On Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., added language to the annual defense funding bill. Warren’s amendment would order the Pentagon to rename all military bases currently named for Confederate Civil War generals.
The bases include many of the most famous in America. Among them: Fort Benning in Georgia, Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Many of the men who fought and won World War II were trained at these bases.
But Warren’s amendment goes farther than that. Warren would require the desecration of war graves. This country is filled with national cemeteries that honor Americans who fought and died in our wars. Many of those cemeteries hold Civil War soldiers from both sides and contain monuments to their sacrifice.
Those Civil War soldiers, blue and gray, are buried alongside one another for a reason. One side was right, one side was wrong. But when it was over, they were all Americans. Allowing them to lie in the same cemeteries allowed this country to heal its deepest fissure.
Healing is the opposite of what Elizabeth Warren wants to do now. She has no time for that. Warren profits from hatred and division, no matter how mindless. How many dead Confederate soldiers owned slaves or even supported slavery? Warren doesn’t know. She doesn’t care.
The Massachusetts Democrat wants to humiliate these soldiers more than 150 years after they died, and humiliate their descendants now. In Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington, there is a memorial to Confederate troops. Warren’s amendment orders the Army to destroy it.
This is vandalism. But it’s worse than that. Healthy societies do not destroy own their history. A country is the sum total of its history, good and bad. Without it, you have no country, just a collection of banks and retail outlets.
This is obvious, but somehow it’s not obvious to Senate Republicans. They support Warren’s amendment. It easily emerged from the bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee. If President Trump doesn’t veto it, Warren’s desecration order will become law.
Republicans assume that if that happens, it will be enough. The destroyers will be placated, and the GOP can return to its preferred agenda of carrying water for finance. They’re wrong.
Extremists are never placated. Each success makes them stronger and more radical. That’s why, around the country, they aren’t waiting for a vote. They watched rioters loot and burn without being punished. They took the cue. Now, they’re destroying history around the country.
In Richmond, they ripped a statue of Christopher Columbus from its pedestal and threw it in a lake. In Philadelphia, they vandalized a statue of industrialist Matthias Baldwin. Why? It wasn’t for civil rights. Matthias Baldwin was such a zealous abolitionist that, prior to the Civil War, Southern railroads refused to purchase his engines.
Doesn’t matter. The Baldwin statue was old. So they wrecked it. Dozens of other monuments have suffered the same fate, often with the encouragement of our professional class.
Extremists are never placated. Each success makes them stronger and more radical.
Erin Thompson is a professor of “art crime” at New York City’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her expertise is “the damage done to humanity’s shared heritage through looting, theft, and the deliberate destruction of art.”
Yet Thompson is, in fact, an enthusiastic supporter of destroying our shared heritage. “Use chain instead of rope and it’ll go faster,” she instructed on Twitter Wednesday night, before sharing even more tips for effectively destroying statues.
Nowhere does anyone in authority seem interested in protecting our history and public spaces from nihilists like this.
The Richmond Police Memorial in Virginia commemorates the sacrifice of officers killed in the line of duty. You’d think we’d defend it. But no. The other day, a mob defaced the memorial. Authorities did nothing.
What are our leaders telling us by their negligence? It’s a clear message: we don’t care about you: your history, your monuments, your rights, your safety. Meanwhile, forces of hate and repression seek to destroy all of these things.
As far back as three years ago, CNN employees were calling for the destruction of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial.
How many lives will be saved by destroying the Jefferson Memorial? How many are saved by desecrating war graves? None, of course. This is about political power, achieved by the oldest means of all: force.
This is an attempt to delegitimize you and the society you live in. You think you live in a country with freedom of speech, freedom of religion, equality under the law? Well, tough luck. The documents celebrating those rights were written by bigots. We tore their statues down. Now we’re in charge.
Is this popular? Is this what the American people want? No.
Even now, only 32 percent of Americans want Civil War statuary torn down. How about desecrating war graves? There isn’t polling on the subject, but it’s hard to believe there is a groundswell of support.
All this is happening because a violent mob is forcing its agenda down the throat of the country. Our leaders – very much including Republican leaders – are too cowardly to resist them.
When asked about the bill to desecrate national cemeteries, one congressional Republican told journalist Ryan Girdusky that “this isn’t the hill to die on.” OK. Where is that hill exactly? What won’t you let them do to the country? Let us know when you find it.
To be clear: This isn’t a matter of defending the Southern Confederacy. Few Americans would do that. We certainly wouldn’t. The Confederacy declared war on the United States. We’re grateful they lost, and that their cause was discredited forever, which it was.
But that’s the point. The Civil War was the turning point in American history. It shaped who we are now. Eliminating the past leaves us unable to say who we are. And that, of course, is exactly the point. It’s why they’re doing it.
Adapted from Tucker Carlson’s monologue on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on June 12, 2020.