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Wading reluctantly into the fray

August 18, 2017

I cannot tell you just how much I have not wanted to weigh in on the current Charlottesville/Confederate monuments/free speech/protest kerfuffle. My dislike of extremists, both left and right-wing, goes way back. I try to avoid engaging them too much because, like children, they want the attention (please note, I am not always successful in my efforts). And, like children, behavior extinction is accomplished largely by denying them the thing they want – attention. As for the underlying beliefs, we end those by teaching. We end those by proposing better ideas. So, entering the fray was not high on my to do list. In fact, it was not on there, at all. However, enough is enough. Really.

So stop.

Just stop.

History suggests Donald Trump is neither a Nazi nor a racist. I have an intense dislike for him. That doesn’t make him a Nazi. The frequent efforts to cast him as such, however, do call to mind Godwin’s Law.

Yes, private citizens pulling down or defacing statues or memorials that don’t belong exclusively to the ones pulling them down, because they don’t like them really is a crime and you really can and should be ticketed or arrested for it. Your noble intentions don’t absolve you of legal responsibility.

No. What is happening in the US today is not “eerily similar” to events in Nazi Germany. If you insist they are the same you have either no knowledge of history or nothing that resembles intellectual honesty.

Yes, the existence of at least some Confederate statues did, indeed, serve to help some people not become racists. I know because I happen to be one of those “some people.”

Yes, pulling down statues really can be a way of attempting to erase history. Suggesting otherwise is wishful thinking.

No, history does not “belong in books and museums.” History, especially the painful parts, needs to be where we can see it, warts and all. Most people don’t read books or go to museums. This is related to “attempting to erase history,” above.

Yes, all these efforts really do look like attempts to stifle views that make others uncomfortable.

More than one person has noted that the purpose of free speech is not to protect pleasant and popular speech. Its purpose is to protect speech that is unpopular, speech that makes us squirm – speech we dislike intensely. History strongly suggests that the ongoing efforts to suppress these unpleasant views will be far too successful, even for the current advocates of these efforts – that at some point, their views, too, will become targets for stifling and silencing.


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  1. Well said, and my concern is the statues disappearing in the middle of the night. If it’s statues now, how long before it’s people?

    • Attempts to obliterate history or limit exposure to it are suspect, at best. It is not unreasonable to worry that people, too, might begin disappearing.

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