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Walking in a cemetery might seem morbid or creepy. Not for me.

To amble through the graveyard in one’s hometown is to invite a flood of memories, for the names on the stones are familiar. My twelve years of public school classrooms were filled with kids with those last names.

I knew some of the people resting here. Teachers, shop owners, farmers for whom I put up hay, women who scolded me to behave or they’d tell my Mother (with whom they had gone to school), that guy-the-unbelievable-gardener, veterans of every war, and of course Grandpa and Grandma, Uncles, Aunts, cousins, and Dad, who forever marked my life.

There are a few bad apples resting on that hillside, but by far most were decent, honest, hard-working, religious, patriotic, working/middle class Americans, some of long vintage, some whose parents arrived at the turn of the last century.

Roots. It’s good to hail from a small town.

A walk through a cemetery offers perspective re country, culture, life itself.

In a graveyard, everyone is alike. 

Sex can be inferred from feminine or masculine names but not sexuality, as argued these days.

No visible differences are discernible in race, ethnicity, nationality, education, wealth or poverty.

Beauty and appearance, eloquence, intellect, achievement, fame, power, even personality mean nothing.

Typically, no flags wave proclaiming any allegiance other than the American flag, visible on veterans’ resting places but usually also somewhere in large form on the property, signifying a key principle of Americana, patriotic e pluribus unum.

Political party is not in evidence. Nor is ideology Right or Left. No Trump or Biden signs. Posturing and pretense are gone. It’s a peaceful landscape.

Religion is not for sure identifiable, even if headstone architecture features religious symbols, for these may say more about those left behind than the deceased. 

Either way, as someone said, “He was but now is, and his is is greater than his was.”

So, we’re more alike than some of us care to admit.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

A movement seeking to “erase” Donald J. Trump has emerged since he left the presidency. 

The on ramp for this initiative is Trump’s perceived responsibility for the January 6 Capitol Building riot. 

Today’s wave of purging the public space of sculptures and statues of people now deemed unacceptable is a new form of social repression. 

Cancel culture extends this beyond statues to a person’s reputation, job or potential for being hired, possibility of publishing, doing business of any kindseeking to silence voices through social mediaDo not hire lists of previous Trump administration staff are being created, which Karl Rove said was way too far and compared the blacklists to public shaming

One MSNBC analyst tweeted: “No book deals, no fellowships, no sinecures, no board seats for any of the henchmen and collaborators. No pundit gigs, no lecture circuit, no congressional runs, no professorships.”

Yet, “for over a century, publishers have played a leading role in defending free speech. In the 1920s, they challenged efforts to ban novels that became American classics. Random House defied obscenity laws to publish Ulysses. During the Cold War, publishers and librarians pushed back against efforts to censor “subversive” books and magazines by issuing the Freedom to Read Statement. In 1988, Viking Penguin published Satanic Verses and defended it from the Ayatollah’s fatwa and a worldwide campaign of terror.” Now, publishers are eagerly joining the cancel culture.

What many are now trying to do to people who worked in the Trump Administration is not unlike Amish shunning, an ultimate form of social avoidance for perceived crimes, or in this political instance for holding views not considered aligned with the prevailing acceptable narrative, or for daring to associate with someone now declared persona non grata by media and cultural elites.

Damnatio Memoriae

Then there’s the attempt to erase leaders from the pages of history, something ancient regimes did to the condemned.

Near the end of Pharaoh Thutmose III’s reign, between about 1479 and 1425 B.C., members of his regime attempted to erase the memory of Hatshepsut, his predecessor, co-regent and mother. Statues of Hatshepsut were smashed, her obelisks covered, and her cartouches removed from temple walls. As Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley told the BBC in 2011, Thutmose III could thereby “incorporate her reign into his own” and claim her accomplishment as his own. He could rewrite history.”

Obliterating the condemned in ancient Rome was called "damnatio memoriae," condemnation of memory, to be forgotten in official records, “to remove every trace of the person from life, as if they had never existed.”

