Saturday, June 20, 2020
The New Unpersons: Excising the Past and Removing Monuments in America
As you read this blog, please understand that I am pointing out the lunacy and contradictions in our Orwellian search for historical purity. I personally hold no brief for the Confederates except to the extent it is a critical part of American history. George Orwell must be rolling over in his grave. The murder of George Floyd has set off a tsunami of removing any symbols of a racist past: slave owners, slavers, slave merchants, racists against blacks, American Indians, Columbus, Conquistadores, sexists, and proponents of Eugenics. America is trying to catch up to its history of racism. People become Orwellian unpersons. Trotsky would say they’ve been condemned to the dustbin of history. Monuments are to be removed, destroyed or drowned; busts and names removed from schools and buildings; and history rewritten. Apparently omitted to date from the opprobrium list are anti-Semites. Humans are complex organisms. None of us are perfect. We are all flawed. Yet for most of us, the good outweighs the flawed. We make mistakes. However, today’s nihilists see only the flaws. No balancing is allowed. No matter how great a person was, taints of racism dooms him or her in today’s world. Eleven United States Presidents owned slaves: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Benjamin Harrison, John Tyler, James K Polk, Andrew Johnson, and Ulysses S. Grant. To be fair to President Grant who abhorred slavery, he inherited a slave in 1857 and freed him in 1859. We definitely need to add the Virginia born President Woodrow Wilson to the list. He was as racist as any President. Berkeley already removed Washington and Jefferson from schools. Vandals on Monday in Portland toppled a statue of President Jefferson in front of the Thomas Jefferson High School. The pedestal had painted on it “SLAVE OWNER” and “GEORGE FLOYD 846.” Earlier today they set a statue of George Washington on fire. The same mentality and mindlessness painted “Committed GENOCIDE” on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. The Lincoln Memorial was similarly defaced by in the D.C. riots by mindless ignoramuses. 400 vandals last night in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park gleefully toppled President Grant, Francis Scott Key, and Fr. Junipero Serra. All President Lincoln and General Grant did was win the Civil War and free the slaves. Doesn’t mean a thing to the mobs. Even President Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator who loathed slavery, had degrading remarks about the slaves. He said during the Lincoln-Douglas Debates on September 18, 1868: “I will say then I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.” He opposed giving them voting rights. He later changed his mind on the voting issue. About 7,000 people have signed a petition to remove a 100 year old monument entitled Emancipation in Boston. Abraham Lincoln is standing over a freed slave who’s on his knees. Broken manacles are on his freed hands. The objection is the kneeling black. 41 signers of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves as well as 25 of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Congress. Justice Hugo Black, the great civil libertarian on the Warren Court, was active in the KKK for several years. Patrick Henry (“Give me liberty, or give me death”) was a slave owner as was Benjamin Franklin. John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, owned slaves. The fabled Chief Justice John Marshall owned slaves. His successor Roger Tawney not only owned slaves before joining the Supreme Court, but has also been eternally damned for penning the despicable Dred Scott decision. The justice was the brother-in-law of Francis Scott Key. Francis Scott Key can be dammed on several counts. First, he was a slave owner. Second, he prosecuted abolitionists as United States Attorney in Washington, D.C. Third, his solution to the slave problem was to send free blacks to Liberia. Fourth, his contribution to America was penning the Star Spangled Banner, America’s National Anthem. We only sing the first stanza. The third stanza has controversial lines: “No refuge can save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave ….” Two long-deceased university presidents have been removed from campus buildings. U.S.C. stripped the name Rufus Von KleinSmid off the building hosting his institute. Rufus was President of USC from 1921 to 1947 and built up USC’s academic reputation. He was also a strong backer of the eugenics movement, as was Clarence Cook Little at the University of Michigan, president from 1922-25. C.C. Little was undistinguished during his Michigan presidency. Unpersons! Eugenics is a despicable movement popular with “right thinking” people a century ago. The goal was to improve the genetic quality of the human race through selective breeding, which clearly involved racial discrimination. Sounds a lot like the Nazis. One aspect of Eugenics was the forced sterilization of men and women. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing for the Supreme Court in the 1927 case of Buck v. Bell, upheld the practice of involuntary sterilization for the mentally disabled, penning one of the most despicable lines in Supreme Court history: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Then we come to law schools. The University of California Berkeley School of Law for most of its existence called itself Boalt Hall in honor of Judge Boalt. The judge is now almost a unperson, except for a funded endowment. Judge Boalt’s sin was being an outspoken backer of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Across the bay is the University of California Hastings College of Law. Serranus Clinton Hastings, the founder of Hastings Law School, financed Indian hunting expeditions, killing Indians like Buffalo, for sport. However, the University of California shows no inclination of removing Earl Warren’s name from the law School. Chief Justice Earl Warren in his earlier life as an ambitious attorney general was one of the two most responsible for interning Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II. He never apologized for his actions. Franklin Pierce Law School at the University of New Hampshire is facing renaming because President Franklin Pierce was not sufficiently anti-slavery. He signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed slavery into the western territory. Brown University, named for a slaver, has done everything short of renaming itself. Yale University got much of its start from the slave trade. Many of the Robber Barons of the Nineteenth and early 20th Century have colleges named for them. Money can but a lot. Pittsburgh’s Andrews Carnegie and Mellon have Carnegie Mellon University. J.D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, funded the startup of the University of Chicago, but his name lives on with Rockefeller University. James Buchanan Duke, the tobacco magnate monopolist, and purveyor of cancer sticks, established a trust. Trinity College changed its name to Duke University. Commodore