By William D. Howard
Whatever happened to the ultra-tolerant liberal? It seems that these traditional liberals who wanted to live in a judgment free-zone of “Live and let live” are fading fast. They are being replaced by a new breed of anti-social creatures, devoid of any general sense of compassion and are, utterly and hopelessly intolerant of others who hold a different political or cultural view. National riots, the anarchy in Seattle, and the mobs destroying historical monuments in the South seem to reveal their true character and life purpose. These are the new barbarians of the 21st century. They are the “Hate America First” crowd in full bloom.
We are now left with the loudest, most malicious, ill-informed people simplifying the problem of social injustice and dogmatically asserting their left-wing solutions.
The starting point of their demagoguery is the logical fallacy known as the “Perfect Society”. They hold- up America’s historical imperfections in comparison to a mythical perfect society. America’s past is compared to something that never existed and never will exist.
Another false assumption which those who desire to remove the post-Civil War monuments rely on is the rationale that the monuments promote the alleged “White Supremacy”. In reality these monuments were intended to honor the hundreds of thousands of common, southern soldiers who fought bravely and perished in defense of what they thought was right or out of love for the communities and families they came from. Like all soldiers they had no one reason for which they fought. No one living today can honestly give a definitive answer as to their motivation. If anything the Civil War monuments provide a modern history lesson of the terrible human cost of the alleged “White Supremacy” and civil wars in general.
In the same way it is impossible to determine a single reason why people from the north and the west served the Union cause. On the strength of historical study it is safe to say that most of these men fought to maintain the union of the United States. Historical analysis also shows that the majority of Union soldiers were not abolitionists. The cause of abolition was held by a small minority of Americans during that period of time. The alleged “White Supremacy” as a belief system was common in both the north and the south. It was Union veterans after the Civil War that were used to complete the military struggle against the last remaining independent, native American tribes.
My point is not that these American soldiers are not entitled to be honored but where does the madness of destroying historical monuments stop? Must we now remove all monuments to our military, political and cultural leaders? Must all the history books be rewritten as they used to be in Communists countries after one dictator replaced another? Must history become a tool of left-wing propagandists only used to bludgeon their enemies? If today’s monument vandals were consistent they would demand the removal of all monuments which honor the people and leaders of all cultures which are not morally perfect. They would not engage in selective moral outrage but would include the monuments of Mexico, Central and South America, where the Aztec, Mayans and Inca, stained their wonderful temples and pyramids with the blood of thousands of sacrificed victims. All of these Native American, civilizations were the products of war, conquest and enslavement. Leaving the Western hemisphere they would need to travel east to Italy and topple the Pantheon and in Greece the Parthenon. If these young haters reached Egypt they would have many opportunities like ISIS to deface monuments and smash statues. Dismantling the great pyramids alone would provide them with many years of moral improving exercise.
The monument vandals are only capable of selective moral outrage. They are only interested in the sins of America or Western Civilization. Those are the only people that will be required to climb the scaffold of what they call “Social Justice”.
A final fallacy in reasoning which they employ is similar to the “Perfect Society”. It is the fallacy of the “Perfect Person”. This reasoning holds that only people who have lived perfect lives can be honored with monuments. In their reasoning there is no room for concepts like grace, forgiveness and reconciliation. Of all animals human beings have the greatest capacity for change. In one stage of their lives they may be a villain and in another a saint. Most people who are honored are honored for only a certain aspect of their lives: great artists, athletes, movie stars are prime examples.
Selective Moral outrage is a dangerous pursuit. There is a long and wide historical record and no shortage of imperfect people or civilizations. Maybe we would be better off following Jesus’s advice and not be the first one to cast a stone.
William D. Howard is a freelance writer who had a long career as an educator. He holds degrees in philosophy and history and has traveled widely in over 40 countries.