One More Swing at the King
Like MLK Day, the hulk now casting a gnarly shadow over Boston symbolizes America’s national humiliation and the victory of a totalitarian regime.
A common criticism against the left amid its feverish campaign to pull down one monument after another is that it is incapable of building and that its path of destruction across the country has all the thoughtfulness of a tornado ripping through a suburb. But that is really more like comfort food for thought than fact—and the fact is that these people are building something. Just because it’s hideous to us doesn’t change that or stop its coming. After all, the whole point of a good old-fashioned iconoclasm is to cultivate intolerance toward the old gods and pave the way for new overlords with the demolition of symbols that represent the outgoing regime.
This winter, indeed, is pregnant with such symbolism. As the last city-owned Confederate statue dedicated to a general named Ambrose Powell Hill Jr. in Richmond, Virginia, came down in December, a new monument honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. reared its ugly head at the Freedom Plaza of the Boston Common in January. In a previous column, I argued that the $10 million bronze behemoth is as hideous as King’s real legacy as a communist-backed serial adulterer and overall moral reprobate. But it is worth reflecting on that new sculpture and contrasting it to the one that was recently plucked from the public eye.
Contra is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Like MLK Day, the hulk now casting a gnarly shadow over Boston symbolizes America’s national humiliation and the victory of a totalitarian regime. This is an important point that people often miss: the toppling of Confederate monuments is not about South versus North; it is about shaming America and specifically disconnecting white Americans from their history as descendants of the people primarily responsible for finding, settling, and building this country. “For many white Americans, particularly outside the South,” wrote Christopher Caldwell in The Age of Entitlement, MLK Day “marked not the end but the beginning of shame, of an official culture that cast their country’s history as one of oppression, and its ideals of liberty as hypocrisies.”
That thought might unsettle some or strike them as plain odd. But if you listen to the purveyors of the “winds of change” carefully, they’re quite honest about their intentions or at least betray them with their giddiness. For example, The Washington Post could hardly contain its excitement at the fact that the Richmond monument was removed by a black man, Devon Henry, after white contractors refused the job. The article’s headline is self-explanatory: “White contractors wouldn’t remove Confederate statues. So a Black man did it.”
“City and state officials said they turned to Team Henry Enterprises after a long list of bigger contractors—all White-owned—said they wanted no part of taking down Confederate statues,” the Post reported.
Hill’s body had been interred at the base of the monument Henry helped dismantle. For the kind of white person who would refuse to participate in the deconstruction and denigration of his heritage, the site had taken on an almost hallowed significance. No wonder, then, that exhuming Hill’s body reportedly had the feel of deconsecrating the ground, with a silent stillness descending on a crowd as workers uncovered the slain general’s skeletal remains. The silence broke when a black man confronted a white military veteran wearing a leather jacket with a Confederate flag on the back who was standing nearby to observe the ordeal.
It is understandable that some Southerners aren’t exactly champing at the bit to dismantle their own history. Unfortunately, that is part of the program these days—and not just in the South.
Reflecting on the meaning and implications of the King holiday, Caldwell compared the new American order to post-war Germany. He isn’t off the mark.
The official understanding of the American race problem now came to resemble in almost every particular the Vergangenheitsbewältigung (coming to terms with the past) through which Germans had for decades been confronting their responsibility for Nazism and the Holocaust.
The forgotten battle over the King holiday also prefigured the “woke” political steamroller with which we are all so acquainted now.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to CONTRA to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.