Stalin removed the statues of other Communist leaders as he solidified his position in the Soviet Union. Ukraine dismantled 1,320 statues of Lenin after its independence, and renamed roads and structures named under Soviet authority.

Guy Beiner argued that iconoclastic vandalism entails subtle expressions of ambiguous remembrance and that, rather than effacing memory, such acts of decommemorating actually served to preserve memory. In other words, it backfires; erasing history doesn’t work.

The Scarlet Letter

Seeking to brand anyone who worked for or was associated with the Trump Administration is a modern form of the biblical mark of Cain or the Scarlet Letter.

Whatever one thinks of Mr. Trump or whatever one considers his culpability or responsibility for the Capitol riot, this new effort to erase him has more to do with seeking to banish certain ideas and values than it does about January 6. 

Proof of this is the Lincoln Project’s blacklist, pursuing all known associates who were doing their jobs on behalf of the American people, so they will be “held accountable & not allowed to pretend they were not involved.”

This blog is Not about defending Donald Trump; he can take care of himself. This piece is about the well-being of a free, open, and pluralistic society. If groups can “erase” Trump or anyone who worked for or was associated with him, then they can do this to you. 

And the point is, why should this be done at all? Cancel culture is based upon fear not freedom, power not persuasion. Trust the people, the free marketplace of ideas. If people don’t want more of Trump, they can act accordingly in the market. If they don’t want to buy a Trump staff person’s book, then they don’t have to buy the book. But others should not block its publication preventing those who want to buy the book from acquiring it. And so it goes.

Freedom is always the best option.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

I am sometimes asked, and I regularly see on social media, What is happening to America?

We are experiencing a battle of worldviews, one reacting to loss and defending what America once was, the other embracing a radical new vision of America. This is more than a culture war. It’s an American identity crisis.

It’s not Republican vs Democrat, though the crisis shows up every day in politics. It’s not religious vs irreligious, though these groups divide. It’s deeper, metaphysical if you will. Pres Obama was wrong when in 2016 he said, “We remain the strongest nation on earth by far and there are no existential threats facing us.” Now to be fair, he was giving an interview that largely referenced ISIS. But he broadened his answer far beyond international concerns.

For much of my lifetime, America has been rejecting in manifold ways the Judeo-Christian moral consensus, based upon belief in truth and individual responsibility, that formed the sacred canopy over our culture and touched every aspect of American life. 

More recently, Americans are rejecting the country’s founding documents and ideals, i.e., disbelief in the First Amendment, and the core values of liberty based upon law, free opportunity and enterprise, limited government, American exceptionalism and America’s capacity for good. 

The vacuum created by the loss of America’s historical, overarching sense of who we are and how we should order our lives has been filled by the rise of competing secular movements, all vying for dominance in a public square where principles-are-but-preferences so might makes right. 

We no longer have any means, other than power, to decide who we are and how we should behave.

During his Inaugural Address, Pres Biden called for unity. He said, “History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.” Then he later said, what defines us as Americans is Opportunity, Security, Liberty, Dignity, Respect, Honor, Truth.

I think unity is a good thing making social cohesion and accomplishment possible. I think opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor, and truth are good things. But Mr. Biden did not define these terms, nor did he suggest how we might decide what they mean. Clearly, in the noisy marketplace today, they mean different things to different people. Truth, for example, is no longer objectively defined truth, true whether you or I believe it or not, but something is “true” if you or I want it to be true or feel that it is true, perhaps despite all evidence to the contrary. Truth is now subjective, so it is a moving target and the group in power gets to define what it means. The same might be said for history, faith, and reason, all now tossed to-and-fro on the winds of postmodern relativism. 

So how can we hope to attain unity when we don’t agree on the most fundamental values that once defined and empowered the American system? The answer is, sadly, we cannot.

Unity, e pluribus unum, only returns to America when America returns to its roots. A country cannot long survive that does not know who it is and why it exists. 

