The NAACP hid a prominent statue of George Washington inside a wooden box during a MLK Day rally, offering the terminally lame excuse that the box would make a more suitable backdrop for the rally’s speakers. The NAACP denies any intention of disrespect, but their narrow view of history is no secret: anyone who owned slaves is a racist, and anyone who is a racist cannot be called a great man. This is what is taught in history class, and several generations have been nourished on these junk food ideas.
Students are taught that they must not squander their exquisite admiration on someone who owned slaves. They are taught, by implication, that it’s not enough for a man to give up his family and his safety for the noble cause of independence. It’s not enough to inspire and command. It’s not even enough to triumph in a way that directly benefits millions of people today.
He must also be . . . EVERYTHING MAN.
He must leap out of his time, and see with the eyes of every possible future type of enlightenment. Did he accomplish the massive victories that his generation desperately needed? Not good enough. We also require him to be the role model for solving any type of conflict that might ever turn up, or else he’s no good to us. Into the box you go, little George. You don’t impress us anymore. [Link in original--E.M.]
Do read the whole thing, if you can.
It was definitely a shameful thing that so many of America's founders saw nothing wrong with owning slaves. But that shameful thing came from the whole of society, not just the great men of the period; from the New England merchants to the British investors to some of those in Africa who sold their fellow men into bondage, no one's hands were clean.
It is similar today to abortion. Our society, our economy, our whole way of life depends heavily on two things: sex being viewed solely and reductively as an entertainment choice, and children being viewed as totally disposable before birth. Those of us who speak and write and act against both of these practices do so as a distinct minority; even many pro-life leaders have not made the connection that the widespread availability of contraception increases, rather than decreases, the demand for abortion--because contraception creates the mindset that children are a regrettable side-effect of sexual activity instead of being an integral and intrinsic part of the purpose of that activity.
Some future people, horrified by the commodification, exploitation, and destruction of innocent human life in the womb might well find the idea that there were any real "heroes" in our time, aside from specifically pro-life ones, hard to swallow. That is only fair, isn't it? More balanced voices might try to explain that in our day the unborn human being was viewed as a parasite, an unwanted intruder upon a woman's sovereignty, an interloper whom the woman had the right to kill and destroy at will; that despite a growing body of scientific data showing the clear humanity of the little one at her embryonic and fetal state pregnancy was seen as so terrible a condition, and motherhood as so vile and worthless a state--akin to slavery!--that our present-day larger-than-life figures unquestioningly accepted this great injustice in regards to both the unborn, and to all the woman forever damaged by the act of participating in the killing of their own flesh and blood, their own children.
I doubt that future generations will understand this any better than we now understand the excuses and justifications given for so many hundreds of years for slavery. But I don't doubt that future generations will be horrified by abortion and our casual, banal acceptance of this great evil; the societies which champion abortion will eventually die out by their own choices, while the places in the world where children are still valued and cherished for their own sake will rise up to take our place. As they should.