writing in Newsweek, Professor Michael Dorf of Cornell University states, “I am not sure that there is any truly persuasive reason for retaining monuments and other honors to the likes of Washington and Jefferson — even accepting the claims that they themselves hoped to see a peaceful end to slavery.” However, he argues the Founding Fathers can be props in a narrative that includes all Americans. No such narrative, he believes, can be constructed using the leaders of the Confederacy.
As an example of an inclusive narrative, Professor Dorf cites the musical Hamilton, which transforms the Founding Fathers (including slaveholders Washington and Jefferson) into non-whites. The struggle of American independence becomes the backdrop for a morality play about the value of immigrants. The musical gratifies the pride of white liberals and conservatives, each of whom view it as a way non-whites can be incorporated into the American story without iconoclasm.
Given Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s vocal support of the pro-independence Puerto Rican terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera, the musical’s cultural appropriation appears to be more of an act of cynicism and subversion than tribute. As Affinity Magazine states, “[I]t is not, and never will be, for white people.” But Mr. Miranda can still happily accept their money.
Professor Dorf wonders “whether at some point in the future we will as a nation come to the conclusion that Washington and Jefferson are too tainted by slavery to merit their continued honors.” The real question is whether “we” will still be a nation at all. Washington and Jefferson will be delegitimized after sufficient demographic change, not because of the shifting values of current Americans.
The fact is, all memorials to European-American leaders, regardless of their relationship with slavery, are already a potential target for removal. In New York City, hundreds of activists are campaigning to take down a statue of Theodore Roosevelt because it is a “stark embodiment of the white supremacy that Roosevelt himself espoused and promoted.” William McKinley, a veteran of the Union army, is now being targeted because he was a proponent of “settler colonialism.” To cite just one more example, a statue to Francis Scott Key, who penned the National Anthem, was recently vandalized in Baltimore.
Conservatives often oppose iconoclasm on the grounds that leftists want to “destroy history.” Yet non-whites and the extremist Left understand history all too well. A statue or a memorial is created to connect contemporaries with a person or event from the past with which they have some relationship. It is the way in which a people expresses itself as a people. An American can disagree with Thomas Jefferson’s views on national banks, William McKinley’s thoughts about tariffs, or Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy towards Great Britain and still identify at an elemental level with these great men. They are part of the historic American nation, the republic created by Europeans in the New World as an extension of Western Civilization. We, as European-Americans, would not exist were it not for them.
Non-whites and antifa understand this, and this is precisely why they are targeting these statues and symbols. The sentiment underlying this campaign of iconoclasm is that Europeans should have never come to this continent. That’s why Columbus Day has already been renamed in certain localities, and why statues of the Admiral of the Ocean Seas are regular targets for vandalism every year. In Canada, a statue of Edward Cornwallis, who founded Halifax, was removed because Indians felt it was offensive. Let us be fair; to them, it is. Would we, as racially aware Europeans, welcome statues of Muslim “refugees” in Cologne, Germany, or Muslim invaders in southern Spain, or a monument to the Ottomans in Eastern Europe?
Some conservatives believe that by being “inclusive,” by building more statues, conflict can be avoided. Katie Pavlich at Townhall thinks we need to build more monuments to blacks who served during the Civil War. In fact, new monuments are already being created, though their purpose is not to unite the country but simply to shame European-Americans.
Thus, a new memorial to “lynching” victims has been built in Alabama. Streets around the country are named for Malcolm X. Statues of Confederate generals are being replaced with those of Harriet Tubman. In San Jose, California, the statue of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatal replaced one of the Liberty Bell. Most importantly of all, the visage of Martin Luther King glares down at us in the nation’s capital.
Of course, some of these statues do lend themselves to what Professor Dorf might call a plausible narrative of inclusion, provided we ignore actual history. Most contemporary European-Americans pretend Martin Luther King, a controversial figure in his time, was actually a benevolent, pro-American figure out of a Hallmark card. Yet as demographics change and it becomes less necessary to flatter white opinion, leftists are increasingly honest about the true history of their political heroes. Writing in The Guardian, Professor Cornel West openly praises King’s “radicalism” and “extremism,” sneers at those who wish to “sanitize” his past, and denounces “[President] Trump’s escalating neo-fascist rule.” However overwrought, Dr. West’s analysis is closer to historical truth than those determined conservative movement apparatchiks who pretend every January that the socialist King would be standing with the likes of Mike Pence.
The truth is that historical figures can’t be categorized strictly as “hero” or “villain.” Emperor Napoleon remains a hero to the French; a bloodthirsty conqueror to the Russians. The Mongols continue to honor Genghis Khan; few Muslims would do the same. Even Mahatma Gandhi, the iconic hero of Indian independence, is considered a “racist” in Africa. In Britain, columnist Afua Hirsch called for the destruction of Horatio Nelson’s column because of its perceived offensiveness to blacks. Though there was outrage, Ms. Hirsch’s call makes sense. Trafalgar, after all, should mean no more to her than the Kingdom of Ashanti means to me.
Once white history is replaced, monuments to a new anti-white history will be erected to honor the new people who hold power. Already, Denmark has constructed a statue honoring an African who led a rebellion against its own soldiers. It therefore shouldn’t be surprising that Nat Turner will be honored in a new memorial in Richmond, Virginia. The same people who tell us they are offended by a statue of the noble General Lee will probably mock white unease about honoring a man who butchered women and children.
There is no limit to the current campaign of iconoclasm, no point at which progressives will claim satisfaction. Nor is there any “inclusive narrative” which will make American citizens of all races happy. Well-meaning conservatives who think otherwise are deluding themselves.
One people’s heroes are often another people’s villains. This does not mean we need to hate other peoples or their greatest leaders. Part of being an Identitarian means that while we should work for peace, we should recognize there will always be an “us” and a “them.” Refusing to take our own side leads to both self-contempt and contempt from other peoples. Pretending we are all the same is an act of condescension towards other peoples, as well as an insult to our ancestors.
One of the Founders knew this well. His words can be found on the monument that bears his name in Washington D.C. Writing of the curse of slavery in 1821, Thomas Jefferson observed: “Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people [black slaves] are to be free.” He was right.
Yet his next words, not displayed, were no less prophetic. “Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them.” Sadly, many conservatives may not realize the truth of this until non-whites tear down the Jefferson Memorial too.