The Patriot Post® · Monumental Ignorance — Dumbing Down America
“A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” —James Madison (1822)
In 2015, CNN published an analytical assessment by Dr. Stuart Manning, chairman of Cornell University’s Department of Classics. Manning’s report condemned Islamo-Fascists for destroying historic monuments in Iraq in order that history not impede its political objectives.
In that report, Manning noted, “Confucius said, ‘Study the past if you would define the future.’ ISIS, like so many iconoclastic extremist groups through history, seeks to destroy the record of the past. … The spectacle would be ridiculous and pathetic if it were not so tragic. [These acts of destruction] are brutal assaults on our collective human memory [and] dishonest and hypocritical.” Manning concludes, “Providing educational opportunities and empowering communities to learn more about their cultures and histories, and those of others, is one of the best ways to eradicate destructive hatred and violence.”
While the recorded history of Mesopotamia long predates the recorded history of North America, archeologists and historians have pieced together some of the inhabitant record of this continent over the last 1,000 years. Of course, we have very detailed history records of the continent since its colonization by Europeans, and those records are even more detailed since the founding of our nation.
Our nation’s relatively brief 241-year history is rich in both glory and tragedy, a mosaic of events that sprang from the spark of American Liberty in 1776 and have resulted in the most exceptional expression of republican government in world history.
But in recent months, there has been an aggressive campaign by a consortium of groups comprising the so-called “antifa movement” — self-proclaimed “anti-fascist” fascists in collusion with the Democrat Party — to eradicate important chapters of our nation’s history.
The most recent and violent episode of that eradication effort was a confrontation in historic Charlottesville, Virginia, where antifa v. alt-right factions clashed. That confrontation was the direct result of Democrats’ favorite political playbook strategy: fomenting disunity to rally dependent constituencies.
The roots of the Charlottesville conflict began a year earlier when some of the University of Virginia’s privileged students registered their objection to the school’s founder, Thomas Jefferson. According to the snowflakes, “We would like for our administration to understand that although some members of this community may have come to this university because of Thomas Jefferson’s legacy, others of us came here in spite of it.” (Here I would note that nobody was or is holding any students captive at UVA.)
Although other campus cultural eradication protests around the nation were festering, the UVA exercise had yet to gain much traction.
So Charlottesville’s mayor, Mike Signer (driven by BIG political aspirations), and his uber-leftist city council voted to remove a historic statue of Robert E. Lee, just as local Democrats had done in a purge a month earlier in Louisiana.
Signer calculated that his council’s measure would stir up the race-bait pot at UVA, and with the help of the Demo/MSM propaganda machine and its hate hustlers. Indeed it did. The war on statues thus masqueraded as a fight against evil and boiled over in that quaint town.
Since the Charlottesville riots, junior Bolshevik brigades elsewhere have targeted other historical icons for erasure, including Christopher Columbus and even Francis Scott Key, suggesting that our National Anthem has ties to racists — which it most assuredly does not.
UVA appears unwilling to cede its status as ground zero for the social and cultural fascists.
Last week, student protesters desecrated and shrouded Jefferson’s statue at the University Rotunda.
But in the latest chapter of this grotesque absurdity, returning again to whitewash the university’s historical connection to our nation’s Civil War, the student malcontents succeeded in forcing a vote by its cowardly Board of Visitors to remove bronze tablets on the Rotunda that bear the names of UVA alumni who fought and died during the War Between the States.
Perhaps they should just raze the entire campus and go home.
(For the record, what these angry adolescents of all ages across the nation have most in common is not a hatred of our nation’s core principles and values. What they hate most, what they most loathe, is themselves. But that is a subject for a future “Pathology of the Left” column, one that will focus on their captivity in a suspended state of arrested emotional development.)
A genuine statesman of the civil rights movement, former UN Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, one of Martin Luther King’s closest confidants, opposes tearing down Confederate memorials and monuments. “I think it’s too costly to refight the Civil War,” he said. “We have paid too great a price in trying to bring people together.” Obscene protesters notwithstanding, Young is joined in this sentiment by most Americans.
Among the reputable polls taken since the Charlottesville riots, an NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist University poll found that a substantial majority of Americans believe statues honoring Confederate leaders should stay. More notably, pluralities of black Americans also believe the monuments should remain.
Clearly, the number of Americans who understand the importance of our history is far greater than those who don’t.
Given that the monumental ignorance in Charlottesville began over a lack of appreciation for the historical standing of Robert E. Lee by a gaggle of loudmouth Demo-gogues and their cadres of useful idiots — those who embrace the notion that ignorance is virtuous — what follows are a few brief chapters of Lee’s history that none of them have ever read, and that none of them would want you to read now.
After his surrender at Appomattox, Gen. Lee wrote to Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard: “I need not tell you that true patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly contrary, at one period, to that which it does at another, and the motive which impels them — the desire to do right — is precisely the same. The circumstances that govern their actions change, and their conduct must conform to the new order of things. History is full of illustrations of this: Washington himself is an example. At one time, he fought in the service of the King of Great Britain; at another, he fought with the French at Yorktown, under the orders of the Continental Congress of America, against him. He has not been branded by the world with reproach for this, but his course has been applauded.”
After the war, when Lee became president of Washington College (renamed Washington and Lee after his death), most of the funding to restore operations of the institution came from Lee’s Union admirers in New York and other northern states.
In fact, according to biographer Douglas Southall Freeman, a New York-based insurance company offered Lee $10,000 just to use his name — an offer few others would have refused at the time but which Lee did refuse:
“The repeated business offers that came to him seem to have awakened no yearnings. Nothing appears in his correspondence to show any desire on the part of any member of the family that he accept the post of supervisor of agencies of the Knickerbocker Life Insurance Company, a position pressed on him in the winter of 1868-69 at the then dazzling salary of $10,000. Not a flutter was aroused in the president’s house, so far as one may now judge, by rumors that he might be named president of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.”
