This LA Times article (see below), like it or not (I have mixed feelings about it), leads to some key questions. One: how is the current progressive movement behind the call for blasting all offensive monuments different from the Taliban blasting the stone Buddhas in Afghanistan? The Taliban destroyed those monuments because they offended their religious sense of order … and the current progressive movement (I’m not sure how to officially refer to it) wants to do the same to Mount Rushmore on the basis of a secular hypercritical order, fanatically ideological, unequivocally purist. The end result is the same: blasting things clean because they don’t fit with the current worldview.
When you destroy the past because it offends you you’re not that much different from the Taliban, no matter what you say.
Granted, there are distinctions. If the monument depicts a racist scene per se, or celebrates a racist moment, take it down, like they did with the Theodore Roosevelt statue at the American Natural History Museum. Two POC on foot flanking a mounted white dude? Nope! It’s a flawed way to celebrate the ‘nations’ of America or cultural diversity etc, and good riddance to that installation.
The same applies to the Confederate Flag. It’s not a cultural symbol or issue. I mean, the Nazi flag doesn’t fly in any German state since 1945, and for good reason. Regimes that celebrated atrocity can’t be held in official high esteem, and their symbols need to be taken down.
But works of art created by people of the past? Are we serious? If we examine the lives and personal beliefs of every past artist we’re going to end up with no art at all. No films, no music, no sculptures, no buildings, no paintings — very few pieces indeed. Our world will appear clean and righteous, but it will be as narrow and flawed and sick as the creation of every hardline fundamentalist, as self-defeating and ugly as any world built on the inability to accommodate the complexity of the human condition. The unwillingness to separate past and present is not an asset. It prevents us from learning from past errors, urging us to tear things down in the name of propping up humanity, making progress by crushing what offends us.
These two political abominations — the two-headed fundamentalist American Nightmare that has supplanted the American Dream…
There’s a better way forward, one that involves the tenets of democracy and open society. Tear down racism but leave past art alone. Erase symbols of atrocity but don’t go digging for ghosts and shadows in every creation. Give me six lines and I’ll condemn any person, said the notorious Richelieu. Is this what today’s progress is about?
History repeats itself in ironic ways. How many times do we have to say this? How are rational and open-minded people still falling for this? How many times must the error be repeated (in the name of not repeating it) for us to get it? Tamper with the past in a fundamentalist manner and we’re one step further into false and self-defeating progress. Hollow, rotten, blind to the lessons of the past.
The US teeter-totters between Trump/neo-fascist (pseudo)christian fundamentalism and Leftist tear-down-everything-that-offends-us progressivism, and one wonders if there’s a way back for the country, a path back to functionality and achievement, innovation and inclusivity, and a position of renewed global leadership.
One also wonders if these two political abominations — the two-headed fundamentalist American Nightmare that has supplanted the American Dream — will be exported to other countries.
NB: Yes, the American Dream was a lie for many people, including black and POC and not only — let’s not mention Native Americans — but we’re faced with a dilemma: tear everything down in a manner that fits in with a fundamentalist brand of social justice that repeats the errors of the past — and whose end product is eerily reminiscent of the Taliban’s blasts across culture in the name of justice as they understood it — smithereens! — or do we grow up and progress in a manner that truly takes us forward?
From your socratic Spin Doctor,
Eyes open, mind sharp.
PS – The referenced article takes a cautious pro-leveling stance, leading the critically minded to the points mentioned above.
Click here for the article in question: