Almost immediately after the confirmation of Kavanaugh, the Federalist demonstrated its utter gracelessness by calling for a defamation suit against Christine Blasey Ford and the Washington Post. Not only would the suit be politically ridiculous, but it reflected the absolute worst of faith by the extreme right.
Former Astronaut Scott Kelly was possessed of a bigger spirit. He twitted:
One of the greatest leaders of modern times, Sir Winston Churchill said, “in victory, magnanimity.” I guess those days are over.
Was the reaction applause? Appreciation? Approval? Oh, sweet summer child, you haven’t been paying attention. He quoted Churchill. Churchill!
— Troll hunter (@Tr0Ilhunter) October 7, 2018
As it wasn’t Kelly’s purpose to engage in the War Over How Churchill Was Literally Hitler, he backed down. He then apologized for triggering the woke.
Scott Kelly, a retired U.S. Navy Captain, NASA engineer, and veteran of four spaceflights, was brought low on Sunday by those possessed of neither his accomplishments nor talents for the crime of advocating Churchillian generosity of spirit. “Did not mean to offend by quoting Churchill. My apologies,” the astronaut wrote after what must have been a withering assault on social media. “I will go and educate myself further on his atrocities, racist views which I do not support.”
Noah Rothman asks whether we’ve “all gone insane?”
This is only the most recent example of a menacing phenomenon. In the name of historical literacy, an absurd form of pseudo-academic reductionism has become the preferred means by which we “interrogate” Western (and only Western) history. We are told that we must abandon discretion, compartmentalization, and basic good sense if we are to be taken seriously by the self-appointed arbiters of such things. Nuance is for the naïve. Sensibility is found only in simplicity.
The question isn’t whether Churchill was good or evil. There is no historical figure other than Harriet Tubman who passes muster under social justice revisionist history, and she wasn’t on the ballot for Prime Minister in Great Britain in 1940. Everyone else, everything they did, was not merely wrong, but violated some tenet of racism and/or sexism. The world we inhabit today is the product of their atrocities, which is why it’s such a horrible world.
It’s not that Churchill was perfect, or that anyone was perfect in retrospect, but that they were judged by history by their contributions at the time and given the norms and circumstances of their time.
In a sane society, we would weigh these offenses against propriety against his accomplishments, foremost among them being the resolve he exhibited and inculcated in his countrymen in the face of the Nazi onslaught. Churchill resisted the demands of his less resolute colleagues in government to strike a separate peace with Hitler and stood alone against the Blitz until the United States was compelled to enter the war. Had he wavered, Western civilization and contemporary definitions of liberty would be quite different.
It’s not that Churchill’s legacy needs to be justified anew, but that Scott Kelly’s merely proffering a benign and generous quote was sufficient to bring down the ignorant pissants upon him. And, from a less-than-generous perspective, his acquiescence by assuming his fault was not being sufficiently aware of Churchill’s “atrocities.” Had this come from a lesser man, it might be called cowardice. I prefer to think of it as deflection, that he sought to put off the outrage of the children’s brigade.
But this isn’t about Churchill at all. It’s about history. All of history. The woke have parsed the conduct, whether real or imagined, of every historical figure and imputed evil to their every act.
All of this amounts to more attention than history’s revisionists deserve. Few genuinely believe that exponents of Aristotelian philosophy are also endorsing classical presumptions surrounding racial hierarchies and the inferiority of women. Fewer still honestly think that citing the revolutionary ideas contained in the Declaration of Independence or George Washington’s farewell address amounts to a ratification of the practice of black slavery in America. Almost no one with a vested interest in the preservation of Western civilization believes a man partly responsible for its salvation is irredeemable because of his intellectual and character flaws. No one worth taking seriously, at least.
Rothman touches on the worst of the worst, Western civilization, the only purpose of which was to oppress all other civilizations with its inherent racism and sexism, colonization and conquest. That Western civilization bears rather heavily upon who and what we are isn’t a good thing. It isn’t even a matter of our undeniable history. It’s a reflection of the horrors of our history and why every tradition, every hero, every value that America holds dear is merely a remnant of the atrocities of our past.
At least, that’s the new interpretation of history.
It’s not just a matter of society evolving, improving upon the things that aren’t going well enough, correcting what we now understand to be the errors in our history. This isn’t about learning from the past, but destroying the past by reinventing it under the guise of “presentism,” as if the moment’s values should have dictated the actions, the choices, of every figure in history.
Yesterday was Columbus Day. Did you hear anyone mention it? Columbus has not only been knocked off his pedestal, but destroyed as a rapist and colonizer. He discovered nothing, because one can’t discover a place where others already live. Rather, he’s a remnant of white European myopia at the expense of the natives whose world was destroyed as a consequence of his actions. Is this a person worthy of honor or derision and disgust? Tear down his statues. Remove his name from the map.
You can hate Churchill all you like for his treatment of India. You can despise Columbus for his rape of a native woman. But you can’t change history. We are what we are today, for better or worse, because of the people and choices that were made at the time, and the society that agreed with, and appreciated those choices, at the time and under the norms that existed.
The arrogance that pushed someone like Scott Kelly to apologize, to prostrate himself before angry children, has yet to do anything more than besmirch everyone who came before them. If history is written by the victor, they would do well to consider why Cleveland isn’t one large concentration camp today. They can thank the atrocious Churchill for that, for if they were in charge, they wouldn’t have had the fortitude to defend their country, their society, and fight for freedom.