Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
Back in May, a New Orleans statue of Joan of Arc was tagged with “Tear it Down” graffiti.
Why Joan of Arc? Any famous historical figure is by definition controversial. Joan is a French national symbol, but Shakespeare depicted her as a malicious witch. The French Quarter where the statue stands is a mostly white neighborhood. France was dealing with a controversial election.
This is what happens when you open a can of historical, religious and nationalistic worms.
The war on Confederate memorials quickly escalated into attacks on Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln Memorial was vandalized in Washington D.C. and in Chicago, a statue of Lincoln was burned. Abraham Lincoln fought the Confederacy. But from a black nationalist perspective, Lincoln and Lee were both racist white devils. And to the left, they both embody white supremacy.
What began with tearing down General Lee, escalated to vandalizing statues of Junipero Serra.
Serra was an 18th century Catholic priest who set up missions in what is now California. He’s hated by some American Indian activists who accuse him of racism and colonialism. There are statues of Serra all over California. And while most Americans have never heard of him, a pitched battle is underway between Catholics who venerate him as a saint and left-wing activists who call him a genocidal racist.
These leftist activists began by vandalizing Columbus statues and then Junipero Serra. But Serra was also America’s first Latino saint. To Latinos, Serra is a hero. To some American Indians, he’s a villain. And Christopher Columbus is in the same boat. The statues of Columbus spread across America were often put up by Italian-American associations. Italian-Americans marched in Columbus Day festivals. Serra pits Latinos against American Indians. Italian-Americans and American Indians face off over Columbus.
The battle over Junipero Serra is a microcosm of the gaping national and religious fault lines on which so many statues stand. Our towns and cities are full of statues celebrating some group’s version of history. The civil society we used to have allowed different groups to each celebrate the heroes of their history.
It’s not just Confederate memorials that are the controversial remnants of an old war. The Hundred Years War that Joan was part of had its own winners and losers. And if that seems like ancient history, our cities are full of memorials and statues featuring Irish, Italian and Latin American nationalist figures.
Springfield, Massachusetts has a garden dedicated to the 1916 Easter Rising. There’s a statue of Irish nationalist Robert Emmet in Washington D.C.’s Triangle Park. Three miles away stands a statue of Winston Churchill near the British Embassy. There is a great deal of national history that separates both men, but they can coexist together in our civic spaces because of mutual historical tolerance.
There can be a statue of James Connolly in Chicago and of Winston Churchill in Fulton, Missouri.
If we have to start picking and choosing between Irish nationalists and British leaders, one set of statues would have to be torn down. And then eventually both sets. Every historical figure is controversial.
New York’s Central Park has equestrian statues of Simon Bolivar, Jose Marti and General Jose de San Martin. All the statues are controversial in their own way. It took years to get the Marti statue mounted. At one point anti-Castro Cuban exiles covertly put up a replica in its place in the middle of the night.
You don’t have to be a politician or soldier for your Central Park statue to be controversial. Dr. J Marion Sims, the father of modern gynecology, was targeted by black nationalist protesters for operating on slave women without anesthesia. Never mind that anesthesia wasn’t widely used at the time. To the medical profession, Dr. Sims is a hero. To the black nationalist leftists, he’s a villain.
If the anti-statue protesters get their way, the only statue left in the park will be Alice in Wonderland.
Black nationalists in New York have been allowed to name streets and parks after racists and Nazi collaborators like W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. The other side of the bargain that allowed black nationalists to have their own heroes, no matter how racist and terrible they were, is tolerance for the other groups exercising that same privilege. The anti-statue campaign violates that bargain. And like breaking the other bargains that maintain a civil society, it begins a civil war.
It’s not just Charlottesville, Baltimore or New Orleans. It’s vandals running around California and vandalizing Columbus and Serra. It’s Lincoln being set on fire and Joan of Arc getting vandalized.
In Glendale, California, Korean and Japanese groups are battling over a memorial to the “Comfort women” who were raped by the Japanese military during WWII. It’s yet another example of how a multicultural society becomes filled with explosive battles over history that can only be resolved with mutual tolerance or centralized censorship. The left has opted for the latter. And that’s dangerous.
