The United States seems determined to rewrite its history, and not for the better.
OK, I am going to finally reveal one of the main reasons I really like about Babylon 5, and what started me down the road of blogging about it here in the first place. Art is at its best when it reveals certain realities. Most of the greats were like that, and in the genre of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, Babylon 5 certainly fits in in spite of it being a lot more sci-fi and space oriented. In all three of these, political correctness, newspeak or Squealer’s “skipping” words, or more appropriately propaganda, plays a significant role in manipulating others to garner support for one side or the other.
Let’s be plain: Political correctness is spreading lies. It’s not about being nice or empathetic. It is totally about covering up the truth in order to control the situation and/or others.
So, now politically correct people are running around tearing down statues of famous generals and such, and President Donald Trump openly asks, “Is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” The answer, in case you missed it, is that it doesn’t stop with the founding fathers. However, first let’s examine whether or not statues of General Robert E Lee are ever justified in light of the Washington Examiner article “No, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson aren’t next“.
There is, however, a much stronger distinction to draw. In each case, ask not what a person might have done wrong, but for what reason they are being honored.
Why does Robert E. Lee have a prominent place in American history, to the point that someone erected a statue of him in Charlottesville in 1924? It is because he was an American general who turned against his country and led an enemy army whose purpose was to overthrow the constitutional order and thereby protect the institution of slavery. Lee doesn’t have any other claim to fame that would cause people to erect statues in his honor. He was a Confederate general, period.
No, it actually is not that simple. Period. However, that analysis is simple-minded. Period.
We human beings seem to constantly swing from one extreme to another. We have gone from white-washing George Washington and making him into a legend to repudiating him for being a slave owner. In truth, human beings are neither good nor evil but a mixture of each. Each of us has the potential to be a Hitler were we given the resources to carry out every wish we had. And yet, people bend over backwards to help each other during disasters or to give a little extra to help the poor during cold weather.
Same with General Robert E Lee. You cannot simply say, “He was a Confederate general, period.” Rather, after the war, Lee did a great deal to reconcile after his surrender. Ironically:
Lee opposed the construction of public memorials to Confederate rebellion on the grounds that they would prevent the healing of wounds inflicted during the war.
~ Wikipedia, “Robert E. Lee“
So, the reality is that he was more than just “a Confederate general, period.” Like it or not, he won a measure of respect in the north as well as the south because he desired reconciliation more than his own politics. Unfortunately, near the end of his life, many in the south already started rewriting history and picturing him as a hero in the eyes of the white supremacy movement.
Many thought President Trump’s comment about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson was absurd and openly said so. All sorts of people fell all over each other in a scramble to criticize Trump for stating that. However, it’s already been happening for years. History has already been rewritten to paint the Pilgrims as seeking profit rather than religious freedom. Really? Is that why so many risked disease and death? For profit? History in the neoliberal mind is all about white men conquering territory and mistreating native people and ignoring the fact that the US has often been in the lead of spreading human rights throughout the world. Both are true, and highlighting one and ignoring the other does an injustice to history.
However, it is ironic that the more that Trump gets unfairly criticized, the more he gets proven right. Just a little over a week ago, Fox News reported, “George Washington’s Church Says Plaque Honoring First President Must Come Down“. So, yes, Washington Examiner, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are next. It’s already happened.
Babylon 5 already saw the rewriting of history, though, and season 5 was full of examples of attempts to rewrite the story. Cynical? I believe it is another example of how art often exposes certain realities.
The Bible has much to say about instruction, passing down knowledge from generation to generation and about history itself.
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
~ Dt 6:6-9
8 For enquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers:
9 (For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:)
10 Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart?
4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
~ Ro 15:4
2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:
3 Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.
7 Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.
~ Dt 32:7