Vanderbilt provided the funding for Vanderbilt University We clearly need to reconsider Stanford University. Leland Stanford, Sr. was a Robber Baron, but even worse as Governor of California he solicited volunteers during the Civil War for campaigns against the Indians. He further signed appropriation bills funding the expeditions. Stanford dropped its Indian Mascot in 1972. America bemoaned the heroic death of George S Custer at Custer’s Last Stand for about a century. We respect Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse today. Custer’s 7th Calvary seven years earlier on November 26, 1868 attacked the Cheyenne in their encampment. The massacre became known as the Battle of Washita. The Army commander in charge of the campaign against the Plains Indians was General Phil Sheridan, whose name is spread through the West. General Sheridan is reported to have uttered the phrase, which we know as “The only good Indian is a dead Indian. He denied it but the legend persists. The General supported the extermination of the buffalo, which forced the Plains Indians into reservations. He was however the prime mover in the creation of Yellowstone National Park. Sheridan’s name appears from New York City and D.C. through Chicago and the Great Plains across the Rockies into Oregon. Both Custer and Sheridan were heroes of the Civil War. That is probably irrelevant in this time of intellectual cleansing. John C. Calhoun, one of the most prominent public figures in the pre-Civil War Era and avid advocate of slavery, has suddenly become a nonperson, even in his South Carolina. He may still receive a footnote in history books. Confederates are rapidly falling into Trotsky’s dustbin of history. Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee are biting the dust. Support is rising to redo Stone Mountain outside Atlanta. It has large carvings of Jefferson Davis, Robert E Lee, and Stonewall Jackson on their horses. That brings us to Mount Rushmore with the carvings of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Two were slave owners while President Lincoln mouthed racist statements against blacks. The fourth, President Roosevelt, was an unabashed imperialist. The days are numbered for the Cecil Rhodes statute at Oriel College at Oxford. What happens to the Rhodes Scholars? Christopher Columbus is finished because he unleashed the European colonization of the Americas. He was beheaded in Boston with statues removed in St. Louis and San Francisco City Hall. He still has a holiday, for now. The Spanish Conquistadores are no longer celebrated. The Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento removed its 8’ statue of John Sutter, but is keeping its name, at least for now. San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum warehoused the bust of Avery Brundage who donated the museum’s initial 8,000 art pieces. Avery Brundage made a fortune in construction in Chicago and collected Asian art pieces. He headed the International Olympics Committee from 1952-1972. He was also a Nazi sympathizer, racist and Anti-Semitic. Let us not forget Phelan Hall, the main dormitory, seemingly forever, at the University of San Francisco. James Phelan was a graduate of USF (St. Ignatius College at the time). He was an esteemed Mayor of San Francisco, a U.S. Senator from 1915-1921, and a civic leader. He was also a racist, a strong supporter of excluding Chinese and Japanese from the United States. He lost reelection in 1920 to the Senate. He railed against (TRIGGER WARNING) “The Yellow Peril.” A 1920 campaign poster said “Keep America White.” The dorm is now the Burl Toler Dorm, named for an esteemed alumnus who was the star of the fabled Undefeated, Untied, Uninvited 1951 USF football team. He was more significant as the first African American NFL official. The University of Texas is being pressured to drop “The Eyes of Texas” because of links to Robert E. Lee. Ten military bases are named for confederate military officers and officials, including Forts Benning and Bragg. President Trump refuses to rename them. Congress may do so anyway. The Obama Administration refused to rename the bases. Brigadier General Malcolm B. Frost issued a statement: “Every Army installation is named for a soldier who holds a place in our military history. Accordingly, these historic names represent individuals, not causes or ideologies. It should be noted the naming occurred in the spirit of reconciliation, not division.” Reconciliation! Not Division! If the bases go, then so did should the names of two aircraft carriers. John Stennis and Carl Vinson, who were rabid segregationists in Congress. Brand names suddenly lost value. Pepsico announced it was dropping the Aunt Jemima name and Mars said Uncle Ben is now history. Eskimo Pie needs a newname as these three brand names join the Land of Lakes Indian Maiden in the dustbin of history. The original, and last, Sambo’s in Santa Barbara decided to change its name. The argument for decades was that Sambo’s was a combination of the names of the two founders, Sam Battistone, Jr. and Newell Bohnett. That may be true, but I remember eating a couple of times at a Sambo’s in Tacoma, Washington. The restaurant was decorated with scenes from The Story of Little Black Sambo. They couldn’t have it both ways. France is standing tall. President Emmanuel Macron said France will not take down any statue; it will not erase its past. Belgium has tried to excise the memory of King Leopold II, who looted the Belgium Congo and caused the death of an estimated 10 million Africans when he owned the Congo outright a century ago. He was by far the most brutal of all the colonists. Edward Colston, a slave trader, built Bristol, England. His statue was tossed into the river last week. Attempts were then made in London to remove Churchill and Gandhi. The petition said Gandhi was a “fascist, racist and sexual predator.” The young Gandhi had strong disparaging remarks against Africans when he practiced law in South Africa. 4,000 signed a petition to remove Gandhi’s statue from Leicester, England. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s response: “Statues teach us about our past, with all its faults. To tear them down would be to lie about our history, and impoverish the education of generations to come.” Memo to Gandhi’s wannabe destroyers: He believed in non-violence! What about you? He freed 390 million Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs! Who have you freed? HBO pulled Gone With The Wind to relabel it. We’ll getting close to book burning. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached and acted non-violence. Where is your non-violence. He said in his I Have A Dream Speech : “ I have a dream that my four little children will one day in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the context of their character.” MLK demanded equality – not reparations. We are entering a dangerous period in American history when ignorance takes over and the mob rules. Justice for George Floyd, YES! But justice for George Floyd is not accomplished by obliterating the nation’s past. When will reason return?