George Washington, Un-American

When George Washington's memory has been deemed "unacceptable" to Americans, will America still exist?

In the fundamental transformation of any nation, there will be a moment that stands as the symbolic termination of that nation as anything recognizable, and the beginning of a completely new nation unrelated to the old except in name. For example, you will know England is over when Shakespeare is no longer taught or studied, but has been officially rejected as an elitist remnant of the nation's sexist, racist past.

Likewise, America will be over when she no longer recognizes George Washington as the prototypical national hero. Did I say "will be over"? Sorry, perhaps I should have said "is over."

For the church pew where Washington and his family sat -- as close to a genuine shrine as any American political monument can be -- is about to be cleansed of the first family's once-honored memory, their memorial plaque removed, because it has been determined that its presence might make some worshippers feel "unsafe or unwelcome."

“Some visitors and guests who worship with us choose not to return because they receive an unintended message from the prominent presence of the plaques,” say church leaders.

Washington, you see, was a slave owner, and therefore some visitors to Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia -- which Washington himself helped to found -- might feel their personal safety threatened by his memorial plaque.

Let me restate that in language suited to the age before political correctness reduced all political speech to a combination of euphemism and ersatz sensitivity. No one is threatened by a plaque, of course, or afraid that the spirit of George Washington might inspire a new slave trade in America. Progressive radicals, urged on by their recent successes in razing statues of important men of the American South, and bringing the entire National Football League to its knees, are turning quickly toward the big prize they have craved all along: the heart and soul of America herself.

Nothing represents America more unambiguously than the memory of George Washington -- a Founder, the first man to stand as the official representative of his nation before the world community and all history, truly comparable in a properly reticent, republican way to Aeneas. If you wished to strike a death blow to the self-perception of America in the name of socialist revolution, you could do nothing more symbolically valuable than normalize public squeamishness about George Washington's legacy and moral significance.

"Come on," some will say, "a church pew plaque is meaningful, but don't make a federal case out of it, it's only a symbol."

On the contrary, it is precisely its purely symbolic value that makes this violation of America's core so serious.

The rejection and erasure of the past -- past achievements, past wisdom, past greatness -- is essential to any political movement that is totalitarian in spirit. Societal improvement is not the chief aim of such movements; exclusive and unquestioned control is. Hence, any call from the distance that might be heard by "the masses" as a challenge to the onrushing political vanguard -- that might cause a moment's circumspection or hesitation about the vanguard's calls for radical transformation -- must be silenced. A populace with an honored past is a populace with good reasons to fear unreflective change, or, more importantly, to deeply question the ultimate worth of the new.

That is why radical Islamist factions such as the Taliban and ISIS get a special thrill from destroying historic religious monuments. That is why the twentieth century's Russian and Chinese communists took such relish in eliminating all remnants of the pre-revolutionary period, including even people with alleged familial ties to the old "capitalists."

And that is why John Dewey, America's foremost socialist thinker and philosopher of education,  in his first flush of enthusiasm for the Soviet Union, expressed special admiration for the Soviet practice of removing and outlawing religious and cultural monuments of the Czarist past.

The most dangerous enemy for radical social reformers is not their contemporary opponents, who can be fought directly through propaganda, public shaming, conflations of thoughtful resistance with cowardice ("the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"), and if necessary, violence.

No, the real enemy of the advocates of society's fundamental transformation (i.e., essential redefinition) is the public's memory of its past and its ancestry. People who remember their past, and have been raised to respect and even revere what was admirable about it, have a natural buffer against the push for precipitous lurches "forward." The urgent need for the new is obviously less compelling to one who finds solace and inspiration in the old. Hence, when your goal is not societal improvement -- which would entail an obvious vested interest in retaining the best of the past -- but rather comprehensive social control, you must set about ruthlessly, unapologetically, erasing the popular memory.

Naturally, the violence of such erasure will cause temporary spasms, but if the population as a whole has been reduced to levels of moral weakness, historical ignorance, and material gratification that necessarily diminish all strong attachments -- let alone attachments to spiritual objects such as ideas and symbols -- then they are ripe for the picking. Those temporary spasms will abate, and if you just keep pushing and propagandizing, before you know it even the most reticent will be conceding that, "Well, if people are offended by it, then what's the big deal? Let's take it down -- it's only a symbol."

In other words, when the general population of The United States of America has accepted, however awkwardly, that George Washington's legacy may well be more involved with the unjust and antiquated world of slave ownership than with...well, with whatever it was that people used to think was so important about him, then the nation's fundamental transformation will be all but complete.

The laws and, as needed, purges that constitute the direct imposition of socialism may then proceed without any serious mass opposition, as the spirit of independence that used to live in the hearts of Americans as a bulwark against the permanent temptation to trade freedom for Utopian fantasies of comfort and safety -- that spirit being the "mere symbolism" of America -- will have been successfully deleted from the new pseudo-soul of America 2.0.

To be perfectly clear, this issue of George Washington's church pew is not about race, nor is it about slavery's sad legacy. It is about the cynical desire of a relative handful of academics, bureaucrats, and other radical agents (most of them white and wealthy) to fuel the juggernaut of unthinking destruction that, they hope, will leave the American population stunned and exhausted, ready for the totalitarian nanny state at last. It is about coaxing and cajoling an ailing nation toward accepting, even willing, its national suicide.

Daren Jonescu writes about politics, philosophy, education, and the decline of civilization at http://darenjonescu.com/.