Trying to make things better instead often makes them worse.
After the left complained that there were too few statues of female historical figures in New York, Bryant Park got a hideous statue of a squatting Gertrude Stein. While Stein was gay, with points for the LGBT checkbox, she was also an anti-Semitic Nazi collaborator, double points withdrawn.
In a bid to court feminists, gay activists and the artsy crowd, a New York City park got a statue of the woman who suggested that Hitler should win the Nobel Peace Prize for driving the Jews out of Europe.
But that’s also how history works. Every major figure has their negative sides if you go looking for them.
Behind the self-righteousness with which the left vandalizes Confederate memorials is also a great deal of hypocrisy. The double standards immunize comrades on the left from accountability and judgement.
Without a certain degree of tolerance and historical distance, no statue can stand the test of time.
In Philadelphia, the shortage of General Lee statues instead made the statue of Frank Rizzo a target. The former mayor and top cop of Philly suffered a defaced mural and calls to take down his statue. Black nationalists hate Rizzo because of his determination to crack down on Black Panther violence and terror. But gay rights activists have also targeted the statue over accusations of “homophobia”.
But why stop with Frank?
There are thousands of statues of Martin Luther King Jr. across America. The civil rights legend was an ordained minister who believed that homosexuality was a psychological problem that needed to be addressed. People have lost their jobs for less than that.
No, there’s no help for it.
All the statues must come down. Including the huge memorial on the Mall. All the streets named after Martin Luther King Jr must be renamed. If we’re going to hold historical figures accountable for not holding the same civil rights positions that the left adopted 5 minutes ago, why not start with King?
Either that or we can once again learn tolerance by leaving each other alone.
The left’s version of tolerance is just an endless civil war that pits groups against each other. It stirs up division and hatred under the false façade of justice. Its only possible outcome is to force everyone to accept one version of history while prohibiting everyone from having their own versions of history.
That’s not America. That’s Communist China and the Soviet Union.
In America, Churchill can co-exist with Connolly. There’s room for Junipero Serra and Chief White Eagle in California. New York offers a place for a bust of Napoleon III and a statue of Garibaldi (both men had once lived in exile in the city). And there’s also room for General Grant and General Lee.
History is complicated. Tyranny is simple.
A free society isn’t maintained by the brute force of easy answers, but with difficult compromises.
Tyranny offers the easy answer of eliminating all the statues that displease us. History tells us that the statues should stay. If we embrace the easy answer, soon there won’t be any statues left.
Either all the statues must stay. Or all the statues must go.
published in FrontPage magazine
A common but mistaken reading of the current strategic situation in the Middle East presents the region as approaching the end of a period of instability. The “return of the Arab state” is one of the more arresting refrains that this perspective has produced.
According to this view, the wars in Syria and in Iraq are drawing to a close. The defeat of the Islamic State in these countries represents the eclipse of the political ambitions of Salafi jihadi Islamism for the foreseeable future. Assad is set to restore his repressive but stable rule in Syria. In Iraq, the firm reaction by the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to the Kurdish bid for independence has ended prospects of the imminent fragmentation of the country. In Lebanon, attempts by Sunni jihadis to export the Syrian war have failed, and all is quiet.
In July 2016, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria (pictured in front at center)—the leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church—hosts Ignatius Aphrem II (left), patriarch of Antioch and All East of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and Aram I, head of Lebanon’s Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
While Christianity traces its birthplace to the Middle East, that region has been arguably the most hostile area for the religion in recent years. A new report by the Christian charity group Open Doors has found that most of Israel’s neighbors, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian territories, are among the world’s most dangerous places for Christians.
Kingdom says Jerusalem agreed to pay compensation over deaths of three people, in order to end diplomatic standoff
Jordanian protesters wave national flags and chant slogans during a demonstration near the Israeli embassy in the capital Amman on July 28, 2017, calling for the shutting down the of the embassy, expelling the ambassador, and canceling the 1994 peace treaty with Israel. (AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI)
Israel is paying $5 million in compensation to the families of two people shot dead by an Israeli embassy guard last year, as well as a Jordanian judge killed in a 2014 incident, diplomats in Jordan told the al-Rai newspaper Saturday.
