Just when I had begun to think that those who hate conservatives generally could not possible become any more irrational and deranged; that they had dug them so very deeply into the pit of despair, loathing and frustrated fury – along comes the twin scourge of “pro-Trump Republicans are Nazis!” united with the push to remove monuments with anything to do with the Confederacy from public spaces on the grounds that the historical figures so honored were supporting, defending or enabling the institution of chattel slavery. Some of the more creatively deranged or misinformed parties demanding the removal of such monuments have also expanded their monumental loathing to include Christopher Columbus, Fr. Junipero Serra, and Joan of Arc – although it is a puzzle as to why a French saint burned at the stake two centuries before the beginning of European settlement of North and South America should be slated for demolition or removal. Deep confusion on the part of the person who demanded its removal cannot be ruled out, although as my daughter has pointed out (rather snidely) chances are that they are a graduate of one of New Orleans’ finer public schools.
Still, I admit to being rather blindsided by the sudden storm of demands to remove these statues and monuments on the part of the current ‘red guards’ of the American left, remove them from the places where many of them had been installed for at least a hundred years and often longer. As an amateur historian, I find this horribly depressing; the monuments for both Confederate and Union heroes and events were put up within human memory as ghastly and savage a blood-letting as we ever inflicted on each other to this date. The question of chattel slavery and states’ rights sundered families, friends, communities, established churches, military academy classes; for four blood-soaked years, North and South tore at each other without pity or remorse … and at the end of it all, the country was painfully stitched together by millions of grave markers and the grief and regret of survivors. Indeed, the dedication of monuments was seen often as an honoring of former foes, an acknowledgement of courage and conviction, and of deep sorrow that it ever came to such a slaughter – a gesture of reconciliation. This kind of purpose is perhaps too subtle for the BLM/AntiFa/Red Guards faction to grasp, raised as they have been in relative security and plenty, suckling the teat of carefully fomented racial resentment, informed by a Zinnified view of history, and enraged beyond coherent dialog by the fact that better than half the voters in the country do not agree with them … on anything and everything. The Confederate memorials are a handy symbol, something which the rage of the BLM/AntiFa/Red Guards faction has seized upon as the heights from which to make a proxy war on the rest of us. Useless to point out to them that there is a danger of sparking a very real war, as bloody and desperate as the war that the statues commemorate.
It is a kind of madness, I have come to think over the past nine months since the election of Donald Trump; an irrational madness very much like the Great Satanic Day-Care Abuse madness of the 1980s and 1990s. This was a panic which grew and grew, sparked by the fears and uncertainties of parents, fanned to a wildfire by unscrupulous child welfare professionals, ambitious public prosecutors, and a very credulous media. Even at the time, soberer commenters were likening it to the Salem witchcraft trials. The Great Satanic Day-Care Abuse madness took longer to burn out, although at the end of it, the accused and convicted were mostly dead, not just locked up in prison. But in all three cases – there is a purpose behind the madness, and a whole group of interested parties hoping to make something for themselves out of encouraging it. In the case of the destruction of the monuments, memorials and establishments which most ordinary Americans cherish and honor – I cannot see how the campaign to destroy them will burn out of itself.