Without any history or documents worthy of reverence, what common values will bind Americans together?
History's first recorded iconoclast was Avraham Avinu, who destroyed the idols of his father. Avraham's purpose was positive — he was not just destroying but educating. When his father Terach asked him what had happened to the idols, the Midrash tells us, Avraham replied innocently that the big one (in whose hand he had placed a stick) beat the smaller ones.
Checkmate. To deny that possibility required admitting how ridiculous it was to worship objects of inanimate stone fashioned by man.
The furies of modern iconoclasm have been loosed in both America and Europe, as long-standing statues are pulled from their pedestals and smashed by mobs, and to much less salutary effect. Once loosed, those furies will not be soon put back into the bottle. The renaming of a few Southern army bases — Fort Bragg, Fort Benning — after long-forgotten and mediocre Confederate generals will not suffice for the howling mobs.
They have their sights on far bigger targets: Christopher Columbus, Winston Churchill, the American founding fathers. Even a statute of Ulysses S. Grant, the general who forced the surrender of the Confederate commander Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, was pulled down in San Francisco, along with that of the greatest Spanish author, Miguel de Cervantes, who was himself enslaved by Barbary pirates for five years.
The goal, as black professor John McWhorter wrote of the New York Times "1619 Project," which portrayed black slavery as the motive force of all American history, is "to demonstrate that the American experiment in self-government is nothing to celebrate."
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison stand negated by a one-word description — "slaveholder." No more will young Americans thrill to the story of American troops moving barefoot through the snow in the winter of 1776–77, leaving bloody trails with each step. Nor will they study how the democratic nature of the American army, in which Washington solicited and received suggestions from those of much lower rank — e.g., the bold plan to go around the superior British forces arrayed against them at Trenton, in the middle of the night, and head for Princeton — contributed to victory.
All that was only for the purpose of defending slavery, according to the Times — a view now buttressed by a Pulitzer Prize, even though the 1619 Project was eviscerated by every prominent American historian, black or white, conservative or liberal.
The role of the bold assertion of the Declaration of Independence that governments "derive their just power from the consent of the governed" in the history of democratic self-government is no longer worthy of our attention nor a source of pride. For the words are those of a slaveholder.
Among the issues with which the drafters of the US Constitution, chief among them James Madison, struggled was how to prevent the ruinous religious wars that had plagued the European continent for centuries and make it possible for a diverse people to live together in harmony. But now all we need to know of the Constitution is the infamous three-fifths clause for the counting of black slaves in the census. All else is irrelevant: the system of checks and balances, the Bill of Rights. All are the work of slaveholders.
The denial of any pride in American history did not start with Black Lives Matter (BLM). It has long been going on in school history texts and the college A.P. History exam, as documented by Stanley Kurtz. But it has reached it apogee today.
Without any history, institutions, or documents worthy of reverence, what common values will bind Americans together? That loss of any common culture, any belief in the American Project — however tainted the picture in parts — is what makes immigration such a charged issue in a nation of immigrants.
Once there was an American credo that immigrants were expected to absorb on their way to becoming Americans. Today, however, there is no such credo. For the purveyors of identity politics, immigrants are useful not because they will add to and enrich the American melting pot, but because they will join their particular identity power group.
BLM IS THE LATEST in a long line of race hucksters from Jesse Jackson to Al Sharpton offering absolution from white guilt for a price. "White guilt," writes Shelby Steele, the most insightful commentator on American race relations, black or white, "is not angst over injustices suffered by others: It is the terror of being stigmatized with America's old bigotries.... To be [thus] stigmatized with any of these bigotries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah." Racist is the ultimate defamation that can be hurled against a person.
The hucksters offer — again to draw on Steele — "moral esteem against the specter of American shame. This [has] made for a liberalism devoted to the idea of American shamefulness. Without an ugly America to loathe, there is no automatic esteem to receive."
Thus do corporations rush to declare their support for BLM and their intention to join in the battle against systemic racism, the source of all the problems facing the black community.
BLM LEADERS are not shy about who they are. In a readily available interview, BLM cofounder Patrisse Cullors describes herself and one of her cofounders as "trained Marxists, super well-versed in ideological theory."
At the heart of Marxist-Leninist theory is contempt for bourgeois values, such as mercy, and disdain for liberal rights. The latter may be useful for gaining power, but have no place once the revolutionaries seize power.
Here is Melina Abdullah, the lead organizer of BLM-L.A. and a long-time Farrakhan acolyte, prior to a rally in the Jewish Fairfax neighborhood, which culminated in numerous Jewish businesses being trashed and five synagogues defaced: "The violence and hurt that's experienced on a daily basis by black folks at the hands of a repressive system should also be visited upon, to a degree, those who think that they can just retreat to white affluence."
Her daughter, Thandiwe Abdullah, cofounder of the BLM Youth Vanguard, was even more forthright: "I know you want to tear some [things] up. If you want to set some corporations on fire, you know what? I don't care about Target burning. I don't care that capitalism burns. I don't care that white people in their office buildings are upset."
These comments were largely ignored by the mainstream media.
To demur with respect to BLM's narrative or to call attention to its agenda is to be labeled a racist and, in some cases, even sanctioned. A tenured accounting professor at UCLA, who turned down a request to exempt black students from the final exam, was placed on administrative leave by the university and his class taken away.
William Jacobson, a clinical professor of law at Cornell, dared to criticize BLM in two blogposts at his Legal Insurrection website. The first one noted that the narrative that first brought BLM to national attention — that of Michael Brown, with his hands raised high, being gunned down by a white cop — is false. The second called for tracking down those who helped coordinate the violence across America.
In response, 21 long-time colleagues in Cornell's clinical programs, including the directors of its First Amendment clinic, published a letter decrying Cornell's association with "defenders of institutionalized racism," meaning Jacobson, and falsely accusing him of calling for protestors to be subject to an organized manhunt. That letter characterized the looting around the country as "sporadic."
The dean of the law school, though acknowledging that she lacked the power to fire Jacobson, took the extraordinary step of declaring that his posts did not represent the values of Cornell Law School and were "poorly reasoned" to boot. She did not elaborate on either point. Nor did she, nor any of his colleagues, accept his invitation to debate.
A recent Gallup poll, conducted as July 4 approaches, found Americans' pride in their country to be at a historic low in 19 years of polling. The new iconoclasts, aided by their accomplices in corporate America and academia, are carrying the day.