Today’s icon-smashers ‘could never build a country’

[Pat forgot to include among those being “deconstructed” in New Orleans was P.G.T. (Pierre Gustave Toutant) Beauregard, a Confederate general and Catholic]


Pat Buchanan
Published: 5/25/17

On Sept. 1, 1864, Union forces under Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, victorious at Jonesborough, burned Atlanta and began the March to the Sea where Sherman’s troops looted and pillaged farms and towns all along the 300-mile road to Savannah.

Captured in the Confederate defeat at Jonesborough was William Martin Buchanan of Okolona, Mississippi, who was transferred by rail to the Union POW stockade at Camp Douglas, Illinois.

By the standards of modernity, my great-grandfather, fighting to prevent the torching of Georgia’s capital, was engaged in a criminal and immoral cause. And “Uncle Billy” Sherman was a liberator.

Under President Grant, Sherman took command of the Union army and ordered Gen. Philip Sheridan, who had burned the Shenandoah Valley to starve Virginia into submission, to corral the Plains Indians on reservations.

It is in dispute as to whether Sheridan said, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” There is no dispute as to the contempt Sheridan had for the Indians, killing their buffalo to deprive them of food.

Today, great statues stand in the nation’s capital, along with a Sherman and a Sheridan circle, to honor these most ruthless of generals in that bloodiest of wars that cost 620,000 American lives.

Yet, across the South and even in border states like Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri, one may find statues of Confederate soldiers in town squares to honor the valor and sacrifices of the Southern men and boys who fought and fell in the Lost Cause.

When the Spanish-American War broke out, President McKinley, who as a teenage soldier had fought against “Stonewall” Jackson in the Shenandoah and been at Antietam, bloodiest single-day battle of the Civil War, removed his hat and stood for the singing of “Dixie,” as Southern volunteers and former Confederate soldiers paraded through Atlanta to fight for their united country. My grandfather was in that army.

For a century, Americans lived comfortably with the honoring, North and South, of the men who fought on both sides.

But today’s America is not the magnanimous country we grew up in.

Since the ’60s, there has arisen an ideology that holds that the Confederacy was the moral equivalent of Nazi Germany and those who fought under its battle flag should be regarded as traitors or worse.

Thus, in New Orleans, statues of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, and Gen. Robert E. Lee were just pulled down. And a drive is underway to take down the statue of Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of New Orleans and president of the United States, which stands in Jackson Square.

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Why? Old Hickory was a slave owner and Indian fighter who used his presidential power to transfer the Indians of Georgia out to the Oklahoma Territory in a tragedy known as the Trail of Tears.

But if Jackson, and James K. Polk, who added the Southwest and California to the United States after the Mexican-American War, were slave owners, so, too, were four of our first five presidents.

The list includes the father of our country, George Washington, the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, and the author of our Constitution, James Madison.

Not only are the likenesses of Washington and Jefferson carved on Mount Rushmore, the two Virginians are honored with two of the most magnificent monuments and memorials in Washington, D.C.

Behind this remorseless drive to blast the greatest names from America’s past off public buildings and to tear down their statues and monuments is an egalitarian extremism rooted in envy and hate.

Among its core convictions is that spreading Christianity was a cover story for rapacious Europeans who, after discovering America, came in masses to dispossess and exterminate native peoples. “The white race,” wrote Susan Sontag, “is the cancer of human history.”

Today, the men we were taught to revere as the great captains, explorers, missionaries and nation-builders are seen by many as part of a racist, imperialist, genocidal enterprise, wicked men who betrayed and eradicated the peace-loving natives who had welcomed them.

What they blindly refuse to see is that while its sins are scarlet, as are those of all civilizations, it is the achievements of the West that are unrivaled. The West ended slavery. Christianity and the West gave birth to the idea of inalienable human rights.

As scholar Charles Murray has written, 97 percent of the world’s most significant figures and 97 percent of the world’s greatest achievements in the arts, architecture, literature, astronomy, biology, earth sciences, physics, medicine, mathematics and technology came from the West.

What is disheartening is not that there are haters of our civilization out there, but that there seem to be fewer defenders.

Of these icon-smashers it may be said: Like ISIS and Boko Haram, they can tear down statues, but these people could never build a country.

What happens, one wonders, when these Philistines discover that the seated figure in the statue, right in front of D.C.’s Union Station, is the High Admiral of the Ocean Sea, Christopher Columbus?

Happy Memorial Day!

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  1. The End of Memory

    Brad Miner reflects on the decision in New Orleans to topple a statue of Robert E. Lee, thus erasing history. No one ever found peace in the attempt to eradicate history.

