History can be offensive
In recent weeks, the “alt-left” in the United States has begun to emulate its socialist and communist brethren in places like Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, China and the former Soviet Union by changing history and in some cases by destroying it altogether to fit their ideology or world view.
History is very complicated because we human beings are complicated, reasonably intelligent and act for many reasons. Our world is not black and white but shades of gray mixed with all the colors of the spectrum.
Recently in Charlottesville, Va., a flame was introduced into this volatile and complicated world by bozos, idiots and trouble makers on both ends of the political spectrum. In the course of a protest over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, an idiot of the right drove a vehicle that hit and killed a girl.
President Donald Trump rightfully criticized both sides for their actions and then came under attack by his enemies who as usual lay in wait ready to pounce whenever they saw what they conceived of as an error on his part. Sadly, they fail to see that their actions are adding to the divisive atmosphere that pervades our nation.
Soon calls came for the tearing down of statues and memorials to Confederate leaders and others with the most remote connection to slavery or neo-Nazi beliefs. By the end of the day I imagined black hooded forces of the left repelling down the face of the Stone Mountain, Ga., base relief honoring the Confederate leadership, planting explosives and blowing it to dust. I also had visions of crazy anarchists blowing up Mount Rushmore just because it was there.
It didn’t take too long before some lunatic in Chicago set fire, and toppled a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Keep in mind that this was the man who fought the Civil War to save the Union and put the finial nails in the coffin of slavery after years of Democratic inaction. But Abe was a Republican so I guess he was fair game.
In the meantime, calls went out for the removal of statues honoring founding fathers Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and even George Washington because they owned slaves. When I heard these calls, I felt that to be consistent we should examine the history of other Founding Fathers. In doing so I found that Ben Franklin owned slaves, although he taught them to read and write. So too did “Father” of the Constitution and future President James Madison along with future governor of New Yorker and diplomate John Jay. Even Charles Carroll of Maryland the cousin of Archbishop John Carroll, the first American bishop of the America Catholic Church, owned slaves.
Should these men who did much good be stripped of their honors and titles and all statutes and memorials to them be removed? I don’t think so. All men are capable of evil but also capable of much that is good. By retaining statutes and memorials to these conflicted and complicated men we remind ourselves that all of us are capable of both good and evil and that we always must guard against the evil.
Rewriting history, or making people into non-people to support our own ideological prejudices as occurred under the Bolsheviks in Russia, Maoists in China, National Socialists in Germany and the North Korean regime does no good. In doing so we are blinded to the lessons we can learn from history and in the process avoiding the mistakes that others have made.
The world is made of both good and bad and most of us reflect that dichotomy. We need to be reminded of that by the presence of statutes and memorials to people who embodied the good and bad. People like our humanly flawed Founding Fathers or military leaders of the Civil War like Gen. Robert E. Lee of the South or Gens. Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman of the North who like Lee owned slaves. Yes, it’s a complicated world.
Thomas Kirkpatrick Sr. is a Silver Creek resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org