So yes, the U.S.A. is now in the midst of an identity crisis and it is dealing with profound existential threats to its well-being and existence.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

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    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

US Constitution, Amendment I

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

This is a public service announcement for all those who seem to have forgotten or want to ignore this remarkable statement, first of the "Bill of Rights" amending the US Constitution, approved September 1789 by the first Congress of the United States, finally ratified December 1791.

The First Amendment is the core essential ideal defining "America." And the First Amendment is one of the most momentous political statements ever written.

Politicians, bureaucrats, academics, journalists, CEOs, celebrities, and social activists now smugly advocating cancel culture against all who differ with them ignore history and flirt with a danger they apparently don’t comprehend. 

Let them talk to people in North Korea, Iran, China. Let them ask immigrants why they sacrifice everything in an attempt to get to these shores. 

Please God, let them not be seduced by power and open their eyes to the blessedness of freedom hard won but easily, and quickly, lost. 

    

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

At the start of Year 2021 and what also happens to be a new Administration, I’d list the following as our most important and far-reaching, political or social concerns facing the country: 

  1. Suppression of free speech

I never thought I’d write, much less see the day in America, when freedom of speech, the First Amendment, is no longer considered sacrosanct in America’s list of essential identifying ideals, but it’s here. 

It’s not just Big Tech acting to censor crazies or extremists but also conservatives they don’t like, and Christians. It’s also universities, once the bastions of free inquiry, that now shut down opportunities for students and personnel to express views considered unacceptable. 

Yes, it’s true the First Amendment applies to government, not to private enterprise, but then again there is two centuries of case law adjudicating tensions between a free society’s interest in open and free speech and a private entity’s or person’s concern for perhaps privacy or libel, etc. Clearly the idea of freedom of speech characterizes the American character and experience, and this is what is being challenged and endangered.

If we lose the First Amendment, i.e., freedom of speech, which also includes freedom of religion and freedom of the press, freedom of the people peaceably to assemble, and freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances, we lose America. This is not an overstatement.

  1. Moral relativism.

When Francis A. Schaeffer was still writing in the 1970s and early 1980s, he warned us what would happen if culture set aside truth. He even coined a phrase, “true truth,” to convey what he was talking about, objective truth, truth whether you or I like it or not, truth that stands outside human definition. Perhaps this sounds “oh so philosophical” and not a matter practical for everyday life? But it is. In fact, the idea of truth affects every aspect of our society, beginning with public morality, law, education and science, politics, and culture.

But American culture has long since set aside any concern for truth, which is why we now have words like “truthiness,” why we have Fake News, and why no one any longer can trust any judgment or standard other than their own, including the Bible, the US Constitution, law and the courts, or any other authority.

What we have left is chaos. Schaeffer talked about “freedom without chaos.”  Now we must say we increasingly have chaos without freedom. We hoped for E pluribus unum but what we now have is “pluribus” but no “unum.” We have only argument, rancor, and the disillusionment that comes from this, and the only way of determining truth in the absence of belief in objective standards is power, i.e. might makes right. 

This is not the America the Founders envisioned and that we have strived for the past two centuries.

  1. Sexual progressivism.

The whole spectrum of sex and gender issues, including LGBTQ+, same-sex marriage, sexual orientation and gender identity now with its own acronym SOGI, and trans activism is the point of the spear advancing a Leftist, illiberal agenda on collision course with religious liberty. Sexual progressivism is about a wholesale worldview, value revolution in American society. Indeed, religious liberty is already being challenged with preachers who share biblical views about homosexuality being accused of “hate speech” and Christian organizations beginning to be harassed for their personnel policies adhering to biblical doctrine and thus not hiring or maintaining LGBTQ+ individuals. 

But advancing sexual progressivism is threatening to more than religious liberty. It undermines social order. If a person is a Gay man, he likes men, but he’s still a man. If a person is Lesbian, she likes women, but she is still a woman. If a person claims to be transgender, he/she is what? Where do they fit in the social order? What happens not just to male and female bathrooms or locker rooms, which is a legitimate discussion, what happens to male and female sports? What happens to family law and children’s issues, and how is this to be handled in education, not only in university but now in elementary schools? The list goes on.

