Monumental ignorance — Dumbing down America
By Mark Alexander
In 2015, CNN published an analytical assessment by Dr. Stuart Manning, chairman of Cornell University's Department of Classics. Manning's report condemned Islamo-Fascists for destroying historic monuments in Iraq in order that history not impede its political objectives.
In that report, Manning noted, "Confucius said, 'Study the past if you would define the future.' ISIS, like so many iconoclastic extremist groups through history, seeks to destroy the record of the past. ... The spectacle would be ridiculous and pathetic if it were not so tragic. [These acts of destruction] are brutal assaults on our collective human memory [and] dishonest and hypocritical." Manning concludes, "Providing educational opportunities and empowering communities to learn more about their cultures and histories, and those of others, is one of the best ways to eradicate destructive hatred and violence."
While the recorded history of Mesopotamia long predates the recorded history of North America, archeologists and historians have pieced together some of the inhabitant record of this continent over the last 1,000 years. Of course, we have very detailed history records of the continent since its colonization by Europeans, and those records are even more detailed since the founding of our nation.
Our nation's relatively brief 241-year history is rich in both glory and tragedy, a mosaic of events that sprang from the spark of American Liberty in 1776 and have resulted in the most exceptional expression of republican government in world history.
But in recent months, there has been an aggressive campaign by a consortium of groups comprising the so-called "antifa movement" — self-proclaimed "anti-fascist" fascists in collusion with the Democrat Party — to eradicate important chapters of our nation's history.
The most recent and violent episode of that eradication effort was a confrontation in historic Charlottesville, Virginia, where antifa v. alt-right factions clashed. That confrontation was the direct result of Democrats' favorite political playbook strategy: fomenting disunity to rally dependent constituencies.
The roots of the Charlottesville conflict began a year earlier when some of the University of Virginia's privileged students registered their objection to the school's founder, Thomas Jefferson. According to the snowflakes, "We would like for our administration to understand that although some members of this community may have come to this university because of Thomas Jefferson's legacy, others of us came here in spite of it." (Here I would note that nobody was or is holding any students captive at UVA.)
Although other campus cultural eradication protests around the nation were festering, the UVA exercise had yet to gain much traction.
So Charlottesville's mayor, Mike Signer (driven by BIG political aspirations), and his uber-leftist city council voted to remove a historic statue of Robert E. Lee, just as local Democrats had done in a purge a month earlier in Louisiana.
Signer calculated that his council's measure would stir up the race-bait pot at UVA, and with the help of the Demo/MSM propaganda machine and its hate hustlers. Indeed it did. The war on statues thus masqueraded as a fight against evil and boiled over in that quaint town.
Since the Charlottesville riots, junior Bolshevik brigades elsewhere have targeted other historical icons for erasure, including Christopher Columbus and even Francis Scott Key, suggesting that our National Anthem has ties to racists — which it most assuredly does not.
UVA appears unwilling to cede its status as ground zero for the social and cultural fascists.
Last week, student protesters desecrated and shrouded Jefferson's statue at the University Rotunda.
But in the latest chapter of this grotesque absurdity, returning again to whitewash the university's historical connection to our nation's Civil War, the student malcontents succeeded in forcing a vote by its cowardly Board of Visitors to remove bronze tablets on the Rotunda that bear the names of UVA alumni who fought and died during the War Between the States.
Perhaps they should just raze the entire campus and go home.
(For the record, what these angry adolescents of all ages across the nation have most in common is not a hatred of our nation's core principles and values. What they hate most, what they most loathe, is themselves. But that is a subject for a future "Pathology of the Left" column, one that will focus on their captivity in a suspended state of arrested emotional development.)
A genuine statesman of the civil rights movement, former UN Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, one of Martin Luther King's closest confidants, opposes tearing down Confederate memorials and monuments. "I think it's too costly to refight the Civil War," he said. "We have paid too great a price in trying to bring people together." Obscene protesters notwithstanding, Young is joined in this sentiment by most Americans.
Among the reputable polls taken since the Charlottesville riots, an NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist University poll found that a substantial majority of Americans believe statues honoring Confederate leaders should stay. More notably, pluralities of black Americans also believe the monuments should remain.
