Alexander Hamilton may have been a big government imperialist but, as the first Secretary of the Treasury, he shouldn’t be taken off the $10 bill.
Wait…step back one second. Remember all the hubbub over the U.S. Treasury’s decision to replace Hamilton’s visage with that of a woman’s?
Perhaps you don’t. In our hysterical age, the media moves from one outrage to the next, rarely stopping long enough to allow real contemplation on the injustice du jour. The capriciousness is akin to a porn addiction that soothes the brain by beguiling it with feelings of moral superiority and pity.
Not long after cultural feminism scalped Hamilton off the 10 spot last spring, the next wave of intractable wrath came in the form of the Confederate Flag – the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia to be specific. Because some shit-for-brains in South Carolina shot up a prayer meeting and had posted pictures of himself online holding the flag, the symbol had to be removed from the state capitol. That act of courage (inanimate objects kill people after all) snowballed into the Confederate Flag being purged from all venues of respectable American life.
Now we’ve reached the next Houdini-like act of disappearance. President Obama, in a swipe at white colonialism, unilaterally changed the name of Mount McKinley back to its local designation: Denali. The act is meant to appease the native population, who never took to the moniker of the twenty-fifth president. The peak was unofficially named McKinley by a gold prospector in 1896 but Congress made it official in 1917 to honor the assassinated head of state.
Republicans, per usual, are vexed that the president can act so cavalierly with power. The one and only Donald Trump has promised to reverse the name swap if he makes to the White House. Speaker of the House John Boehner, who represents McKinley’s home state of Ohio, issued a statement saying he’s “deeply disappointed” in the executive switcheroo but is making no strides toward fighting the change.
Let’s be serious here: no Republican is going to, pardon the pun, plant their flag on this hill and fight the president to the very end. Rather, the issue will be forgotten in favor of whatever symbol or monument is conjured up as “offensive” by the media. It’s all quite tiring but completely in line with the leftist playbook.
Like the Trotskyites of old, the progressives thrive off of what Irving Kristol called “unappeasable indignation.” This outrage takes shape in the form of intractable, often contradictory slogans and mission statements. Anyone with a remnant of common sense left should recognize them: tolerance through intolerance, democracy via minoritarianism, diversity in conformity, free expression by keeping your mouth shut.
The point behind the befuddlement is to throw off what’s known as Western bourgeoisie culture – the loose collection of mores, established by reason and faith, that govern everything from manners to sexuality to property rights. In essence, it is to throw off the established order of things and build a progressive paradise. That way, we can live in the just and fair society conceptualized by the Left.
One of the prime means to accomplish such a herculean task is the banishment of historical figures and symbols that represent the old way. Hence the constant push to rid the present of the past, and forge carelessly ahead into the great socialist future. And the trend shows no signs of slowing down.
Observe a few examples in recent days: a push by Yale officials to rename Calhoun college, which bears the name of slavery-supporting statesman and political theorist John C. Calhoun; historians urging Kentucky lawmakers to remove a statue of Jefferson Davis from the state capitol rotunda; Vanderbilt faculty and students considering whether or not to rename “Confederate Memorial Hall;” Iowa Democrats voting to rename the popular Jefferson-Jackson dinner, which takes its designation from two slave-owning presidents.
These efforts may come off as purging all relics of forced bondage from America’s national character. But there is something more sinister behind every call to remove something of offense: an erasing of national heritage. Evil as slavery was, it is an interminable part of our country’s story. The plundering of black labor shouldn’t be praised, but it also shouldn’t be forgotten. In the long, relentless crusade to extinguish the past, the progressives are also trying to disremember an important truth: Even the best of men is flawed – including the country’s founders.
In the never-ending march toward total historical eradication, the memory hole in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four has finally taken form. We are to forget the origins of our nation in order to create a more perfect society. What we’ll get, however, will only resemble perfection in the eyes of those in charge.
The British philosopher Roger Scruton calls “the nation and its memory” part of “our most precious moral possessions.” For him, a shared cultural memory helps us to “define the modes and prospects of belonging.” A lack of collective remembrance leads to “nihilism” and “a world fragmented by suspicion and resentment.” So instead of fostering a greater healing, the leftist destroyers of the past only promote a selfish, individualistic ideal – an ideal that unravels society over time.
National memories, no matter how sordid, should not be forgotten. Without a shared past, people end up being one of two things: anything, or whatever someone tells them to be. The former is the kind of boundless existence libertines seek. The other is despotic by nature – which is exactly what self-styled social justice warriors want.
Alexander Hamilton should remain on the 10 dollar bill. The Confederate Flag should be seen not as a sign of slavery but of Southern heritage and American history. And Mt. McKinley should stay Mt. McKinley. The agitators who seek to divide and destroy America should consider moving elsewhere. Clearly, they are unhappy with the country’s history. If that’s the case, I have one question for them: Where on Earth will you go that lacks moral blemishes on its past?
I eagerly await the answer.