There is a movement by some at Princeton University to remove vestiges of Woodrow Wilson from their hallowed Ivy-covered walls. In the past, I have written that Wilson was perhaps one of the worst Presidents in the history of the United States not because of the reasons in the present instance of backlash, but because he laid the groundwork for a progressive fascist state of mind. Whether it was his “world government” nonsense or his appropriation of businesses and industry towards his progressive ends, there was much to dislike in Wilson.
However, this most recent “outrage” against him deals with allegations of racism against blacks. There is no doubt, as historians have noted, that Wilson was influenced by his father- a southern Democrat and preacher who extolled the virtues of slavery and subjugation of blacks. Once elected, Wilson purged government of black workers and to state that he was hardly a standard-bearer for civil rights.
But, taken in the context of the times, he was no different than a vast majority of Americans. It is easy for academics and their lackey liberal spoiled students to sit here in 2015 and in retrospect criticize historical figures. In a sense, it is the job of historians to analyze historical figures and events and to present them in a new light based upon new understandings and findings. Today’s “historians” do so not based upon some lofty academic goal, but to rake their subjects across the coals of criticism and damn them.
Cecil Rhodes likewise was what one today would be called a “racist.” He was also a large donor to Oxford and his wealth funds the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Yet now there are international voices crying for removing all vestiges of the name “Rhodes” from everything. They are ignorant of the fact that there have been numerous black and Asian Rhodes scholars who have gained benefit from the scholarship. There is no “whites only” criteria for the scholarship, just as there is no “whites only” criteria to study at an institute at Princeton named for Wilson and neither is the dormitory named for Wilson a “whites only” structure.
These episodes illustrate a more insidious side to modern Leftists- the rewriting of history, or the obliteration of certain historical figures and events. This is done with one goal in mind- to deny American exceptionalism. Ironically, the very exceptional nature of America- its freedoms especially of speech and the press- are used as the vehicles to achieve these goals. Stalin and Hitler pale in comparison to today’s American Left when it comes to this area.
It is spilling over to the political arena which would appear inevitable given the current climate. Academia has done a great job brainwashing youth. A recent study by Pew Research showed that 40% of Americans age 18-34 (the so-called “millennials”) favored allowing the government to block offensive comments about minorities. This is a disturbing trend in American thought as it applies to free speech.
The biggest threat is who defines what is offensive and what is not offensive. Even when free speech is tacitly supported, “safe zones” and “trigger warnings” are included in the discourse. The whole scenario is surreal. Students at Washington State University were warned that they would suffer the wrath of the professor if they used the term “illegal immigrant” to refer to immigrants who had entered the country…illegally. At another university, a student was threatened with an “F” on a paper if they made references to God. One supposes this was not a theology class, or at least one hopes so. There was the community college professor fired for mentioning God in a semester farewell message to to his students. Conversely, there was the college professor who was lauded for suggesting that shoplifting from Wal-Mart should not be a crime. And the list goes on.
It is one thing to create these ridiculous constructs in academia and quite another thing to rewrite history. Today in our schools, children are taught less about why the Pilgrims came to America than the alleged harms they inflicted on the “noble savages” they encountered. Indians (no…Native Americans. Wait…Indigenous Peoples) are portrayed as peace-loving friends of the earth who knew nothing of war when anything could be further from the truth. Indian wars and inter-tribal strife was the norm, not the exception well before white men landed on the shores of America.
Slavery is the other main area that is being rewritten in academia today and there are the claims that slavery is ingrained onto the DNA of every American, hence the “systemic racism” some see. Behind every tree is a racist bogeyman. They are ignorant of the fact that the Founding Fathers, despite many being slave owners, seriously grappled with the issue and it almost torpedoed the Constitutional Convention. It was an issue that festered until a civil war that pitted brother against brother ensued with ghastly death counts on both sides.
In that vein, Lincoln is universally lionized as the freer of slaves while Thomas Jefferson is vilified having been a slave owner. Today, Jefferson is portrayed as a hypocrite for writing the words “All men are created equal” while owning slaves. Lincoln is held on a pedestal even though his solution to the “Negro problem” evolved into emancipation long after suggesting they be deported to their native Africa, or a colony in the Caribbean.
The Left have their “a-ha” moments such as that which happened when Ben Carson made statements about Jefferson and the Constitutional Convention. How could Jefferson, they reasoned, influence the formation of that document when he was across the ocean serving as Minister to France? Unfortunately for the Leftist brainiac, although there was not e-mail and the Internet, there were these things called letters through which people formerly communicated. And guess who Jefferson, while in France, communicated with through letters? Fellow Virginians George Washington, who presided over the Convention, and James Madison, perhaps the greatest impetus behind the document. Added to the fact that Jefferson’s ideals which he drafted into the Virginia state constitution which later morphed into the federal Bill of Rights, one can see that Ben Carson’s historical take on events was closer to the truth than the knee-jerk liberals in the press and academia.
Academia is supposed to be one big free speech zone where the good, the bad and the ugly can be expressed. Instead, today many of those who fought for campus free speech are today the oppressors of free speech. It is, for lack of another term, academic fascism. While we should not ignore the warts in our history, we should not ignore nor denigrate the overwhelming good in our history. We do not see people risking life and death to get into socialist countries where they have no respect for freedom of speech. It is ironic that this love of freedom of speech is being perverted by so many on the Left today. It is disturbing that so many young people are accepting of it.