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
Trump hails ‘big week’ for historic move; ‘Congratulations to all,’ he tweets ahead of May 14 opening
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman gives a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 11, 2018, ahead of its opening on May 14 (Screenshot)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Friday gave a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, showing off workers erecting the official seal on the building and preparing for the opening ceremony.
“We are so excited,” Friedman said in a video posted on the embassy’s Facebook page. “We have the official seal of the United States embassy. We have the dedication plaque. They are covered right now, but on Monday they are going to be unveiled.”
‘Next time in Jerusalem,’ jubilant Barzilai yells after victory; ‘Toy’ marks Israel’s 4th win; hundreds jump in Rabin Square fountain to celebrate; PM calls her ‘best ambassador’
Netta Barzilai after winning the final of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, on May 12, 2018. (AFP/ Francisco LEONG)
Israel won the Eurovision song contest for the first time in two decades Saturday as singer Netta Barzilai clucked and bucked her way to the top of the international song contest with women’s empowerment anthem “Toy.”
Backed up by three dancers, her trademark side buns featuring stripes of pink dyed hair to match her pink-and-black outfit, Barzilai busted her way through “Toy” on stage in Lisbon, Portugal, punctuating her singing with her trademark eye rolls and chicken dance moves
Quoted by US president one day, hosted by Russia’s president the next, PM is on a high, including in the polls. But will this encourage his more divisive tendencies?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the Victory Parade marking the 73th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
JTA — On Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu began his week by meeting his Cypriot and Greek counterparts to finalize the commercial export to Europe of Israeli gas that he has pushed to exploit for about a decade.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from nuclear deal with Iran was widely seen as a coup for Israel’s prime minister, a fierce opponent of the deal.
The same day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel seized Iran’s archive of its military nuclear program in Tehran and spirited it to Israel, a video was posted of IDF soldiers singing Soltane Ghalbha, a traditional Persian love song – in Persian.
Taken together, the two events demonstrate the purpose of Netanyahu’s presentation.
Netanyahu’s detractors in the US and Israel called his presentation as a dog and pony show. “He didn’t tell us anything we haven’t known for years,” they sniffed.
Moreover, they insisted, Netanyahu’s presentation was actually counterproductive because he couldn’t show evidence that Iran is in breach of the nuclear deal it concluded in 2015 and so did nothing to persuade the Europeans to abandon the deal.
While US policy-makers are trying desperately to stabilize Afghanistan, a shift is being orchestrated by China.
The Chinese evidently see their role in Afghanistan as the “good cop” versus the U.S. role as “bad cop.” Like Pakistan, China seems to view the Taliban as the political opposition, not as a terrorist organization, and has offered itself as an intermediary to negotiate the departure of the U.S. and, thereby, be in a position to reap the economic and geopolitical benefits of Afghanistan as a client state of the China-Pakistan alliance.
Reuters/Ipsos set a new standard this week when it condemned its own polling as unreliably favorable to the president.
“This week’s Reuters/Ipsos Core Political release presents something of an outlier of our trend,” stated a paragraph that appeared before the press release on its latest polling even began.
“Every series of polls has the occasional outlier, and in our opinion, this is one. So, while we are reporting the findings in the interest of transparency, we will not be announcing the start of a new trend until we have more data to validate this pattern.”
For the sixth Friday in a row, protestors from Gaza came to Israel’s border with intentions to penetrate it. They come with scissors to cut through the fence, with burning tires, Molotov cocktails, slingshots with rocks, and kites with firebombs attached to them to destroy Israeli farmlands and villages.
This is not some peaceful demonstration akin to Selma in the 1960s when blacks were simply trying to sit together with whites at a lunch counter. The usage of the word “demonstrators” is a misnomer; these are “rioters.”
What would happen if the world took Pope Francis’ advice (via a tweet)? “Do we really want peace? Then let’s ban all weapons so we don’t have to live in fear of war,” said the pontiff.
While on the surface, the disappearance of all weapons might suggest the inability to do violence, in reality, it would mean the certain annihilation of the West as a civilization.
When a Philadelphia Starbucks manager called the police after two black men refused to leave, the chain of events ended with the burnt taste of the overpriced coffee chain colluding with anti-Semitism.
Starbucks reacted to the brief arrest by blaming the police, but Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who is African-American, initially said that his officers, “did absolutely nothing wrong”. But then he was forced to offer a bewildering apology to the arrested men, the officers and the entire city.
“It is me who in large part made most of the situation worse than it was,” he announced.
“Your threshing season will last until your grape harvest, and your grape harvest will last until the time you plant. You will have your fill of food, and you will dwell securely in your land” (Vayikra 26:5).
This blessing is promised to the People of Israel on condition that, as a unified nation, they observe the laws of the Torah and live by its spirit. Its promise is quite surprising. Not only will the Israelites have plenty to eat but, as the verse clearly indicates, the Jews will experience an overflow of food. The first season, when produce is brought to the threshing floor, will last until the days of the grape harvest, which in turn will continue into the planting season.