The growing tyranny of the culture-killers
The controversy around Confederate statue removal rages. Revisionists are on the rampage with all the fury of communist mobs that want no memory of a past culture to remain. They are involved in a cultural cleansing of heroes, legends, and symbols that threatens to fragment yet more a divided nation.
The wrath of the iconoclasts knows no limits. High and mighty captains of industry quiver in fear of being labeled politically incorrect. It is the hour of the spineless and mediocre to scamper into hiding, losing themselves in the darkness of history. Leftist city officials nationwide rush to swear fidelity to the new keepers of the culture by cowardly removing Confederate statues in the silence of the night.
Nations have been devastated and robbed of their treasures. But there is no greater treasure of a people than the lives of those among them that developed great thoughts, produced great works, or fought great battles. Their deeds made those leaders legendary.
It is true that these figures were not all saints. It is also true that they lived by the standards of their times, which were far from perfect, just as the present times are imperfect. But they did set a standard. They challenged countless people to look above their own interests and sacrifice for the nation. The fact that their statues peacefully stood in public spaces for well over a century is silent testimony to their popular esteem.
The meaning of these statues has suddenly changed – not because they are no longer legends, but because those who have set themselves up as the keepers of the culture now decree their removal. That is the crime of the legend-killers. They destroy what does not belong to them. Legends belong to the people who create them. The new censors ascribe to these figures attitudes and labels that correspond not to the real person, but rather to what they want them to be.
These revolutionaries know that by taking away the physical structures, they undermine and hope to destroy the much more important pillars of the American soul. Sociologists speak of the need of nations to have representative characters and symbols that capture the imagination of a people and provide points of reference that help harmonize a society. They serve to assure a continuum with a nation's heritage and traditions.
In creating their legends, people look beyond the flaws and defects of the individual and idealize those qualities that stand out and deserve to be imitated. They see and love these figures not so much as they historically were, but as if they had attained that sublime measure of perfection they were called to by God when He endowed them with brilliant qualities. Thus, they become timeless figures, from which any member of society can borrow to give dignity and meaning to life.
The legendary figure of George Washington, for example, serves as a point of unity for all those American values he upheld. Any American at any time can draw inspiration from his example.
It is not the very real defects of these legendary figures that inform the destruction wrought by the statue-topplers. Their target is the Christian culture of times past. They abhor anything that represents the virtues, honor, and purity that stand as a rebuke to their amorality. They shrink from sanctity as devils flee from holy water. Above all, the keepers of the culture hate the Christian narrative that calls for acceptance of the Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the symbol of resignation and suffering that is part of the human condition after the Fall.
That is why these legend- and symbol-killers can also be found tearing down crosses wherever pious Christians have placed them in memorials and parks. These symbols must be removed to make way for a world stripped of all virtue and heroism. However, the new inquisitors curiously have no problem with the setting up of Satanic monuments that counter those of Christians.
In the face of a world in which people look after only their own gratification, more, not fewer self-sacrificing figures need to be put on pedestals, presented to and esteemed by the public. In a healthy society, such recognition would create conditions whereby every family, community, or association could have "legendary" members. Such figures, by their extraordinary deeds, sacrifices, and works, would elevate the whole family or group.
What is needed today are legions of legendary figures at all levels of society, not a brave new world of vacant monument pedestals.
John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order, as well as the author of hundreds of published articles. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.