Those who embrace sexual progressivism in any of its forms, which is increasingly a calling card in Hollywood and now politics, are not satisfied with freedom to be. They want society to endorse and promote their values in everyday life. This is a threat to the existence of a free society.

  1. Lawlessness.

Hypocrisy, what other word better describes American politicians and news media who ignored or even endorsed summer 2019 city riots, promoted “Defund the Police,” and then condemned the January 6, 2021 US Capitol riot? Surely the Capitol riot should be condemned and rioters prosecuted, but so should the summer and continuing riots in Seattle and Portland

What we’re seeing is what Scripture long ago pointed out: “everyone does that which is right in his own eyes, (Judges 17:6).

A free society to be free must be one based upon law and order. Freedom does not exist in chaos or anarchy, and this is what we watched in Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, and many other cities in summer 2019. I am, of course, not condemning or wanting to limit peaceful protestors, and these people expressed themselves in each city. But even they and their purposes were overwhelmed by the foolish kowtowing of city and state politicians to what they considered politically advantageous mobs.

Laws matter, for they restrain the sinful nature of humanity. Government exists, Romans 13 tells us, to hold accountable evil doers.  When governing officials abdicate their responsibilities, the people suffer.

  1. Wokeism.

Being “woke” and the antiracist racism that is part of its embrace of Critical Race Theory is now not simply a threat to American education, business, government, and culture but is now a dominant force. Basic woke ideas, masquerading under the umbrella of fighting racism, are being embraced by corporations, major league sports, and government as some kind of panacea for perceived “systemic racism,” but what these ideas really promote is division, race and class or oppressor and oppressed warfare, and identity politics. 

Being “woke” is now an expectation on most public university campuses. Universities are no longer hallowed halls inviting free and open inquiry.

The Left pushes victim theory, the idea there is an oppressor (defined as white or as capitalism) and the oppressed (defined as minorities, people of color).

Wokeism is a worldview contrary to biblical Christianity, and as such, it promotes a radical view of not simply the Church but American culture.

  1. Cancel Culture.

Cancel culture is an extension of loss of freedom of speech and an embrace of Wokeism, but examples of cancel culture may be found that do not tie directly to woke philosophy. It’s a new way not only to reject people’s ideas but the people themselves, to ruin their reputation, and possibly to get them fired or not hired or otherwise make them kryptonite to any employer.

Cancel culture is about dominance, not about unity but about submission. For example, a university professor lost his job because he said men cannot get pregnant.

Cancel culture is about suppression. It seeks to silence ideas deemed out of alignment with the “acceptable narrative,” like for example whether masks really need to be worn in public and whether they are effective, whether virus lockdowns promoted by state officials are about health or about power, or whether there is such a thing as “systemic racism” to name a few.

Cancel culture is a child of the social media age, but it is not healthy or sustainable in a free and open society.

  1. Self-serving politicians.

I am weary beyond measure of politicians who act like immature, nasty children

Insulting language, no standard of objective truth just subjective “your/my” truth, smug self-righteousness, autocratic attitudes or behavior, lying as a way of life—despite at times being caught yet continuing with no visible remorse, incivility, vitriol, venom with little concern for etiquette or politeness, victimhood, lack of grace or forgiveness, moral degeneracy, emotion-driven irrational thinking, and no apparent commitment to time-tested values or lofty ideals just an allegiance to a “narrative” or agenda built on a drive for power. 

Gender, race, party, ideology, wealth, education and nominal faith—none of these inoculate people from nihilistic nastiness. 

I know a lot of people. Nary a one of them act like this. Yet the nation’s leaders do. 

Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men (women) are almost always bad men (women).” It appears he understood human nature. 

But there was a time not long ago when civility triumphed over pettiness, helping to avoid polarization. It was when we believed in something more than ourselves, in liberty and truth, in an America where what mattered was character, opportunity, and sacrifice.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.