When history is ignored

When history is ignored
Image via Constitution.com

Society is being dismantled in major cities throughout the United States, purportedly in the name of justice and equal rights.

Statues are toppling, the cities are burning, and stores are being looted — often with the approval of media figures and state and local politicians.

Thomas Sowell, the award-winning conservative black economist, had something to say about times like these:

One of the scariest aspects of our times is how easy it is for glib loudmouths to turn us against each other, weakening the whole framework of society, on which we all depend.

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And we’re witnessing those “glib loudmouths” all over the United States, with the destruction of statues depicting Confederate soldiers and plans to rename military installations honoring them. But that prompted a feeding frenzy that includes:

  • Widespread toppling of statues depicting George Washington because he was a slave owner.
  • The destruction of statues of Thomas Jefferson for the same reason.
  • The toppling and defacing of statues of Christopher Columbus, due to his treatment of the indigenous people he found in the New World.
  • San Francisco rioters toppled the statue of Francis Scott Key, because he wrote the ”racist ” “Star Spangled Banner.”
  • Those same rioters also brought down one of Ulysses S. Grant, who commanded the Union forces that ultimately ended slavery.
  • New York’s Museum of Natural History is removing a statue of Theodore Roosevelt because it was “a symbol of colonialism and racism.”
  • There are now calls to remove a statue of Abraham Lincoln in an Emancipation Memorial, because he’s depicted with a freed slave kneeling to him.

And just in case the rioters needed a little direction, the formerly nonpolitical Popular Mechanics featured an article on how to use science to topple statues, and an Alabama professor described how to bring down an obelisk (like the Washington Monument) that just “might be masquerading as a racist monument I dunno.”

Much of the destruction was prompted by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. What the rioters need to understand, however, is that it’s hypocritical to denounce the founders and other great leaders in the past just because some of them may have owned slaves, while sanctifying George Floyd, who had a lengthy conviction record and was under the influence of illegal drugs when he was arrested and killed.

Slave ownership had nothing to do with the founders’ great works, just as Floyd’s convictions had nothing to do with his death. In addition you cannot judge 15th- and 18th-century figures using 21st-century standards.

History is not there for us to like or dislike. It’s there to teach us. And if it offends us, so much the better, because then we’re less likely to repeat it. It’s not ours to erase. It’s ours to learn from. It belongs to all of us.

But when we renounce history we forget both it and its lessons.

A recent poll indicated that 58% of college-educated Americans claimed that today’s rioting is either “fully or partially justified.” CNN host Chris Cuomo fell into that category when he recently asked his audience to ”show me where it says that protests are supposed to be polite and peaceful.”

The answer to that can be found in the First Amendment, which provides that “Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Note the word peaceably.

Cuomo, incidentally, has a law degree from Fordham University.

Sixty-three years ago during a more civilized time in our history, a young, beaming Dinah Shore was singing “See the USA in your Chevrolet.”

With lines like “America’s the greatest land of all,” it was just as much a commercial for the United States as it was for the 1953 Chevy.

Fifty-one years ago an entire nation got misty-eyed when comedian Red Skelton explained the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance — word by word.

It’s time to get back to when Americans were less offended – when we could disagree with one another and at the same time be civil to one another.

It’s time to get back to learning from history — not destroying it.

Michael Dorstewitz

Michael Dorstewitz

Michael Dorstewitz is a recovering Michigan trial lawyer and former research vessel deck officer. He has written extensively for BizPac Review.