Quote of the day

“Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct, nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place.”  – George Orwell, 1984

Whatever you may think about the appropriateness of removing statues of former Confederate figures, one thing is certain: it will not stop there.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are complex characters, not simple cardboard cutout “racists.”  In today’s climate, though, careful consideration of both virtues and vices is frowned upon.  We are pressed to judge historical characters not by the context of their times, but by how they measure up to current political emotionss.  And so we have reached Shakespeare’s observation through Mark Antony in Julius Caesar: 

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

Caesar, rather than the wealthy, aristocratic Roman Senate, had populist support.  (Sound familiar?)  So was it out of patriotism or jealousy that the Senate acted?  It’s a fair question to ask those today who see our current President as Caesar, and dream of removing him, violently if necessary.

Whether Caesar should have been killed by the Roman Senate can be debated, but one thing history makes clear: after that milestone and the civil war that followed, the Republic clearly was dead.

What we are watching today is the disavowal and erasure of the historical foundations of the American republic.  It’s been a long process over the last half century, but those who want to see it done sense victory and are accelerating their efforts.  They may need to be more careful what they wish for.

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