Ultra-Orthodox women and children attend a ceremony to welcome new Torah scrolls in a neighborhood of Jerusalem, Oct. 1 2014.
Reuven K., who is about 30 years old, is an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic man who lives in Betar Illit, one of Israel’s most prominent ultra-Orthodox localities. Reuven studies in a yeshiva, a Jewish school for Talmudic learning, but works half of each day as a wholesale merchant selling religious ritual supplies. His wife, Bracha, works as a bookkeeper in a governmental institution.
Palestinian boss Mahmoud Abbas recently declared that Israel is “a colonial enterprise that has nothing to do with Jewishness.” Moses, King David and thousands of years of Jewish history would disagree. Israel and the Jews are part of the story of human civilization. Over 50% of the human race has a holy book that tells of the Jewish journey to Israel. That includes Mohammed’s own copy of the Koran.
Israel isn’t a “colonial enterprise.” Palestine is.
Anyone who wants to find out where the name Israel comes from can open the Book of Genesis 32:29. The story even appears in Islamic hadiths. But where does “Palestine” really come from?
It may not be a shooting war. For the most part. (Though don’t tell that to some Republicans at a charity game practice who were targeted by a Bernie Sanders supporter.) But it’s a war all the same.
The war is still being fought with paper and protests. But it’s based on irreconcilable differences between parts of the country. Much like the ones that brought on the war between brothers.
This is a topic that I’ve written about quite often over this past year. Rush Limbaugh saw fit to read and promote some of those pieces. And now I’ll be giving a talk on the subject at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Conference in Myrtle Beach, SC. It’ll take place from Jan 20-22. I’m scheduled to speak on the 21st, but there are plenty of other great speakers there.
The speech was loud and clear. It wasn’t just the “may your house be demolished” curse that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fired at the leader of the strongest world power. It was the utterly delusional ideology, with false claims that only make the Palestinians sink deeper into a path of delusions and collapse.
The reactions were predictable: We have to understand him. He’s under a lot of pressure. He has no political horizon. The Palestinians are desperate. He didn’t really mean it.
A document drafted by members of the global Christian community convening at the 3rd International Christian Forum held in Moscow, detailed how over the past 10 years the Middle East’s Christian population has shrunk by 80 percent and warned that unless current trends are reversed Christianity “will vanish” from its ancient homelands in a few years’ time. Around the year 2000, there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, whereas today there are only 100,000, roughly a 93 percent drop, the document notes. In Syria, the largest cities “have lost almost all of their Christian population.”
Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, has delivered a speech triggered by his rage at the President of the United States Donald Trump, going so far as to hurl the most bitter curse in the Arabic language at the POTUS: “May your house be destroyed.”
This imprecation does not merely relate to someone’s present home, but to all the members of his family being thrown into the street to lead lives of destitution, humiliation, and shame. Only someone familiar with Middle Eastern culture understands the real significance of this curse.
The 1964 presidential election was the second in which I voted. Lyndon Johnson who had succeeded John Kennedy was running against Barry Goldwater. I didn’t like either candidate: Johnson’s personal characteristics were obnoxious, though he had achieved much, especially in the area of civil rights; Goldwater’s personal characterizes seemed fine, but I disapproved of his conservative political views.
I was shocked to read an article in Fact magazine, based on interviews with more than 1,000 psychiatrists, which concluded that Goldwater was mentally unstable and psychologically unfit to be president. It was Lyndon Johnson whose personal fitness to hold the highest office I questioned. Barry Goldwater seemed emotionally stable with excellent personal characteristics, but highly questionable politics. The article was utterly unpersuasive, and in the end, I reluctantly voted for Lyndon Johnson. Barry Goldwater went back to the Senate, where he served with great distinction and high personal morality. Lyndon Johnson got us deeply into an unwinnable war that hurt our nation. The more than 1,000 psychiatrists, it turned out, were dead wrong in their diagnosis and predictions.