Purging public space of representations of (usually long-dead) individuals now considered persona non grata is the new past time of the American cancel culture.
Zealous woke social justice advocates are leading an effort to banish offending individuals forever from our presence, if not from history itself.
The latest: the names of 44 schools in San Francisco will be eventually dropped and changed. The San Francisco School Board decided that schools named after people who have "ties to racism" or have "dishonorable legacies” would be given new names, to be determined later.
“The city’s school board has voted to remove the names of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and others from the district’s buildings in a move it says it is intended to cut ties with historical figures who owned slaves or were involved in the “subjugation” of human beings.”
Other names include naturalist John Muir, Spanish priest Junipero Serra, American Revolution patriot Paul Revere and Francis Scott Key, composer of the “Star Spangled Banner,” Thomas Jefferson, Herbert Hoover, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, Daniel Webster, Robert Louis Stevenson, et al.
Searching for Purity
In 2020, this search for purity started with statues or sculptures of “white males,” who were thought to have owned slaves, being dragged down in public parks. This destruction took place around the country, in nearly every case the result of mob action, though later, some city, county, or state authorities got involved.
Ironically, the monument to the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, was defaced during summer 2020 protests. This unit, the second all-Black regiment organized during the Civil War, was depicted in the 1989 film, “Glory,” featuring Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick, and Morgan Freeman. Why this monument would be defaced remains a mystery.
A statue in Philadelphia honoring abolitionist Mathias Baldwin was defaced by social justice protestors. Vandals defaced statues of George Washington in New York City, as were statues of Ulysses S. Grant, and the longtime equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt in front of the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan will be removed. Others included numerous statues of Christopher Columbus, Cleveland Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Mahatma Gandhi, World War I and World War II memorials, and Polish Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko. The list goes on to include many Confederate Civil War officers featured in statues throughout the South, including Richmond, Virginia.
The trend continued with names being removed from buildings or statutes removed from lawns on public university campuses, including Woodrow Wilson’s name at Princeton University, and even Abraham Lincoln, the signer of the Emancipation Proclamation, deemed unworthy because he was labeled a representative of “white supremacy” for negatively affecting the lives of Native Americans, and Boston's Emancipation Memorial featuring Lincoln will be removed. If Abraham Lincoln is not safe, who is?
Let Any One of You Who Is Without Sin Be the First to Throw a Stone
I’ve written about this before: all historic and important figures, including those remembered in sculpture and statues, were imperfect sinful human beings. There are no perfect people. Indeed, if perfection or purity is our standard, we will honor no one but Jesus.
The Pharisees brought an adulteress woman to Jesus, noted the Old Testament said her sin was guilty of stoning, then asked Jesus what he would say. He pointed rather to their own sin and hypocrisy (John 8:3-11). The issue is again, everyone is sinful. “There is no one righteous, not even one,” (Romans 3:10).
The Apostle Peter denied Christ three times, yet Christ forgave him and worked through Peter to establish the Church (Matt. 26:69-75; John 21:15-17).
The Apostle Paul was once the persecutor of Christians, Saul, yet God forgave and used him to take the Word to the Gentiles (Acts 9:1-19; 22:6-21; 26:12-18).
“Great” men and women all come with chinks in their armor. Yet because of God’s common or his saving grace, his forgiveness, he allows men and women to achieve in ways that advance civilization and bless humanity. Why shouldn’t we honor them?
Candidate Bill Clinton said, “I smoked, but I didn’t inhale.” Candidate Barak Obama admitted in his own book to drug experimentation and what he called “youthful indiscretions.” The point here is not a judgment on these men or what they did but simply to note they had chinks in their armor too. Bill Clinton, and a host of others including Martin Luther King, Jr and Donald Trump, are known for their womanizing days. There was a time when this didn’t matter to the electorate. In the wake of #MeToo, no more. Point again is not to delve into these offenses per se but to note everyone, and I do mean everyone, who accomplishing anything in life has at some time sinned, failed, fallen short, engaged in unwise if not immoral behavior.
So now there’s this new cancel culture promulgating a Woke search for purity. Banish and disgrace anyone who, no matter how long ago, no matter how limited or actually inconsequential, did anything which now violates the social justice narrative. Judge the perceived “offending person” by current standards and narratives no matter how long ago or in what culture the person lived.
By now, for those living, the banishing pattern is apparent:
- Refuse to invite or cancel speaking invitations for any offending person,
- Trash the offending person’s reputation comprehensively, well beyond a given incident or expression deemed unacceptable,
- Try to get the person fired or not hired,
- Collude with others to prevent the offending person from accessing social media, publishers, etc.
“Off With Their Heads.”
In cancel culture there is no forgiveness, no grace. This is a problem on the Left and on the Right where ideological purity and power are ultimately all that matter. You are useful until, well, you are not.
The offending person, historical or current, gets no second chance, at least among the social justice advocates. Once deemed unworthy, it is, at least figuratively speaking, “Off with their heads.”
Cancel culture purges are a new form of social repression. The trend is nothing but bad, negative, and sinister for the future well-being of a free, pluralistic, and open society.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021
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