Clearly, the number of Americans who understand the importance of our history is far greater than those who don't.
Given that the monumental ignorance in Charlottesville began over a lack of appreciation for the historical standing of Robert E. Lee by a gaggle of loudmouth Demo-gogues and their cadres of useful idiots — those who embrace the notion that ignorance is virtuous — what follows are a few brief chapters of Lee's history that none of them have ever read, and that none of them would want you to read now.
After his surrender at Appomattox, Gen. Lee wrote to Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard: "I need not tell you that true patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly contrary, at one period, to that which it does at another, and the motive which impels them — the desire to do right — is precisely the same. The circumstances that govern their actions change, and their conduct must conform to the new order of things. History is full of illustrations of this: Washington himself is an example. At one time, he fought in the service of the King of Great Britain; at another, he fought with the French at Yorktown, under the orders of the Continental Congress of America, against him. He has not been branded by the world with reproach for this, but his course has been applauded."
After the war, when Lee became president of Washington College (renamed Washington and Lee after his death), most of the funding to restore operations of the institution came from Lee's Union admirers in New York and other northern states.
In fact, according to biographer Douglas Southall Freeman, a New York-based insurance company offered Lee $10,000 just to use his name — an offer few others would have refused at the time but which Lee did refuse:
"The repeated business offers that came to him seem to have awakened no yearnings. Nothing appears in his correspondence to show any desire on the part of any member of the family that he accept the post of supervisor of agencies of the Knickerbocker Life Insurance Company, a position pressed on him in the winter of 1868-69 at the then dazzling salary of $10,000. Not a flutter was aroused in the president's house, so far as one may now judge, by rumors that he might be named president of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad."
Upon Lee's death on October 12, 1870, at the age of 63, the New York Herald offered this eulogy:
"For not to the Southern people alone shall be limited the tribute of a tear over the dead Virginian. Here in the North, forgetting that the time was when the sword of Robert Edward Lee was drawn against us, forgetting and forgiving all the years of bloodshed and agony, we have long since ceased to look upon him as the Confederate leader, but have claimed him as one of ourselves; have cherished and felt proud of his military genius as belonging to us; have recounted and recorded his triumphs as our own; have extolled his virtue as reflecting upon us for Robert Edward Lee was an American, and the great nation which gave him birth would be to-day unworthy of such a son if she regarded him lightly. ... He conquered us in misfortune by the grand manner in which he sustained himself, even as he dazzled us by his genius when the tramp of his soldiers resounded through the valleys of Virginia. And for such a man we are all tears and sorrow to-day. ... As a slaveholder, he was beloved by his slaves for his kindness and consideration toward them. ... In his death our country has lost a son of whom she might well be proud, and for whose services she might have stood in need had he lived a few years longer, for we are certain that, had occasion required it, General Lee would have given to the United States the benefit of all his great talents."
He was similarly eulogized in Europe.
According to the London Standard:
And finally, reflecting on the character of the man in battle, there is this extraordinary account about a Union soldier's contact with Gen. Lee, as related by Confederate Brig. Gen. A.L. Long and Union Brig. Gen. M.J. Wright in their "Memoirs of Robert E. Lee":
These observations reflect the true character and historical significance of the man represented by those statues and monuments. Indeed, this explains the reluctance of many Americans to allow the removal or the shrouding — the "burqanization," if you will — of our history.
On the importance of our history, and on the abject absurdity of attempting to erase it, I have often cited 20th century philosopher George Santayana, who concluded in his treatise, "The Life of Reason": "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Aldous Huxley, author of the dystopian novel "Brave New World," noted, "That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history."
And so it goes at UVA and other once-great academic institutions across our nation, where moronic identity politics takes precedent over knowledge and truth.
(Footnote: A longtime friend of The Patriot Post, distinguished George Mason University professor Walter Williams, has issued erudite warnings about the consequences of historical ignorance here and here, including the removal of historic markers to Confederate generals and the rewriting of American history. Additionally, George Will, via Prager University, has an amusing video on the subject of "offensive place names.")
Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.