So not only did you teach me about writing memoir, you also taught me about reading and thinking about how others write memoir. Thank you so much! Rebecca
Showing posts with label Black Lives Matter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Black Lives Matter. Show all posts

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Political Correctness Gone Wild

This post is by Roger Carlton, columnist for the Graham Star newspaper in Robbinsville, NC
This column launches headlong into an important and controversial subject. One that is red hot now as it should be. The subject is the removal of symbols, statuary, memorials, flags, street names and many other "honoraries" to people whose principles and deeds in their time have grown to become offensive in our time. A key example is the current debate over the Confederate flag being a portion of the Mississippi state flag. That will soon come to an end just like it did in South Carolina after the mass murder which took place in an African American church five years ago last week. Good riddance to that symbol which has lost It’s meaning as a symbol of the Confederacy and has come to represent a hateful defiance of the rights of African Americans to be treated equally under the law.

Taking symbols yet another step, the Black Lives Matter demonstrations both peaceful and riotous, have brought to the fore the destruction or voluntary removal of hundreds of statues and monuments to Confederate heroes. Recognizing that the fervor on both sides of the removal issue is at a fever pitch, it is best that our elected leaders decide to remove the statues before they are destroyed. We are making a mistake to simply take these memorials out of harm's way.

There needs to be a plan to place the statues in a museum that explains to future generations how our democracy nearly broke up over the issues that these statues commemorate so that we can learn from the mistakes of the past. To obliterate history is to enhance the probability of repeating our mistakes.

The National Museum of African American History in Washington D.C. displays slave shackles and other artifacts of slavery. The museum tells the story of the horrors of slavery. It also tells the story of the many accomplishments of the descendants of the slaves. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum uses the Nazi Swastika to symbolize the horrors of the Holocaust. The displays of belongings of people who died in the gas chambers are powerful. So powerful that a warning is given to parents to prepare their children regarding what they are about to see. 

Now we move from sensitive preservation of history in a proper context to political correctness gone wild. The Board of Trustees of prestigious Ivy League Princeton University just decided to remove President Woodrow Wilson's name from its School of Public and International Affairs and a residence hall. Woodrow Wilson had been the President of Princeton, the Governor of New Jersey where it is located and the two-term 28th President of the United States. He was accused of 'racist thinking and policies" which made him an "inappropriate name sake." 

Let's acknowledge that his administration should have done a better job of controlling a racist U.S. Civil Service Commission. The agency's director should have been fired and better treatment of African Americans in government should have been a priority. Of this, there is no question. The real question is why do we go to college? To learn the good, the bad and the ugly. To be able to discern good from evil. Princeton's Board, comprised of entirely Princeton graduates, seems to have forgotten that its students should be allowed to decide what kind of leader Woodrow Wilson was.

But here is the "but." Woodrow Wilson was the President who led us through World War I. He pushed hard to establish the League of Nations which might have helped to avoid World War II if it had not been killed by the Senate. He negotiated the Treaty of Versailles which ended the war. For this he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He appointed Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court and he oversaw the creation of the Federal Reserve Act which established the U.S. Central Bank which has been the bulwark of protecting monetary policy from political interference.

In balance, his accomplishments greatly exceed his weaknesses. You can say the same for John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, Andrew Carnegie, Joseph Kennedy and many others. They all had character flaws and none were perfect. We need to understand their mistakes and applaud their philanthropic generosity. President Wilson suffered a stroke which made it very difficult for him to function for the last two years of his term. It was a different time and he remained the titular head of government. He passed away three years after the end of his second term. To erase his name from a university he served with distinction and an institution that trains future government leaders for the entire world just goes too far. It is political correctness gone wild.

Appeasement is not progress. It is a momentary victory for the aggrieved. It allows the history police to say "we hear you," but, it does not solve problems and set new paradigms for future respectful relations between the races. My ten-year old grand-daughter Claire, wanted to read this column. She had great wisdom when she said, "I don't understand why they want to erase Wilson's name and no-one wants to take those other names away." Maybe she should be on the board of Princeton.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Summer of our Discontent

Another thought-provoking article by Roger Carlton, columnist for the Graham Star newspaper in Robbinsville, NC.

The great American author John Steinbeck wrote novels that captured the angst and suffering of disadvantaged people. The Grapes of Wrath was about the extreme poverty of farmers leaving the Dust Bowl and being held in camps at the California border. Of Mice and Men was about migrant workers and some very tough decisions regarding guilt of a murder by a mentally challenged person. His last novel written nearly 50 years ago, The Winter of Our Discontent, was about a wealthy family that lost their fortune and had to adjust to a much less privileged life style. Do these themes seem relevant today? You bet.

As a nation and a people, we are entering the summer of our discontent. Women are tired of gender abuse. The #MeToo movement has formed as a result. Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Jeffrey Epstein and many other big players have toppled from their seats of power and prominence. Abused women have found the courage to speak out. African Americans can no longer tolerate police brutality and form organizations like Black Lives Matter or take action with peaceful protests or destructive acts. A rapidly diminishing 40 percent of conservative voters are tiring of the chaos caused by incendiary tweets and lack of leadership in crises like the COVID 19 pandemic. So, the question seems to be who, if anyone, is entering this summer as a content person?

There is a big word in our wonderfully complex English language. "Iconoclast" means someone who believes in the importance of destroying icons, images or monuments usually for political or religious reasons. There are nearly 1700 monuments and other symbols of the Confederacy that remain in place today. These symbols are slowly tumbling down by negotiation or by force. It is easy to understand how a Confederate flag symbolizes the horrors of enslavement and racism to many. It is also easy to understand how the southern iconic statuary symbolizes a heritage that is valued by many. This dichotomy should be the stuff of dialogue and compromise. Unfortunately, it has become too late for reasonable resolution.

There are other icons that have fallen into disrepute and need to be erased. The KKK's burning crosses, the Nazi Swastika, the alt-right's WP hand signal that stands for white power come to mind. On the other hand, the goal of erasing hateful symbols or monuments to people who sanctioned or committed hateful acts can go too far. Both Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. Should we destroy their monuments in our national capitol? The Pharoahs enslaved the Israelites. Should we destroy the pyramids? 

This columnist has great admiration for people willing to risk their careers to make a statement. Colin Kaepernick got down on his knee and sacrificed his football career as a result. 1968 Olympic runners John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised a black gloved fist during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. They were banned from the rest of the games. Both went on to professional football careers. A sympathetic Australian runner stood with them on the award platform as a symbolic protest to the mistreatment of the aborigines in his home country. That ended his career. Closer to home, NASCAR racer Ray Ciccarelli will retire over the decision to ban the Confederate flag from NASCAR tracks. The key to my admiration is sincerity and not political expediency.

Where is the salve to end the pain of this summer of our discontent?  Where is the leadership to make the necessary changes to end police excessive use of force? Who will calm the rage we see in our streets?  Will we destroy all the statues and symbols that remind us of our good or bad past? One of my friends wisely stated a few days ago----when you attempt to destroy history you run the risk of repeating it.