Attacking history doesn’t make the present any better

Victor Davis Hanson muses at National Review Online about those who engage in “waging war against the dead.”

The 21st century is in danger of becoming an era of statue smashing and historical erasure. Not since the iconoclasts of the Byzantine Empire or the epidemic of statue destruction during the French Revolution has the world seen anything like the current war on the past. …

… The West prides itself on the idea that liberal societies would never descend into such nihilism. Think again.

In the last two years there has been a rash of statue toppling throughout the American South, aimed at wiping out memorialization of Confederate heroes. The pretense is that the Civil War can only be regarded as tragic in terms of the present oppression of the descendants of Southern slaves — 154 years after the extinction of the Confederate states.

There is also a renewed crusade to erase the memory of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Los Angeles removed a Columbus statue in November based on the premise that his 1492 discovery of the Americas began a disastrous genocide in the Western Hemisphere.

Last month, the Northern California town of Arcata did away with a statue of former president William McKinley because he supposedly pushed policies detrimental to Native Americans.

There have been some unfortunate lessons from such vendettas against the images and names of the past.

One, such attacks usually revealed a lack of confidence. The general insecurity of the present could supposedly be remedied by destroying mute statutes or the legacies of the dead, who could offer no rebuttal.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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