“Baby and the bath water” is an old saw. But, it keeps running in my head these days as we’re watching some of our history being swept away in a wave of political correctness.
I’ve never been a big fan of “political correctness.” Sort of felt it’s too - uh - correct. Still do.
We’re currently witnessing the demolishing of statues, renaming prominent buildings, removing public art and “correcting” almost anything tied to the confederacy that existed in this nation in the mid-1800's. And after.
Even Teddy Roosevelt has been threatened. Yes, Teddy! There’s a statue in Boston with Teddy on his horse and an Indian on one side and a Black man on the other. Both standing. The raucous outcry to end ol’ Teddy’s days on public display is because he’s “higher” than the other two depicted and that makes some of the P-Cer’s unhappy. They say the difference makes the two other figures “lesser.”
Well, la de dah. Of course, Teddy’s “higher.” He’s sitting atop a horse, idiots! The sculptor, to anyone’s knowledge, wasn’t making a “racial statement” when carving in the 1930's. Still the voices of rancor want the whole shebang torn down. Now!
Woodrow Wilson’s name is being sandblasted off an old building on the Princeton campus. Seems he was a “bad guy,” too. Yes, he said and wrote some things that could be considered racist. And anti-Semitic. But, his words, however they appeared, were nearly 90 years ago. His worth - whatever history deems that to be - will likely be based on what he did - or didn’t do - as President of these United States.
We’ve even been told some voices want the artwork on Stone Mountain in Georgia blasted to bits. If you’ve ever seen Stone Mountain, its not something you’d likely want to see reduced to pebbles.
I understand - about as much as a Caucasian man can - the feelings of some Black Americans when referring to various public objects with depictions of the years of the Civil War. Anger being the most universal, we’re told. I understand.
But, what comes next? Do we pillage libraries everywhere by removing texts telling of slavery - or the war - or the Confederacy? Do we stop teachers in our public schools from teaching students about that terrible time of a divided nation - of the destruction and death - the terrible toll when Americans were killing Americans? And Black Wall Street and Red Summer?
Can’t some standard be set by somebody before junking public art depicting the people, the events, the history of our nation at that time? Do we have to destroy it all in the name of “political correctness?” There must be some other way.
Bad as the Civil War memories are for some, I have my own memories of another time when our nation was in danger and those in power made a terrible decision.
I was six-years-old, in early 1942, when sheriff’s deputies raided my first grade classroom and literally carried out some of my classmates - my friends - because they were from Japanese-American families. I can’t forget the screaming voices. They, and their parents, were hauled off to isolated camps in the Western U.S.. Mostly barren places with tar paper dormitories surrounded with barbed wire and armed guards.
It was a national tragedy - a national shame - authorized by Franklin Roosevelt at the urging of other politicians. One of the loudest and most persistent voices belonged to Senator William Borah of Idaho.
So, what happened to those camps of shame? After the war and after the release of those families, did we destroy them? Did we try to cover up our national disgrace by obliterating any trace?
No, we didn’t. Some of those terrible places were reconstructed. They’ve become monuments to constantly remind us of the wrongs committed. Like slavery. To the tragedy we allowed simply because the lives uprooted were those of a people who didn’t look like the rest of us. With different skin color. Like slavery.
I used to occasionally travel past one of those WWII camps near Minidoka, Idaho. Everytime - every time - I remembered those first grade kids - the big, armed deputies - the screams. Mostly the screams. I now live 15-hundred miles away but, even as I write these words, I can see Jimmy Yamamoto twisting and screaming as he was picked up out of his little seat.
We made those memorials to remind an entire nation to not forget the misplaced racism. Yes, racism. That’s what it was. Pure and simple. The “cover story” we were told was that some of “those people” might be”secret agents”of Japan. Our bloodthirsty enemy on the battlefields of the Pacific. But, at it’s core, it was racism. A different color skin.
Germany also decided to remember that nation’s shame - and racism - by making monuments out of Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and others. Some were rebuilt as they were during the mass killings. They, like the American camps, stand as constant reminders of shame.
For those hell-bent on removing all the public reminders of Civil War racism and slavery, there are other ways of looking at those times - those tragic times. And those pieces of rock and stone and granite.
“Baby and bath water.” Be careful.