When George Washington's memory has been deemed "unacceptable" to Americans, will America still exist?

In the fundamental transformation of any nation, there will be a moment that stands as the symbolic termination of that nation as anything recognizable, and the beginning of a completely new nation unrelated to the old except in name. For example, you will know England is over when Shakespeare is no longer taught or studied, but has been officially rejected as an elitist remnant of the nation's sexist, racist past.

Likewise, America will be over when she no longer recognizes George Washington as the prototypical national hero. Did I say "will be over"? Sorry, perhaps I should have said "is over."

For the church pew where Washington and his family sat -- as close to a genuine shrine as any American political monument can be -- is about to be cleansed of the first family's once-honored memory, their memorial plaque removed, because it has been determined that its presence might make some worshippers feel "unsafe or unwelcome."

“Some visitors and guests who worship with us choose not to return because they receive an unintended message from the prominent presence of the plaques,” say church leaders.

Washington, you see, was a slave owner, and therefore some visitors to Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia -- which Washington himself helped to found -- might feel their personal safety threatened by his memorial plaque.

Let me restate that in language suited to the age before political correctness reduced all political speech to a combination of euphemism and ersatz sensitivity. No one is threatened by a plaque, of course, or afraid that the spirit of George Washington might inspire a new slave trade in America. Progressive radicals, urged on by their recent successes in razing statues of important men of the American South, and bringing the entire National Football League to its knees, are turning quickly toward the big prize they have craved all along: the heart and soul of America herself.

Nothing represents America more unambiguously than the memory of George Washington -- a Founder, the first man to stand as the official representative of his nation before the world community and all history, truly comparable in a properly reticent, republican way to Aeneas. If you wished to strike a death blow to the self-perception of America in the name of socialist revolution, you could do nothing more symbolically valuable than normalize public squeamishness about George Washington's legacy and moral significance.

"Come on," some will say, "a church pew plaque is meaningful, but don't make a federal case out of it, it's only a symbol."

On the contrary, it is precisely its purely symbolic value that makes this violation of America's core so serious.

The rejection and erasure of the past -- past achievements, past wisdom, past greatness -- is essential to any political movement that is totalitarian in spirit. Societal improvement is not the chief aim of such movements; exclusive and unquestioned control is. Hence, any call from the distance that might be heard by "the masses" as a challenge to the onrushing political vanguard -- that might cause a moment's circumspection or hesitation about the vanguard's calls for radical transformation -- must be silenced. A populace with an honored past is a populace with good reasons to fear unreflective change, or, more importantly, to deeply question the ultimate worth of the new.

That is why radical Islamist factions such as the Taliban and ISIS get a special thrill from destroying historic religious monuments. That is why the twentieth century's Russian and Chinese communists took such relish in eliminating all remnants of the pre-revolutionary period, including even people with alleged familial ties to the old "capitalists."

And that is why John Dewey, America's foremost socialist thinker and philosopher of education,  in his first flush of enthusiasm for the Soviet Union, expressed special admiration for the Soviet practice of removing and outlawing religious and cultural monuments of the Czarist past.

The most dangerous enemy for radical social reformers is not their contemporary opponents, who can be fought directly through propaganda, public shaming, conflations of thoughtful resistance with cowardice ("the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"), and if necessary, violence.

No, the real enemy of the advocates of society's fundamental transformation (i.e., essential redefinition) is the public's memory of its past and its ancestry. People who remember their past, and have been raised to respect and even revere what was admirable about it, have a natural buffer against the push for precipitous lurches "forward." The urgent need for the new is obviously less compelling to one who finds solace and inspiration in the old. Hence, when your goal is not societal improvement -- which would entail an obvious vested interest in retaining the best of the past -- but rather comprehensive social control, you must set about ruthlessly, unapologetically, erasing the popular memory.

Naturally, the violence of such erasure will cause temporary spasms, but if the population as a whole has been reduced to levels of moral weakness, historical ignorance, and material gratification that necessarily diminish all strong attachments -- let alone attachments to spiritual objects such as ideas and symbols -- then they are ripe for the picking. Those temporary spasms will abate, and if you just keep pushing and propagandizing, before you know it even the most reticent will be conceding that, "Well, if people are offended by it, then what's the big deal? Let's take it down -- it's only a symbol."

In other words, when the general population of The United States of America has accepted, however awkwardly, that George Washington's legacy may well be more involved with the unjust and antiquated world of slave ownership than with...well, with whatever it was that people used to think was so important about him, then the nation's fundamental transformation will be all but complete.

The laws and, as needed, purges that constitute the direct imposition of socialism may then proceed without any serious mass opposition, as the spirit of independence that used to live in the hearts of Americans as a bulwark against the permanent temptation to trade freedom for Utopian fantasies of comfort and safety -- that spirit being the "mere symbolism" of America -- will have been successfully deleted from the new pseudo-soul of America 2.0.

To be perfectly clear, this issue of George Washington's church pew is not about race, nor is it about slavery's sad legacy. It is about the cynical desire of a relative handful of academics, bureaucrats, and other radical agents (most of them white and wealthy) to fuel the juggernaut of unthinking destruction that, they hope, will leave the American population stunned and exhausted, ready for the totalitarian nanny state at last. It is about coaxing and cajoling an ailing nation toward accepting, even willing, its national suicide.

Daren Jonescu writes about politics, philosophy, education, and the decline of civilization at http://darenjonescu.com/.