New York City is considering the removal of statues celebrating several significant historical figures, including Christopher Columbus and, perhaps most alarmingly, George Washington.
The problem with Washington? He owned slaves and is now being condemned for it, despite the fact that by all accounts, he treated his slaves with the utmost dignity, and it was his leadership that enabled the creation of the United States of America.
For that, he is to be “canceled,” and must be erased from history.
Alan Dershowitz and Andrew Stein criticize this new “understanding” of Washington, writing:
George Washington did benefit from slavery, although he emancipated his own slaves upon his death. But what he accomplished for other people changed the face of America for the better. There probably wouldn’t have been a United States of America were it not for Gen. Washington. He demanded equal rights for those of all religious persuasions, sending letters to the leaders of various denominations … Certainly, that and his other good deeds should be part of any calculus in evaluating America’s first president.
Another article goes on to state that if the city’s cultural affairs committee decides not to remove the statues, they will instead install next to each one “explanatory plaques” that basically tell the public of these individuals’ perceived cultural “sins.”
The irony of all this is that it was these individuals who created what, in time, became the freest country on Earth. These generations who are now being attacked as oppressors by the far left were actually deliverers. They delivered our country from the evil of slavery (even though Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers did own slaves) and guaranteed freedom of speech and freedom of religion for all. But now, because of the new “enlightenment” from those who believe they are “woke,” they have become villains beyond redemption and must be erased from our national memory.
GWU Drops ‘Colonials’ Nickname
For instance, in July 2020, George Washington University established a committee to consider requests for the school’s nickname, “The Colonials,” to be retired because the name honored the school’s namesake, who was castigated for “glorifying colonialism” and being “a negatively charged figure.” Honoring Washington would be, in their view, glorifying “the act of systemic oppression.”
Two years later, the school committee, to absolutely no surprise, announced it was changing the school’s nickname, which was first chosen in 1926, because those who selected it lacked “thoughtful university-wide consideration.”
I doubt that those who chose the name 97 years ago thought about the possible “thoughtlessness” of the Colonials nickname. In 1926, George Washington and the colonists who fought for our freedom were heroes to be honored, and respect for the sacrifice they made unified instead of divided our country. We were proud of the freedom that sacrifice provided, instead of being ashamed of it.
Yes, Washington owned slaves. So did Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, perhaps the most eloquent blueprint of freedom ever written, and whose statue has already been removed by the new interpreters of history. But as in all history, we must understand Washington and Jefferson’s decisions and actions in their historical and social context because we have learned, as a society, that slavery was not acceptable.
That is why I wrote my recent book, Toward a More Perfect Union: The Moral and Cultural Case for Teaching the Great American Story, to provide this balance and understanding of our nation’s history and heritage, and show how we as Americans will pay the ultimate price — the loss of the freedoms these imperfect men (and we are all imperfect) stood and fought for. By removing Washington, Jefferson, and so many others from our national memory, we will continue down the road of cultural and political amnesia — with no idea of how we got to where we are or where to go tomorrow.
In his book, The War on History, Jarrett Stepman writes about those who are calling for the destruction of statues and monuments celebrating the founders of our country:
There is a spreading belief that the men who built this country were oppressive and their values irredeemable. The purveyors of this view argue that we must transcend the ugly ideas, principles, and even people of the past to perfect our society. We must transform America by wiping out previous generations celebrated as exceptional, but we know to be damnable.
We cannot allow such a transformation to happen. And, as we have seen with other nations, once memories have been erased, freedoms are as well. It is my hope that our nation does not continue to go down this road but will return to celebrating our nation’s founders instead of condemning them. That is how we can preserve our freedoms for future generations.