Erasing the Past: We all Do It

As the country busies itself renaming schools and other public places, removing or defacing monuments, giving new meaning to words and deeds, as well as quoting 1984, one would not be blamed to wonder what all this is about. Is the commotion an effort to right wrongs of the past, or a stealth long-range plan to force the country into a different path?

What does righting wrongs entail?

How far a group goes in its pursuit of righting wrongs depends on how determined the group is. For example, Joseph Stalin either killed or removed from history all folks he deemed wrong for the times.

However, efforts need not be so extreme. Persuasive discourse may take longer, but it is equally effective. A master in such art was self-professed radical activist Saul Alynski, whose Rules for Radicals, published in 1971, remains a radical’s guide to success. Here are two of the Rules:

The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.

Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

So, today’s radicals target symbols of the Confederacy, keep relentless focus on the targets, ensure that people take the matter personally by using words such as “white supremacy,” and popularize identity politics. And the constant pressure upon the opposition allows for the expansion of targets.

Men such as Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among other founders, embedded the American ideals of equality and justice, even if they did not live them in their daily lives, the historians said.  NBC News, August 17, 2017.

“Our position is, we don’t want in your public spaces any slave masters or Confederates, those are people who should not be venerated,” Suber said, citing Washington and President Andrew Jackson as figures whose statues should be removed.  Malcolm Suber, Take Em Down NOLA, NBC News, August 17, 2017.

It bears assumption that if the Founding Fathers are not to be honored, neither is their work. Will there soon be a call to replace the U.S. Constitution by a new manifesto?

Human Nature is on the side of revisionists

Today’s revisionists are certainly not alone in their efforts to reframe history by removing old symbols. We have all at some low-point in our lives discarded mementos or reframed our vision of ex-spouses or rebellious children. Nature helps cleanse the mind of unpleasant thoughts. New political trends and new regimes do the same.

Constant Pressure, Forever

The problem with cleansing thought is that the job is never done. The effort can never stop.

The job of tyrants and busybodies* is never done. When they accomplish one goal, they move their agenda to something else.  Walter Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University, June 14, 2017.

*  Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock.