Without a doubt, political correctness and a “philosophy of grievance” is running rampant across the U.S. and Canada in 2017 with politicians and activists judging people who lived centuries ago by today’s values and social standards.
The latest U.S. example is the membership of Christ Church, located in Alexandria Virginia (link here and here). They represent a lovely historical church that wants to remove memorial plaques honoring both George Washington and Confederate Leader Robert E. Lee. And, that is in spite of the fact that Washington himself attended that church for twenty years!
As with the current hysteria to remove all historical monuments in the U.S., the reason the church wants to remove any reminder of both men is because they were slave owners. True, the issue of slavery is repugnant today. But, it was the norm in the late 1700s and early 1800s. In fact, as everyone knows, a civil war was fought over the issue long after Washington’s time.
In my opinion, it is fruitless to judge Washington, or even Lee, by today’s standards. Surely, people in 2017 can forgive those who came before us for their ignorance and cruelty. Remember, Washington disagreed with slavery and was the only Founding Father who freed his slaves in his Will.
Of course, the U.S. is not the only Western country going through such politically correct introspection. Canadians are supposed to be celebrating our 150th anniversary as a country. But, Aboriginals and others say they have no reason to celebrate anything. So, apart from a program in Ottawa on the lawn in front of the Parliament Buildings on July 1st, not much else has been done.
As well, many angry Canadians want to remove plaques or change school names that honoured our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Why? Because they say he was a racist and the architect of Aboriginal genocide. What they don’t say is that we wouldn’t have a country without Sir John A. making sure that the 1867 British North America Act was passed. He also presided over the building of the first west to east railway. Actually, in my opinion, the real problem with Macdonald today is that he was a conservative.
Anyway, the attempt to revise the facts and reality of history is not a new phenomenon. We know, for example, that it happened in Ancient Egypt. To those living at that time, the way to remove a person’s existence after death — as though they had never lived — was to never repeat their name and remove their name and physical likenesses from monuments after they had died.
Two such attempts were made during the 18th Dynasty. First, there was Pharoah Hatshepsut (who reigned from 1479 to 1458 B.C.). Then, there was Pharoah Akhenaten (who reigned from 1351 to 1334 B.C.). That’s three and a half thousand years ago.
Hatshepsut was a woman who pretended to be a man and her descendants made sure nothing of her reign remained visible after her death. For centuries, she was, in fact, not known. It is only modern archeology that brought her memory back to life.
Similarly, Pharoah Akhenaten, husband of Nefertiti and father of Tutankhamun, abandoned the main Ancient Egyptian religion in favor of the Sun God, the Aten. He also built an entirely new capital city, called Armarna — which was totally destroyed after his death. However, as I said in the previous paragraph, thanks to modern archeology, many sculptures of both Akhenaten and Hatshepsut exist and are displayed in museums across the world today.
The crux of the matter is that, while issues surrounding history can be twisted, the facts themselves are not revisable. The facts about George Washington are not only that he was a slave owner, but that he was also the first president of the United States and that he also arranged to free his slaves after his and his wife’s death. As such, Washington has a special place in U.S. history regardless of his upholding social practices we may find repugnant today.