Melting Down America – The American Conservative

The Left wants to hurl all our history down a memory hole and turn that hole into a latrine.

Credit: Ben Hovland

In its chortling about the melting down of a bronze statue of Robert E. Lee, the Washington Post noted that as “dozens of Confederate monuments have been toppled around the country, most others have been left to sit in storage or put on Civil War battlefields that venerate the Lost Cause” (emphasis added). If you haven’t yet visited the Civil War battlefields at Gettysburg or Manassas or Chickamauga, you might want to go now. It sure sounds like they’re slated to be paved over and turned into skate parks reserved for minority youth.

Today, of course, just about any patriotic version of American history is a lost cause. It’s worth remembering that Lee and Stonewall Jackson once merited stained glass panels in our alleged National Cathedral. Those are gone, as is so much that once honored our nation’s history: films and television programs quietly locked away in storage or slapped with warning labels, history books rewritten, streets and schools and military bases renamed, flags furled, monuments removed. 

There is, alas, no natural ending point for this iconoclasm. It is an exercise of brute power, and whenever the Left can assert this power, it will, because each assertion solidifies it, humiliates its opponents, and wins over the next generation, which will not remember the past except as something to be disparaged and repudiated. 

And nothing, in the eyes of the Left, is more deserving of disparagement and repudiation than Christianity, especially Catholic Christianity, the reactionary citadel that must be stormed. To the Left, every Catholic church, every statue of a saint, every Marian sanctuary, the Bible you read, the catechism you study, represents a moral Lost Cause, honored in the bigoted past, as was Lee, but now destined, like Lee’s statue, to be officially vandalized, destroyed, and desecrated. 

We know this is coming; it is happening already. Over the last few years, we have seen government authorities approve the trashing, and eventual removal, of Confederate and other patriotic monuments. At the same time, federal law enforcement has shown far more interest in spying on conservative Catholics and arresting pro-life protestors than in defending Catholic churches from vandalism inflicted by pro-abortion activists and others. We surely cannot be far from a time when attacks on churches will be justified on civil rights grounds. The Catholic Church’s “Lost Cause” morality will be afforded no sympathy from the Left, or from those who take their opinions from an increasingly anti-Christian popular culture. 

Confederate statues survived the supposedly tumultuous 1960s and 1970s just fine. They were regarded as tourist attractions, venerable history, and landmarks into the twenty-first century. Most Americans assumed that memorials, monuments, art, and history deserved respect, that regional differences were to be celebrated, that defeated heroes could be treated with magnanimity by the victors. 

And it was more than a matter of tolerance—now long gone with the wind—it was a matter of taking pride in American courage and character, whether as exemplified by a gentlemanly Southern general like Lee (whose full citizenship was restored by a congressional vote of 407 to 10 and signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1975), or the devoted regional patriot remembered in monuments to Confederate soldiers that dot Southern towns, or the high-spirited, fun-loving rebels waving the battle flag while singing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” everywhere from South Carolina to Northern California. Confederate good guys were staples of almost every Western from The Virginian to The Outlaw Josey Wales. A Civil War historian like Shelby Foote, who venerated Nathan Bedford Forrest, could be the star of a hugely popular Ken Burns PBS documentary series on the war in the 1990s. 

But then the tide turned, and the war on our Confederate heritage inevitably engulfed not only all that, but statues honoring George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin; Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt (Unionists all, who believed in magnanimity); Christopher Columbus, Juan de Oñate, and Father Junipero Serra; and dozens of others. Children no longer are taught to admire the character of Robert E. Lee, they are taught to admire the sexual immorality of Harvey Milk; they no longer draw battle maps of Gettysburg, they draw pie charts of “genders.” The Left wants to hurl all our history down a memory hole and turn that hole into a latrine. Its virulent hatred of the West, of the “colonizers,” is on display yet again in the Left’s ferocious anti-Zionism, promoting terrorism and murder against Jews.            

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Americans are especially prone to think, “It can’t happen here.” But it is happening, and Catholic men are going to have to ask themselves what they will do when the pagans come for our churches with their spray paint, fire, and cudgels; when the bureaucrats close down our schools; when institutions deny us entry; when corporations deny us employment; and we have nowhere to turn.

These famous lines from Cardinal George (who died in 2015) have often been quoted, but they deserve to be repeated, especially for those who scoffed at them. Addressing a gathering of priests, he said, “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” 

Therein lies our hope. In the interim, though, we need to be prepared—to endure, to persevere, to preserve and save what we can, for it is a long, hard road of darkness and suffering that will finally lead us back to the light.  


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