Felling cultural landmarks
It’s been a revealing week, where even with the dreadful events in Las Vegas, the protests during our national anthem by NFL players continues as a major news event. Whether you agree with President Trump or not, you have to admit he created a national point of argument with just a few words in a speech about something else.
It is also hard to have anticipated how the NFL owners and many players, would continue to walk into a hard left hook to their public image and still come back for more.
The really interesting part of it is how it reflects on many similar protests over imagery and persons across the country.
Originally, it was pretty much just one character, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, then of the San Francisco 49ers, kneeling in protest over police actions involving African-Americans. It then spread to other teams and players and the reasons for it have become increasingly more ill-defined but it’s hard to interpret it as something other than what it seems — refusal to give respect to the symbol of something with which you disagree.
That being said, it is important to note that this protest, despite how poorly handled by the NFL and articulated by the players, is just a small part of what we should recognize as a form of collateral attack on the nation’s foundation.
For months there’s been a growing movement to remove statues, monuments and ultimately meaningful reference to various historical figures and events. It started with Civil War monuments, specifically those involving Confederate images. There may be real arguments to be made on that topic, but successes in mobilizing groups for that purpose energized some with the realization that almost every venerated figure has some dark moment in their past or at least one foot of clay, so why stop with the easy targets.
We may have started tearing down statues of Confederate generals and generic rebels but the same alliances have quickly moved on to the nation’s founders and architects and by extension, the ideas and documents they fashioned.
Some of these men had been slave owners or may have had sexist or racist leanings. These are bad things and despite the context of their lives or the time, such people shouldn’t be listened to about how a nation should be run.
Now, some are questioning the legacies and respect due even to union heroes of the Civil War which brought down the Confederacy and slavery. Generals Sheridan, Sherman and Grant were all involved in wars and actions against Native Americans so they appear to be next in the campaign to devalue whatever good they may have done.
It’s a smart strategy. The struggle by the far left to reconfigure American society continuously runs into the thoughts and ideals of venerated figures from the nation’s founding and formation. It’s been difficult to overcome that fact, so the tactic has pivoted from trying to reinterpret what they have said to painting them as creatures that should not have been listened to at all.
That’s the nature of collateral attack. When one can’t get over a wall, one finds a way to dig the foundation up beneath it so that it falls so much easier.
The ugly side of icons on the left unsurprisingly does not get similar treatment, such as when Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood said of her organization’s objective, “gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extirpation of defective stocks — those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization.”
There are many other examples but the reality is that each segment of society has its aspirational figures, which are always drawn more heroically and gentler than their actual selves.
What we have is not sudden torment over prominent figures or symbols in our history but an effort to knock down cultural landmarks so individuals don’t know what to believe or who to follow.
In such times there’s always an answer presented and it customarily involves totalitarianism.
In the midst of this let us recall the play “A Man For All Seasons” about Sir Thomas More, who replied to a student saying he would knock down the laws of England to chase the devil — “And when the last law was down and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide … the laws all being flat … do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”