Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The left's twisted logic.

Yesterday’s Giants, Today’s Dwarves

 by VICTOR DAVIS HANSON December 1, 2015 

 The Left’s highly selective application of today’s standards to yesterday’s heroes. The latest round of condemning the past on the moral criteria of the present started with banning the Confederate flag from public places. Now it is on to airbrushing away progressive old white guy Woodrow Wilson, in Trotskyized fashion, from public commemoration.  But do those on the Left realize that they are rapidly becoming captives to the consequences of their own ideology? Their current effort to rewrite the past is doomed to failure for a variety of reasons. Left-Wing Hypocrisy First, this damnation of memory is not a balanced enterprise, but predicated on today’s notions of politics, race, and gender. No one is insisting that the great work of Martin Luther King Jr. be dismissed from the pantheon of American heroism because he was a known plagiarist and often a callous womanizer who did not live up to our current notions of gender equality. The racist eugenicist Margaret Sanger is still a saint. No one is claiming that Franklin Roosevelt was a third-rate president because his State Department was full of racists and anti-Semites, who were not too bothered by reports reaching the United States about the Final Solution, and who green-lighted the illegal internment of Japanese-Americans. And why is Mohandas K. Gandhi exempt from left-wing ethical erasure? Was not his creed of non-violence tainted by the fact that his opposition to apartheid did not include much sympathy for blacks, while his advice to Jews facing extermination in Europe was heartless and anti-Semitic?  History’s Complexity Should Discourage Liberals’ Cheap Retroactive Morality To be fair, shouldn’t liberals demand that the memory of César Chávez be airbrushed? In 1969 Chavez sent his union thugs to the border to help turn away illegal immigrants, and he called for closing the border to prevent future illegal immigration. The finances of his United Farm Workers were conducted like a tribally run mafia enterprise. By present standards, Chávez’s behavior might be called xenophobic, vigilante-like, and nativist. Why ban the name of the Washington Redskins, but not the San Diego State Aztecs? The Aztecs refined human sacrifice to a Satanic art. Why ban the name of the Washington Redskins, but not the San Diego State Aztecs? The Aztecs refined human sacrifice to a Satanic art. They predicated their entire notion of war and conquest on taking captives from surrounding indigenous peoples to feed tens of thousands of innocents per year to their cannibalistic gods. Why honor that? Is their exemption granted because, even though they were mass murderers, they were at least non-white mass murderers? Ditto the Zulus. They currently enjoy iconic status as proud warriors and indigenous African nationalists. But Shaka Zulu, the unhinged 19th-century Zulu lord, killed tens of thousands of his own people in Stalinist-like mass executions and forced famines. RELATED: The Left’s Illogical Logic of Diversity Che Guevara’s picture is omnipresent in college dorm rooms. But why so, given that his rantings and scribblings were replete with anti-Semitism, anti-black racism, homophobia, and sexism? In other words, the current damnation of the past is highly selective — not even strictly honoring the Left’s own present ideas of race, gender, and sexuality. One Strike and They’re Out? Second, which ethical felonies cancel out all positive achievement in the complex world of human morality? Lincoln voiced ideas about innate racial inferiority that today we would find shocking. But without his abolitionist zealotry and faith in the evolving morality of the United States, the Union would not exist today. Is Lincoln little different from Jefferson Davis because both thought blacks backward? Is the idea of an “Age of Jackson” or the birth of American populism now to be reduced to Jackson’s reprehensible treatment of Native Americans? RELATED: Our Imperfect Eponyms: Toward a Simple Standard of Historical Evaluation William Tecumseh Sherman, by today’s standards, was a racist. Yet no one did more to unwind the Confederacy and free slaves than did Sherman with his March to the Sea. So do we write off Sherman as no different from Nathan Bedford Forrest? Has the past become a game for politically correct gotcha activists, marking their campus scorecards? No one was a greater critic of European colonialism in Africa than Albert Schweitzer, who devoted his life to medical and missionary work among the abject poor of Africa. But if you peruse Schweitzer’s writings on religion, philosophy, and culture, you will find that, by present-day standards, he seems a paternalistic chauvinist and racist. So was Schweitzer no better than the Heart-of-Darkness European exploiters who inhabit Joseph Conrad’s novels? Is history to be not tragedy, but superficial Hollywood melodrama? Has the past become a game for politically correct gotcha activists, marking their  campus scorecards to check off which sins cancel out which landmark achievements?

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