As Republicans everywhere ran for cover this week over the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol grounds, the left moved onto its next agenda items even as the right rushed to acquiesce: removal of monuments to Thomas Jefferson thanks to his slaveholding, removal of monuments to Confederate figures from government buildings, removal of Confederate gear for sale from Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, and other private sellers.
Meanwhile, picking up on the momentum from the media and pandering politicians, vandals have begun tagging Confederate monuments.
As I wrote today in my syndicated column, there are plenty of great reasons for removing the Confederate flag from flying atop state capitol buildings, based on its history and association with slavery and racism. There are also plenty of good reasons not to remove the Confederate flag from Confederate war memorials or to remove those memorials, because that is part of our collective history, because we must constantly face up to such history and decide whether it merits honor or shame, and because the battle between states’ rights and federal authority remains a significant point of American life today – thank God, outside the context of great evils like slavery. To ignore the importance of the Confederate flag denies the history of both blacks and whites in South.
There is no reason to associate the Confederate flag controversy with the shooting of nine black innocents at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina. But Democrats and leftists in the media had to find a way to divide Americans amidst a moment of great racial unity, because the left utilizes racial discord to pump minority vote counts. If Americans are evil and racist, as the left constantly argues, the federal government must exert its power as often as possible.
The banning of the flag from the statehouse does nothing to make the state less racist (in fact, the entire media seem eager to ignore the fact that 100 feet from the Confederate war memorial that carried the Confederate flag, there is a massive and beautiful black history monument on the statehouse grounds). Neither does removing products from Amazon or removing monuments to historic American – yes, American – figures.
But that’s not the point. The point is to pretend that mass racist murderers and those who honor the Confederate flag are identical groups, and that by defending one, you defend the other.
Never mind that the Confederates were all Democrats; never mind that Democrats like Governor Ernest Hollings insisted on the placement of the Confederate battle flag above the South Carolina state house to begin as a symbol of resistance to federally-mandated desegregation; never mind that Jimmy Carter campaigned using the Confederate flag, Bill Clinton changed the Arkansas state flag to add a star in honor of the Confederacy, and Jimmy Carter III defended the Confederate flag last year in Georgia. Despite all of that, the Confederate flag debate became a partisan one, with the media asking every Republican candidate for president for thoughts on the removal of the flag. And monuments. And products.
Why? The media have recognized that Republicans would be the only possible defenders of the Confederate flag, not because Republicans have any love for the Confederate flag, but because many Republicans still care about history, still believe in federalism and the ability of states to decide their own symbols, and still believe in notions of free speech including the distribution of speech with which they disagree. Many Republicans want the Confederate flag removed from state grounds on balance – I, for example, believe the Confederate flag should not fly above state capitols, but belongs in historic contexts like war memorials.
The left, meanwhile, seeks to bulldoze history and free speech in pursuit of utopia. Offensiveness, justified or not, justifies the sledgehammer. In this respect, it becomes difficult to distinguish between the terrorists of ISIS jackhammering ancient idols in Iraq or the Taliban blowing up Buddhist statues in Afghanistan from those who would raze Confederate monuments. No one has to like Confederate war monuments and memorials, but every civilized person should recognize their historic and cultural value – even the value in constantly remembering their use for and association with evil causes including slavery and Jim Crow.
But the left recognizes when it has an advantage and has decided to press forward.
Republicans understand the political danger in defending unpleasant history, which is why they flee headlong from the issue: being dragged into a discussion about one of the most divisive symbols in American history and monuments to generals and politicians who rebelled against the union on behalf of slavery seems politically unwise. And Republicans insist, as Max Boot does, that the left will leave well enough alone once the flags come down and the memorials are removed.
The left has no such intentions. The American flag will come next (the KKK used the American flag as its symbol far more prominently than it did the Confederate flag). Already the Ninth Circuit has determined that schools can ban the American flag on Cinco De Mayo to prevent Hispanic students from taking offense and generating violence. The Ten Commandments have been removed from many public spaces, and the left wants them removed from all public spaces. Historic figures from Jefferson to Andrew Jackson (along with, for no apparent reason, Alexander Hamilton) will be removed from currency and statues. And none of this will end with public spaces – the campaign to remove American history from all aspects of American life will continue forthwith, because the left’s transformative agenda requires that history be erased if we are to change human nature.
American history and culture are replete with symbols and symbolism. Every historic symbol can be invested with a variety of meanings, some with more credibility and some with less. But banning history does no one any service; as George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” And those who destroy the past are complicit in that task.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.