Upon Lee’s death on October 12, 1870, at the age of 63, the New York Herald offered this eulogy:
“For not to the Southern people alone shall be limited the tribute of a tear over the dead Virginian. Here in the North, forgetting that the time was when the sword of Robert Edward Lee was drawn against us, forgetting and forgiving all the years of bloodshed and agony, we have long since ceased to look upon him as the Confederate leader, but have claimed him as one of ourselves; have cherished and felt proud of his military genius as belonging to us; have recounted and recorded his triumphs as our own; have extolled his virtue as reflecting upon us for Robert Edward Lee was an American, and the great nation which gave him birth would be to-day unworthy of such a son if she regarded him lightly. … He conquered us in misfortune by the grand manner in which he sustained himself, even as he dazzled us by his genius when the tramp of his soldiers resounded through the valleys of Virginia. And for such a man we are all tears and sorrow to-day. … As a slaveholder, he was beloved by his slaves for his kindness and consideration toward them. … In his death our country has lost a son of whom she might well be proud, and for whose services she might have stood in need had he lived a few years longer, for we are certain that, had occasion required it, General Lee would have given to the United States the benefit of all his great talents.”
He was similarly eulogized in Europe.
According to the London Standard:
“Few are the generals who have earned, since history began, a greater military reputation; still fewer are the men of similar eminence, civil or military, whose personal qualities would bear comparison with his. The bitterest enemies of his country hardly dared to whisper a word against the character of her most distinguished general, while neutrals regarded him with an admiration for his deeds and respect for his lofty and unselfish nature, which almost grew into veneration, and his own countrymen learned to look up to him with as much confidence and esteem as they ever felt for Washington. No one pretending to understand in the least, either the general principles of military science or the particular conditions of the American war, doubts that General Lee gave higher proofs of military genius and soldiership than any of his opponents. He was outnumbered from first to last; and all his victories were gained against greatly superior forces, and, with troops deficient in every necessary of war except courage and discipline. Never, perhaps, was so much achieved against odds so terrible. Always outnumbered, always opposed to a foe abundantly supplied with food, transports, ammunition, clothing and all that was wanting to his own men, he was always able to make courage and skill supply the deficiency of strength and supplies. Truer greatness, a loftier nature, a spirit more merciful, a character purer, more chivalrous, the world has rarely, if ever, known. Of stainless hue and deep religious feeling, yet free from all taint of cant and fanaticism, and as dear and congenial to the cavalier Stuart as to the puritan Stonewall Jackson; unambitious, but ready to sacrifice all to the call of duty; devoted to his cause, yet never moved by his feelings beyond the line prescribed by his judgment; never provoked by just resentment to punish wanton cruelty by reprisals which would have given a character of needless savagery to the war; both North and South owe a deep debt of gratitude to him, and the time will come when both will be equally proud of him. … A country which has given birth to men like him may look the chivalry of Europe in the face without shame, for the fatherlands of Sidney and of Bayard never produced a nobler soldier, gentleman and Christian than Robert Edward Lee.”
And finally, reflecting on the character of the man in battle, there is this extraordinary account about a Union soldier’s contact with Gen. Lee, as related by Confederate Brig. Gen. A.L. Long and Union Brig. Gen. M.J. Wright in their “Memoirs of Robert E. Lee”:
“We cannot better end this somewhat extended chapter than by presenting the following incident, which is so consonant with … the character of General Lee that no better voucher for its complete truth could be offered. … It is a story told by an old ‘Grand Army’ man…”
“I was at the battle of Gettysburg myself. … I had been a most bitter anti-South man and fought and cursed the Confederates desperately. I could see nothing good in any of them. The last day of the fight I was badly wounded. A ball shattered my left leg. I lay on the ground not far from Cemetery Ridge, and as General Lee ordered his retreat he and his officers rode near me. As they came along I recognized him, and, though faint from exposure and loss of blood, I raised up my hands, looked Lee in the face, and shouted as loud as I could, ‘Hurrah for the Union!’ The general heard me, looked, stopped his horse, dismounted, and came toward me. I confess that I at first thought he meant to kill me. But as he came up he looked down at me with such a sad expression on his face that all fear left me, and I wondered what he was about. He extended his hand to me, and grasping mine firmly and looking right into my eyes, said, ‘My son, I hope you will soon be well.’ If I live to be a thousand years I shall never forget the expression of General Lee’s face. There he was, defeated, retiring from a field that had cost him and his cause almost their last hope, yet he stopped to say words like those to a wounded soldier of the opposition who had taunted him as he passed by. As soon as the general left me I cried myself to sleep there upon the bloody ground.”
These observations reflect the true character and historical significance of the man represented by those statues and monuments. Indeed, this explains the reluctance of many Americans to allow the removal or the shrouding — the “burqanization,” if you will — of our history.
On the importance of our history, and on the abject absurdity of attempting to erase it, I have often cited 20th century philosopher George Santayana, who concluded in his treatise, “The Life of Reason”: “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Aldous Huxley, author of the dystopian novel “Brave New World,” noted, “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.”
And so it goes at UVA and other once-great academic institutions across our nation, where moronic identity politics takes precedence over knowledge and truth.
(Footnote: A longtime friend of The Patriot Post, distinguished George Mason University professor Walter Williams, has issued erudite warnings about the consequences of historical ignorance here and here, including the removal of historic markers to Confederate generals and the rewriting of American history. Additionally, George Will, via Prager University, has an amusing video on the subject of “offensive place names.”)
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776