So much happens everyday it is hard to keep track. Each day there is a new scandal, outrage, investigation, tell-all book, lawsuit or nasty tweet. This year is seemingly dragging on forever; last January now seems like 6 years ago. So before we all forget about it I want us to go over the President’s 4th of July speech at Mount Rushmore.
Dyed Blond Don brought up an incident from 2018 at Columbia University, when a student, Julian von Abel confronted a group of black students and began ranting:
“We built the modern world!” When someone asks who, he responds, “Europeans!”
Von Abele goes on:
“We invented science and industry, and you want to tell us to stop because oh my God, we’re so baaad. We invented the modern world. We saved billions of people from starvation. We built modern civilization. White people are the best thing that ever happened to the world. We are so amazing! I love myself! And I love white people!”
He concludes: “I don’t hate other people. I just love white men.”
Now why would the President of the United States bring up this young man’s rant in a 4th of July celebration? Because IMHO the sentiments like the one this young man expressed — that white men must be venerated, regardless of their sins, in spite of their sins, because they used maps, Bibles and guns to change the world, and thereby lifted it and saved it — aren’t limited to one college student. They are at the root of patriarchal white supremacist ideology.
To people who believe in this, white men are the heroes in the history of the world. They conquered those who could be conquered. They enslaved those who could be enslaved. And their religion and philosophy, and sometimes even their pseudoscience, provided the rationale for their actions. (NY Times)
Trump continued on; “Seventeen seventy-six represented the culmination of thousands of years of Western civilization and the triumph not only of spirit, but of wisdom, philosophy and reason.” He continued later, “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children.”
The “our” in that quote I assume refers to white men.
How dare the others, some enslaved, some simply oppressed, recall the transgressions of their oppressors? The nerve! The ingratitude!
He went on: ” This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution. In so doing, they would destroy the very civilization that rescued billions from poverty, disease, violence and hunger, and that lifted humanity to new heights of achievement, discovery and progress.” Sounds a lot like von Abel.
In fact the only thing being called out is the hypocrisy of many of those who fought for freedom and justice from Britain – for themselves – while enslaving Africans and slaughtering indigenous peoples.
But Trump doesn’t like the intrusion, like all white supremacists. “Against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but that were villains. The radical view of American history is a web of lies.”
“This movement is openly attacking the legacies of every person on Mount Rushmore. They defile the memory of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt.”
Mr. President, it is not “defilement” – it is simply correction.
As pointed out in an op/ed in the New York Times:
“Is it a defilement to point out that George Washington was an enslaver who signed a fugitive slave act and only freed his slaves in his will, after he was dead and no longer had earthly use for them? (And his wife never did free hers)
Is it a defilement to point out that Thomas Jefferson enslaved over 600 human beings during his life, many when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, and that he had sex with a child whom he enslaved — I call it rape — and even enslaved the children she bore for him?
Is it a defilement to recall that during the Lincoln-Douglas debates Abraham Lincoln said:
“I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the Black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which in my judgment will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong, having the superior position.”
Is it defilement to recall that Theodore Roosevelt was a white supremacist, supporter of eugenics and an imperialist? As Gary Gerstle, a professor of American history at the University of Cambridge, once put it, “He would have had no patience with the Indigenous and original inhabitants of a sacred American space interfering with his conception of the American sublime.”
One of the largest mass lynching in American history was of eleven Italians in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1891. The city had been the destination for numerous Italian immigrants.
Nineteen Italians who were “thought” to have assassinated police chief David Hennessy were arrested and held in the Parish Prison. Nine were tried, resulting in six acquittals and three mistrials.
The next day, a mob stormed the prison and killed eleven men, none of whom had been convicted, and some of whom had not been tried. Afterward, the police arrested hundreds of Italian immigrants, on the false pretext that they were all criminals.
Teddy Roosevelt, not yet president, was having a dinner with friends, also attended by the Italian Ambassador to the United States. Italy had filed a strong diplomatic protest to the manner in which its citizens were being treated. Teddy famously replied that the lynching was “indeed a rather good thing.”
He wrote his sister: “Monday we dined at the Cameron’s; various dago diplomats were present, all much wrought up by the lynching of the Italians in New Orleans. Personally I think it rather a good thing, and said so.”
It is time to see our heroes and history warts and all.