It Is Not Erasing History
When statues and monuments are challenged and ultimately removed or even destroyed, we are told it is not erasing history. I agree. We still have archive.org, mcclanahanacademy.com, and all the great history books in our personal libraries. We make sure our children and grandchildren get the full picture and most of us feel that is our responsibility. So, what is it that is distressing about the iconoclasm gripping the country?
For many it is not that history is being erased but that their ancestors are being disparaged. It is the unfairness of applying modern values to 18th and 19th century Americans. The dishonesty of supposing we would have behaved differently. It is analogous to thinking we would all have resisted the pressure to conform in 20th century Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, or Maoist China.
The elevation of non-European American contributions to the greatness of America does not have to come at the expense of long dead Southerners. History makes it clear that these native, black, Asian, and Hispanic Americans made their contributions despite societal barriers that existed. Their efforts and history should and celebrated. Most of the despised “neo-confederates” I know could teach many black Americans a great deal about black history. Empathy for Indians and knowledge of their history is also high in this much-maligned community.
The truth is that 21st century America is a tolerant place. That tolerance comes from the European tradition. It is wrong to think that anywhere else in the world is more open and tolerant of people and ideas. In fact, we are so open that principles long held as part of the strength of America are being replaced by imported notions. What principles?
Ask that Uber driver in Kansas City from east Africa what attracted him to America?