Taking a Lesson from History Instead of Banishing It

This is the age of the P.C. police. And the P.C. police have nothing to do with that portion of first responders who put their lives on the line every day when they go to work – those who respond to an active shooter situation, a domestic disturbance or a strong-armed robbery. The P.C. police are those who police our society looking for potentially hateful symbols, speech or groups of people they disagree with. Upon finding something they despise, they go after it with every form of vitriol they can summon to prove how hateful, those they hate, are. Kind of ironic isn’t it? The Grey Beard Biker thinks so.

Debate has had a place in our country’s history since the First Continental Congress met to promote the interest of the British colonies in America. Debate is good. Debate, when used persuasively can change opinion and build respect amongst those who oppose each other. But what the P.C. police are doing is shutting down the constitutional rights of groups they disagree with. They succeed in yelling louder than those they disagree with. In your ever-lovable Grey Beard Biker’s opinion, they are trampling on the U.S. Constitution – and they know it. They simply don’t care.

A few years ago, I was outraged about the removal of Confederate monuments in places like New Orleans, Louisiana, Baltimore, Maryland and Charlottesville, Virginia. As recently as April 2019, Maryland legislators had voted to remove the Robert E. Lee statue from Antietam National Battlefield. Since Antietam is a Federally owned property, Maryland has an uphill battle. My rage a couple of years ago had nothing to do with me agreeing with the beliefs of the men being memorialized by these statues. In fact, I disagree vehemently with nearly everything the Confederate States of America stood for. My rage had everything to do with the P.C. police trying to sanitize the history of our country. Whitewashing our past does not change it – it only dumbs down a society which is already clueless to our history, our form of government (like those who would call the United States a Democracy – it is not) and remove key figures of our Founding generation because they did not agree with beliefs these men held 250 years ago.

This morning, I came across a post on Facebook from a longtime American Civil War historian friend of mine. Unlike me, he keeps his politics to himself (probably something Old Grey Beard could learn from). Harry originally posted the article “Historical Symbols, The Nature of Truth and the Sides of History” on his blog, Bull Runnings, four years ago. He shared it on Facebook today, because there is a movement to cease observing Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. So much Harry originally wrote was prescient then – and spot on today. Obviously the P.C. police want to marginalize Jefferson because he owned slaves.

The point Harry makes in his blog article is that we cannot judge people for their actions in the time they lived in. That was their time, not ours. White supremacists are a blight on our country today. But if they were judged by a southerner in 1872, what they stood for would be viewed differently than today. Harry also makes a great observation that if we were to judge leaders of the past through the corrective lens of what we see today, we would be forced to banish Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the dustbin of history for his treatment of Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Naturally, that would lead to the removal of his statues. Interesting to think about, but unlikely to happen since FDR was a Democrat and successfully managed the entry of the United States into World War II – and nearly managed complete victory over all the Axis Powers (this would be finished by his Vice President, Harry S. Truman after Roosevelt’s death).

Grey Beard has lots of friends – and I mean friends – that hold far different views. Some are hesitant to condemn ANTIFA, a group that is fascist in actions and ANTI-FAscist in name. This single group has a goal of shutting down any free speech they do not agree with – even resorting to violence. They will block traffic on the streets of our cities, throw things at passing motorists and assault groups they do not agree with all in the guise that the message their opposition represents is hurtful to them. This is not American. It is not even adult like. It is childish behavior from childish adults. The fact that we will accept this behavior today, when these same groups are trying to erase our past, demonstrates how myopic society is today. If you do not agree with them, you are truly the enemy.

In the Grey Beard Biker’s opinion, Harry gets it right in his article when he says, “What do we do with the wrong side? Erase it? Write over it? Maybe it’s just too hard to interpret it. But isn’t that the historian’s job?” Let’s spend more time trying to understand our history, even the institution of slavery, instead of trying to hide it. Are we going to remove Thomas Jefferson next? Perhaps get rid of the Jefferson Monument? There is even talk today about whether we marginalize George Washington, the father of the United States, in our children’s history books. Who is next? Abraham Lincoln? FDR? What about Ulysses S. Grant? The Civil War may have turned out differently if he had not become commanding general of all Union Forces during the Civil War. His wife owned slaves. Should he be banished to the dustbin of history too?

We should take a lesson from British statesman, Edmund Burke: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” While we don’t have to agree with the beliefs of our important historical figures, we need to understand how the work they did make the United States the shining castle on the hill it is today.

Grey Beard Biker

Here is a link to Harry’s original article on Bull Runnings:

About the author

Living in Clarksville, Tennessee, Michael Noirot has been riding motorcycles for many years. He and his gal, Tracy, have traveled the United States on motorcycles and are always seeking out new adventures. Living with them are their pets, Willa, Lexi and Motor - the black cat!

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