What the Confederate Statue Attackers Are Really After

My friend Timothy Birdnow recently wrote an extremely valuable article at American Thinker about the Left’s campaign of violence and moral intimidation aimed at destroying statues and monuments commemorating the Confederacy. His main thesis: This campaign’s real goal is not to assuage racial sensitivities, but rather to erase the United States and its history from American minds.

After first laying waste to the hypocrisy of progressives who bemoan the presence of a statue of Robert E. Lee while condoning and even promoting offensive smears against their opponents under the name of “art,” Tim then gets to the heart of the matter:

But this is not about protecting tender sensibilities so much as exorcising the memory of a nation. The Left wants a new America, one that was born just a few short decades ago and is very different from the one we knew.

When the city of Mecca fell to Muhammad’s followers (after Muhammad broke the treaty of Hudaybiyyah and seized the city) one of the first things he did was to destroy the statuary to the pagan gods of the Quraish. This extended to the Ka’aba, the holy building itself….

And further:

What precisely was Muhammad doing when he took up his pickax and began doing demolition work?  He was destroying the memorials of the pagan peoples to erase their heritage. The Islamic world has been doing this ever since.

It wasn’t enough to try to persuade people that his was a better way — the people wouldn’t listen. So Muhammad and his followers had to destroy all memory of a time before his coming.

Consider the desecration of Hagia Sophia when the Turks finally took Constantinople; they turned it into a mosque, wrecking statuary and overlaying the ornate paintings and plaster work so as to “disappear” the Christian memory. Consider the Taliban’s destruction of statues to the Buddha, priceless artifacts that can never be replaced.

As Birdnow goes on to explain, these Islamic examples are merely representative, but are in fact part and parcel of all socio-political reformations that we might call totalitarian or quasi-totalitarian. Once one has established the premise — the chief political motive — that one has discovered a Truth that intrinsically nullifies all previous claims to human truth or worth, it is actually a very short intellectual step to regarding all evidence of those previous claims as a fundamental obstacle to the instantiation of one’s newfound Truth, and then only one tiny nudge further to see the erasure of all such evidence as necessary and just.

In short, the progressive mindset, both in its avant la lettre and its literal, late modern embodiments, is by its very nature dismissive of the value of old wisdom, great traditions, and “priceless artifacts.” On the contrary, this New Truth mentality has a natural tendency to disregard and scoff at all things that were judged valuable before its own age.

Not only, then, is Birdnow’s thesis tenable regarding today’s leftists, but in fact examples of this kind of “historical erasure” project may be found throughout modern progressive history, including among the most “advanced” American progressives.

In his 1929 apology for Soviet communism, the most influential American philosopher of the twentieth century, John Dewey, gleefully defended the Soviets’ destruction of Russian churches and religious artifacts in the name of obliterating Russian history, and specifically lamented the inability of Western progressives to attack the problem so directly, due to the survival of that annoying old liberal tradition, private property. (For details on this, and a thorough analysis of Dewey’s philosophy and its aims, I refer you to my lengthy chapter on his thought in The Case Against Public Education, entitled “Soft Fichteanism.”)

The progressive leaders and their useful idiots among today’s “students,” “artists,” and “media” — the scare quotes are necessary here — are not merely out to offend or desecrate. Their intention is complete and comprehensive erasure, which, they hope, will leave a cultural, social, and moral blank slate on which to etch their ruinous designs for mankind’s future. 

Follow the link at the top of this post to read Tim Birdnow’s full article, and visit his blog, Birdnow’s Aviary.

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