    MONDAY, MAY 29, 2017

    Robert E. Lee fell last week.

    Of course, the great Confederate general died – full of years and honors – in 1870, but this week he was ignominiously toppled in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Lee Statue there was removed by crane from its pedestal. The crowd gathered for the spectacle chanted the taunting 1970’s hit “Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye.” Democrat mayor of the Big Easy, Mitch Landrieu, said that the statue celebrated “a fictional, sanitized Confederacy, ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for. And after the Civil War, these monuments were part of that terrorism as much as burning a cross on someone’s lawn.”

    There’s a movement afoot to replace the effigy of Lee with some sort of tribute to Allen Toussaint (1938-2015), the Louisiana-born composer of pop songs, including the memorable “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” and such less memorable tunes as “Mother-in-Law” and “I Could Eat Crawfish Everyday.”

    With all due respect to Mr. Toussaint, this is the sort of nonsense we’ve come to expect from the Left. And make no mistake: it will not stop with the destruction of public monuments. I fully expect to read soon that schools will be demanding that figures such as Lee be expunged from history textbooks, lest the tender sensibilities of school children (formerly known as graduate students) be scandalized but such “triggering” figures.

    It remains to be seen if such efforts will be more or less effective than were the Politburo’s in de-Stalinizing the USSR. But those who would sanitize history grow bold. As the Wikipedia article about Lee Circle states: “The statue was finally removed on the evening of May 19, 2017 at 6pm, a departure from previous removals that occurred in early morning hours under the cover of darkness.” The previous removals were of monuments to: the 1874 Battle of Liberty Place (taken down on April 24th); the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis (May 11); and General P.T.G. Beauregard (May 17). No public monument to the Confederacy remains in the city.

    Today is Memorial Day and a good day to think about memory.

    I am an unabashed admirer of General Lee. He was a man of exceptional character and courage. Although it goes without saying, he also was not perfect. It’s mostly in Catholic churches – in NOLA and elsewhere – that one finds statues raised to the only perfect man. No other statue ever erected anywhere was to anybody not a sinner, even if he or she became a saint.

    But more than that terse point is the reality of the recounting of things that actually happened. History is not the writing down of what we think ought to have happened. G.K. Chesterton wrote of the historian’s responsibility (in Lunacy & Letters): “You cannot be just in history. Have enthusiasm, have pity, have quietude and observation, but do not imagine that you will have what you call truth. Applaud, admire, reverence, denounce, execrate. But judge not, that ye be not judged.”

    Were G.K.C. there at Lee Circle on Friday, he would surely have suggested to NOLA’s Taliban that the statue of the “marble man” might serve as what the southpaws like to call a “teachable moment.” Well, in this case, a teachable monument: explain why this man was so honored in the past; then explain why you think his thought and conduct deserve dishonor now.

    Gone with the wind . . .

    When some people experience trauma, they block out what happened. It’s a defense mechanism called repression. Some of the traumatized take their pain into therapy, during which a good doctor will seek to help the patient recover the painful memory, so that it can be analyzed and understood and, in a way, exorcized, because repression is understood to be unhealthy.

    To this we might add the full quote of George Santayana (from The Life of Reason), the more familiar, truncated version of which leaves out much that is essential:

    Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

    I have no doubt that our American Taliban, our Jacobins, our Bolsheviks all believe they’re taking a Great Leap Forward. I have no doubt that some of them will look upon today’s Memorial Day parades with disdain, believing the memorials to the ultimate sacrifice made by soldiers, Marines, sailors, and aviators are jingoistic and warmongering. I have no doubt of this, because their project self-evidently entails repressing such militancy as the parades represent.

    They are like the Three Monkeys. Or, rather, they would have us be like them, covering eyes, ears, and mouths. We are far from the days when the Civil War was regarded as a tragic clash of brother with brother. And we see the same extremes in our current public disagreements.

    The Irish poet William Butler Yeats spoke of the problem as “Whiggery.” It was, he wrote in “The Seven Sages”:

    A levelling, rancorous, rational sort of mind
    That never looked out of the eye of a saint
    Or out of a drunkard’s eye.
    . . . All’s whiggery now.
    But we old men are massed against the world.

    And we old men remember. For some the memories are seared by fire; for others they may be frozen in stone. But we all remember those who fought and died in defense of freedom, however it was understood – and this includes those fallen Rebels NOLA has dishonored.

    Between 1939 and 1945, the Allied Nations fought the Axis in a cataclysmic war. Yet, today, the enemies are friends, and this is not because we have forgotten or repressed but because memory has healed us, just as it did North and South after Appomattox. Here’s proof:

    Gettysburg reunion, 1913: Blue and Gray

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