Discover more from The Multilevel Mailer
Common Sense Where Art Thou
Cancel Culture Cancels a Beautiful Dreamer
Editorial note: As anti-Western sentiment continues to unspool all across Western nations in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict, the below is a brief essay serving as a reminder that these sentiments were percolating long before the most recent display of the defacing and toppling of statues depicting Western leaders, soldiers, and cultural figures. Such anti-Western attitudes and sentiments, which cast the West, and the United States and Israel in particular, as oppressive, capitalistic, imperialistic nations that are inherently evil and need to be ‘dismantled’ are at the heart of a dangerous postmodern, neo-Marxist ideology whose organizing motivation is to erase our past so they can rewrite our future. This ideology must be recognized for what it is and should be met with strong resistance and shame.
“Monuments are the silent footprints of history on the pages of time. Like the songs of a country, they are a part of the people, immortal legacies bequeathed to future generations.” (Patrick J. Haltigan, Dedication Address at the Nuns of the Battlefield Monument, September 1924.)
As a country we will never be able to forge a path to the future if we do not fully acknowledge and learn from our past. We cannot erase and rewrite history. Recency bias stemming from events like the death of George Floyd or the study of indigenous peoples, should not serve as a motivation—a misguided one— to topple and dismantle monuments and memorials.
How sadly ironic that the memorial pictured above paying tribute to the composer and singer of the great American songbook, Stephen Foster, has now been moved and hidden from public view in his own hometown of Pittsburgh. The monument was displaced because “Uncle Ned,” the black man playing the banjo at Foster’s feet was considered condescending and derogatory to the black community. In reality Foster, he of the gentle heart, was a friend of the black community and took his inspiration for his many songs from the spirituals, songs, and indeed lives of the black community among the southern plantations. With songs and melodies such as “Old Black Joe,” “Ring de Banjo, “Old Uncle Ned,” Old Folks at Home” and many others Foster was paying respect and tribute to the hardscrabble lives of those living under slavery. Indeed, this is perhaps exactly what sculptor Giuseppe Moretti was trying to convey in the beautiful bronze monument which has now been erased.
As in the case of monuments to the Civil War “Lost Cause” heroes of the Confederacy, monuments and memorials must be viewed and considered in the proper context of their times. This can be done through either a roadside marker or an attached plaque, that explains the prevailing circumstances and conditions at the time the memorial was created. The times are always changing. One never knows what the future portends and how people will be viewed. Columbus was a courageous explorer who discovered and brought civilization to a new world. His legacy has been tarnished and monuments displayed for bringing smallpox and measles to the native people for which he had no knowledge or control. It was simply the way of the world at that point in time, similar to the “white man” bringing disease to the native Indian tribes in our country. Will the same be said in a hundred years perhaps for our current space explorers?
We cannot hide from the passage of time and the inevitability of change.
The Multilevel Mailer is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.