By now you’ll most likely have seen White Home Chief of Employees John Kelly’s predictably unhealthy tackle the Civil Battle.
Kelly, in the event you by some means missed it, advised Fox Information host Laura Ingraham that, sadly, the struggle occurred due to “the dearth of a capability to compromise,” and that “Robert E. Lee was an honorable man” who “gave up his nation to battle for his state.”
The historic and ethical idiocy of this thesis is fairly self-evident. It’s simply as moronic because it was when Kelly’s boss floated it earlier this yr. It leaves out the near-century’s worth of compromises that the white males in control of america made to maintain slavery and the nation intact on the similar time. (Considered one of them was actually written into the Constitution, John!) Even Lincoln was initially eager to have some form of compromise over slavery. Seems the Confederacy wasn’t so into that. It leaves out that Robert E. Lee was actually a very bad man. And it leaves out that perhaps slavery is one thing you shouldn’t need to compromise over.
However you understand all this by now. The morning has been full of threads from Ta-Nehisi Coates and others tearing Kelly’s argument to bits. I wish to think about one thing else Kelly advised Ingraham about historical past extra broadly:
I feel we make a mistake, although, and as a society and definitely as, as people, after we take what’s right this moment accepted as proper and fallacious and return 100, 200, 300 years or extra and say what these, you understand, what Christopher Columbus did was fallacious. , 500 years later, it’s inconceivable to me that you’d take what we predict now and apply it again then. I simply suppose it’s very, very harmful, and it reveals how a lot of an absence of appreciation of historical past and what historical past is.
We now have seen some model of this argument repeated over and over throughout the countless debate over America’s racist monuments: How can we return and decide folks from the previous based mostly on one thing as loopy as what we all know now?
The reply is easy: How can we not do this? There may be nearly nothing else about which somebody might say, “How dare you apply something apart from 16th century requirements to this” and never be laughed out of the room. And but that is an appropriate debating level in terms of the extraordinarily well-established historic document of our world. It’s unreal.
It boggles my thoughts that the John Kellys of the world bleat about “an absence of appreciation of historical past and what historical past is” after they inform us that we will’t cease worshiping on the ft of blood-soaked slaveowners. It’s Kelly, not his critics, who’s failing to understand historical past when he calls Lee “honorable.” It’s Kelly who’s pushing a distorted view of the previous when he wonders why we’re spending time declaring that Christopher Columbus was no hero. The folks demanding that monuments be taken down are those urging us to see our historical past for what it truly is—to inform the true story of the previous, not the model blinkered racists like John Kelly would favor.
However in fact John Kelly and his form don’t wish to see historical past because it really occurred. That will imply taking slavery critically because the crime that it was. It could imply taking white supremacy critically because the crime it continues to be. It could imply, in brief, the top of the world as John Kelly understands it. Higher to maintain mendacity, and to attempt to drive us all to consider his nonsense.