Not Just About Statues

The Secular Puritans are Cancelling People Everywhere

Toppling statues of historical figures with a questionable moral record has become somewhat of a war cry of the Left this summer. Monuments across the United States have been torn down or defaced, civic and government properties attacked. Sites of cultural and historical meaning are being gutted, but in some cases, it’s clear the protestors do not realize who they’re defacing or what they stood for.

Gene Veith writes in a recent article titled “Destroying Art:”

Monuments to abolitionists–Americans who fought slavery–are being torn down. In Madison, Wisconsin, protesters attacked a statue of Hans Christian Heg, a Norwegian immigrant and anti-slavery activist who formed a militia to fight slave chasers–enabling untold numbers of slaves to escape–and who was killed in the Battle of Chickamauga, giving his life for the cause. His statue was decapitated and thrown into lake Monona. In Boston, a monument to the Black soldiers who fought in the civil war (the 54th regiment portrayed in the film Glory!) was vandalized.”[1]

This shows how far and wrongheaded this campaign for the purgation of history really is. Even people in the past who ardently advocated for abolition are being “canceled.” But why? It’s baffling, to say the least. 

According to Veith, it is not simply statues that are in danger of erasure. The art world now too is again in jeopardy. A monument in honor of Miguel de Cervantes, Spanish novelist, and contemporary of William Shakespeare, was defaced last month in San Francisco. Veith notes that Cervantes was “himself a slave, having been captured by Muslim pirates who sold him into slavery until relatives purchased his freedom after five years.”

The same radical scrutiny would extend to nearly every artist and writer who has ever lived. Currently, there is some controversy surrounding comments the Southern writer Flannery O’Connor made in a letter about preferring the company of whites over blacks, even though she wrote against racism in her short stories. O’Connor wrote in the letter that she was for integration by principle but preferred segregation by "taste." She was unable to fully translate her ideals into practical, concrete life, and in admitting this, was honest about her own shortcomings and prejudices, marking herself as a sinner in need of grace. But her sins are far from being forgiven by those taken up in this agenda to rid history of deplorable, despite the respect O'Connor has among both white and black writers for being a tremendously moral writer. As Jessica Hooten Wilson writes in First Things,

“If we cast out all writers who ever struggled with sin, we will be left without a single one. If we start scapegoating O’Connor, we will end by rejecting many eminent writers who fought racism in their work—Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Fyodor Dostoevsky.”[2]

The push to morally indict figures of the past goes deep and is finding many outlets in the modern West. However, showing charity towards those who have gone before us, and towards each other as we navigate the present, shows that we can extend love towards people who are complicated and even "unloveable." As my history professor at Wheaton College once remarked, "The call to love one's neighbor extends to those who are dead." In condemning others, we are condemning ourselves as well. 

graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois with a Bachelor's Degree in English Writing and is currently pursuing a Master's of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University. He was born and raised in rural Oklahoma and currently lives in Walla Walla, Washington. 

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