The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal has described this current period of social unrest America’s “Jacobin moment” because it has the fervor and indiscriminate judgment of the revolutionary mind. The guillotine isn’t as yet in use, but the impulse is the same–to destroy careers, livelihoods, and reputations. And lately, the mob’s emphasis is to renew its attacks on American icons and history, beginning with anything remotely associated with the Confederacy. We’ve been there before, as recently as the mob response to the church shootings in Charleston, South Carolina in the summer of 2015. I looked back at what I had to say then, and I stick by it, as follows:
“What is most important about the monuments, school names, and other memorials to the Confederacy and its leaders is to get the history right and to teach it properly, a job that, in my experience, is insufficiently done. In American history, particularly as it pertains to the slavery issue and the causes of the Civil War, we need to understand the U. S. constitutional debates, the Federalist Papers, the Lincoln/Douglas debates, Lincoln’s first inaugural address, the Dred Scot Supreme Court decision, the ideology of the so-called southern “lost cause”, etc. In Texas history as in the case of the other former Confederate states, there should be full disclosure of who these people are that are memorialized in our school names and on our capitol grounds and other public venues. And, in cases where the inscriptions on the memorials are incorrect or misleading, let’s add a plaque explaining the full story with all the warts. I’m all for a special commission to lead and supervise this effort.”
Some of these statues and other memorials deserve to be in museums or other places of display, with the proper inscriptions for the sake of history and its perspective, and yes, a few should simply be removed as inappropriate. But beyond getting the history straight, are we then going to airbrush all other visible symbols of the left’s notion of “white supremacy” out of history? Where do we stop? Columbus has already fallen to the mob in several cities; are Washington and Jefferson next? This is where long overdue leadership comes in and it must come from whatever elements of the liberal establishment that still have the moral authority and courage to say STOP! Then the leaders of our most authoritative institutions–corporate, foundations, universities, cultural, religious, and media–must come together, stand up to the mob, and bring order to the room. If they can’t or won’t assume this leadership, then we truly are facing a Jacobin moment, not to mention a major backlash that will not be pretty.