“Hello, Sweetheart; get me rewrite.”
That’s a phrase normally associated with the stereotypically glib, fast-talking news reporter of yesteryear who has a hot story to report.
But it could just as well apply to new Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, who last week announced the formation of a legislative task force to review public monuments in Illinois and see that those found distasteful are removed.
“By re-imagining our publicly displayed art, Illinois has the opportunity to be on the right side of history and show, through action, that our state is inclusive to all,” he said.
Talk of being on the “right side” of history is one of today’s most popular — and empty — cliches. But it’s clear that Welch and his associates are laying the groundwork to rewrite history by picking and choosing among historical figures to see who meets today’s “woke” standards of political acceptability.
Task force Chairwoman Mary Flowers denies that assertion.
“This review is not about erasing history,” she said.
But in the next breath, Flowers confirmed that it really is. She said new monument standards will be “about the message of diversity and inclusivity that we are sending to communities of color.”
“It’s time for us to get history straight,” she told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Flowers clearly doesn’t realize that the study, appreciation and representation of history has nothing to do with the warm and fuzzy embrace of “diversity” — it’s about the past, warts and all.
There are a lot of warts. After
all, the history of the world is largely one of conquest and struggle among all people. Given the inherent nature of man, how could it be otherwise?
Those considered worthy of being memorialized were judged by the standards of their times, not current times.
Indeed, who among us today can be confident of being judged acceptable under the prevailing standards in place 100 years from now?
Christopher Columbus, a hireling of the Queen of Spain, is credited with discovering a new world unknown to Europeans.
Today, he is characterized by some as the equal in evil of Adolf Hitler because of some of what came after in the new world he discovered.
Given that ridiculous standard, it’s no wonder that Founding Fathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, savior of the union Abraham Lincoln and a host of other famous historical figures have become targets of the nouveau woke.
Few historical figures are all bad or all good.
They are like everyone else, in the sense that they suffered from human frailties but rose above them to accomplish, by the standards of the times, great things.
One recent target of calumny has been Stephen Douglas, the “Little Giant” who did great things for Illinois as a whole, particularly infrastructure.
His crime involves the issue of slavery.
He supported it and debated the issue as a matter of “popular sovereignty” — letting the public vote on it — in his famous 1858 debates with Abraham Lincoln.
Now statues of him are persona non grata.
It’s Douglas today, Washington and Jefferson tomorrow and who knows after that?
Given history’s revelations about his administration, does President Franklin D. Roosevelt measure up by today’s standards? He was a great president and commander-in-chief. But what about Japanese internment during World War II?
How about President John F. Kennedy, whose sexually reckless and exploitative behaviors continue to astound?
Here’s an example that will raise hackles.
Dr. Martin Luther King was an indisputably great man who lost his life in the struggle for civil rights. At the same time, it’s now known that he plagiarized portions of his doctoral thesis and, even though a man of the cloth, was a philanderer.
Do memorials in his honor also get the boot because of instances of less-than-honorable conduct in the course of an overall highly honorable life?
Historical figures recognized by monuments are all-too-human high achievers.
Everyone — except the ineducable — can learn from both their strengths and weaknesses.
Much will be lost when their past is airbrushed from our present by the hanging judges of woke orthodoxy.
Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 217-393-8251.