The tendency to lash out against things you deem offensive used to be a disagreeable tic of undergraduates. Now the impulse is spreading. The mob led by a cop-hating North Korea sympathizer that pulled down a 1924 statue of a generic Confederate soldier in Durham, N.C., was acting out of a well-justified sense that authorities were not in the mood to maintain order.
Police did nothing except take pictures; Governor Roy Cooper meekly tweeted that “there is a better way to remove these monuments”; Durham County’s public-information office made Cooper sound like John Wayne when it declared, even more mildly, that “our elected officials and senior staff understand the unrest in our nation and community.” Only after a nationwide uproar about the lawlessness did the sheriff begin making arrests. The ringleader of the mob declared, “Anything that emboldens those people and anything that gives those people pride needs to be crushed.” Anything? A statue of Hank Williams? The Jack Daniel’s distillery? A NASCAR track? If destroying stuff that makes other people proud is your goal, you’ve signed up for a never-ending culture war. Writing in the Washington Post, columnist Christine Emba denounced the statues by saying they represent “privileged status, not history, that’s being protected.”
The dusty old statues of the Confederacy are just an opening to the much juicier and very 2017 war on “privileged status.”
When Charlie Rose asked Al Sharpton recently whether the Jefferson Memorial should be torn down, Sharpton didn’t say, “Absurd, no one wants that.” He instead dodged the question and called for defunding the memorial, a startling option that seemed calculated to leave even more extreme choices open. That kind of talk must strike the median Rust Belt voter as a chilling harbinger of culture battlegrounds to come.
Conservatives can only hope that Michael Moore will soon start musing about renaming the Washington Monument after Maya Angelou.
In cities across the U.S., calls to take down monuments to Confederate leaders are growing louder by the day. That's fine. Let's debate the issue. But legislation by mob rule is not what we want in a civilized society. Trust me.
Here's the reality: The U.S. Constitution states that American citizens have the right to free speech and the right of the people to peaceful assembly and to petition the government for redress of grievances. However, looting, destroying public and private property, and vandalizing historic monuments is not free speech. These actions not only border on anarchy but show a real lack of understanding history.