From 1479 to 1425 B.C., King Tuthmose III ruled Egypt and expanded its empire to the largest stretches in its history. For twenty of those years, he was co-regent with his step-mother and aunt, Hatshepsut. After assuming full control after her death and later in his rule, he ordered the destruction and defacement of monuments and tombs to his co-regent, aunt and step-mother in an effort to wipe her legacy from the face of Egyptian history. This is believed to have happened about 40 years after her death. The story goes that there was always resentment that he had to share a throne with a woman he despised. By destroying her monument and temple, he sought to erase her from Egyptian history. Yet, Hatshepsut was a pharoah nevertheless who opened new trade routes and was one of the most prolific builders in ancient Egypt.
During the French Revolution and the subsequent Reign of Terror, one of the biggest leaders of the opposition to the revolution was the Catholic Church. The Church held great power in royal France prior to the Revolution. They recorded births, deaths and marriages and were the only ones who ran the hospitals and schools. Their influence reached every aspect of French life. In an effort to wipe away first the Catholic Church and then all Christianity, the Revolution confiscated all Church property, destroyed statues, plates and other iconographic images and, destroyed crosses and other symbols of worship. This reached its climax in 1793 when the goddess “Reason” was celebrated in the Cathedral of Notre Dame. It was the ultimate act of desecration and the eventual plan was to destroy the Cathedral with explosives in order to wipe the memory of Catholicism and its primary symbol- Notre Dame- from French history. Yet, Catholicism survived the purging of its history in France and was nevertheless an important factor in pre-Revolution France.
Under the rule of Stalin in the Soviet Union, he instituted great purges of political dissenters, or those he thought opposed him. It is estimated that Stalin has the blood of at least 20 million people on his hands, perhaps 40 million. But, he did not stop there. He erased the history books of the 1917 Revolution of anything that pertained to those he considered his enemy. Leaders under Lenin like Trotsky and Kirov were not only brutally murdered, but their contributions to the development of Communism in the Soviet Union were obliterated. He also thoroughly purged the country of any history of the Romanoff dynasty. Yet, the Romanoffs ruled Russia for over 100 years, and Trotsky and the others were key figures in the Russian Revolution.
Recently, the world was shocked and saddened as legions of ISIS terrorists destroyed the purported tomb of Jonah and other iconic Christian shrines and churches in the territory they were occupying in a bid to erase the memory and history of anything non-Islamic. This culminated most recently with the destruction and dismantling of Roman and Greek artifacts in the city of Palmyra because they were “too Western.” Yet, the Greeks and Romans built beautiful shrines and temples and their occupation of Syria at various times is no less a fact of history.
In the United States in 2015, in response to a horrific act of racism and violence in Charleston, South Carolina, the state voted to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the State Capitol after a brief, but emotional legislative session. Yet, South Carolina was nevertheless part of the Confederacy and, in fact, the state where the first shots of the Civil War were fired and the first state to secede from the Union in 1861. This was followed in short order by the removal of anything with the Confederate flag on e-Bay and Amazon, calls to take the flag off Maryland license plates and, my favorite, taking the tacky Dukes of Hazard off the air because the car- besides Daisy’s shorts being the real stars of the show- had the Confederate flag emblazoned on the top.
But, it doesn’t stop there. The Georgia NAACP is lobbying that the depiction of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis be removed from Stone Mountain outside Atlanta. The city of Baltimore is contemplating renaming Robert E. Park. In Tennessee, the remains of a Confederate General and his wife have been exhumed and relocated. Out of sight, out of mind. Yet, removing depictions from Stone Mountain make Georgia no less a member of the former Confederacy. Removing Lee’s name from a park in no way changes the historical fact that Maryland, despite being “neutral,” had slaves and more than its fair share of Confederate sympathizers. These are historical facts that cannot be changed because history cannot be changed no matter how you destroy the images and symbols of history.
Recently, the Democratic Party in Connecticut decided to change the name of their annual fundraising dinner- the Jefferson Jackson Bailey Dinner. Henceforth, it will simply be known as the Bailey Dinner. Bailey’s contribution to American history is that he was a Party leader in Connecticut who endorsed the New Deal and other liberal policies along with being a staunch supporter of John Kennedy. In historical significance, he pales in comparison to the likes of Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson. To the Democratic Party of Connecticut, their names conjure up images of slaveholders and Indian killers. But, both nevertheless were major players in our country’s founding and history.
If we follow through on this logic, then perhaps every county named after Lee, Jackson, Jefferson or even Washington should be renamed, not to mention every park and street named after them. Perhaps we should just drop the “Washington” part from our nation’s capital’s name also. Why stop at the Confederate flag, parks, and license plates? Perhaps we should ban the sale of Civil War merchandise and memorabilia. And those silly Civil War re-enactments must come to an end, especially those that depict a Confederate victory and perhaps only allow those that display the righteousness of the Union.
Yet, the Left’s hypocrisy is on full display when racism is evident on their side of history. Citation of the historical fact that Robert Byrd was not only a member but a leader of the Ku Klux Klan are “poo-pooed” away. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black was also a member of the KKK in his native Alabama. The Left tells us that this is to be expected because the only way to work your way up the political ladder in early 20th century Alabama or West Virginia was to be a member of the KKK. They are making a great argument for selective history. In other words, it is just fine to be a member of the KKK in 1920’s Alabama because that is the way it was then.
Well, slavery was a fact of life and history prior to the 13th Amendment. Indians wars were a fact of life and history before, during and after the time of Jackson. Instead of erasing the symbols and names of that history, perhaps they should be used as learning tools. Yes- Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederacy and originally opposed and fought against secession. Yes- Robert E. Lee commanded the largest and most able Confederate Army and is considered a military genius and he even owned slaves. Yes- Jefferson owned slaves despite “all men being created equal.” And yes- there was slavery in the United States once and that eleven states dropped away from the Union to form their own country to preserve their way of life which included slavery.
But let’s also teach that the North was not as righteous as they are portrayed in the new historical revisions of American history most often found in textbooks written by Howard Zinn or documentaries by Oliver Stone. Teach our youth that Lincoln sought to colonize Liberia and islands in the Caribbean to solve “the Negro problem.” Teach them that there were many in the North who opposed the Emancipation Proclamation and regularly used racial slurs against blacks with impunity in newspaper articles and Congressional floor speeches. Teach them that slavery and racism was not necessarily indigenous to the South. Teach them that Andrew Jackson may have decimated the Cherokee population in the East and set them on the Trail of Tears, but also teach them the accomplishments of the Jackson administration.
But by no means destroy the symbols of the past be it the Confederate flag, a grave in a cemetery, the name of a park, or the portrait of someone on the $10 bill. Because as we discovered with ancient Egypt, as we discovered with the French revolution, Stalin’s purges and ISIS’ desecration and destruction of ancient artifacts, you cannot erase history; just learn from it. Doing these things may make some people feel better, but are they any different than Tuthmose III, the French revolutionaries and their Reign of Terror, Stalin or ISIS?