On the afternoon of April 9th, 1865, General Ulysses S. Grant of the Continental Army formally accepted the unconditional surrender of his confederate counterpart, Robert E. Lee, ending the bloodiest conflict in American history with a resounding victory for the anti-Slavery North. Its implications led to the emancipation of millions of African-American slaves from shackles for the first time in history.
On a similarly tempered afternoon just over 155 years later, “activists” protesting the “systemic” and historical racism of the United States of America toppled General Grant’s statue alongside that of St. Junipero Serra, a Spanish priest, and Francis Scott Key, the writer of The Star Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States. Their reason: Grant had owned a slave some years before the onset of the Civil War. Nevermind that Grant’s military leadership was one of the crucial factors that allowed for the North’s victory, or that upon becoming president, Grant endeavored to protect the rights of Black Americans, launching a military campaign to eradicate the KKK, and helping ensure the passage of the 15th amendment. Grant was clearly, in the eyes of the activist mob, an irredeemably prejudiced, bigoted, and racist villain.
It is not an impulsive anomaly that one impure action, considered acceptable during the time period, has superseded Grant’s bold and influential actions as the focal point of his pivotal legacy. In fact, it is a deliberate and coordinated attempt to rewrite history to fit the worldview that so many hold today: that Western Civilization, and subsequently its leaders and people, has been uniquely discriminatory, prejudiced, and evil, since its inception. America, they argue, has been fundamentally racist since the first slave arrived on her soil in 1619. America, they believe, is not the land of opportunity, but the land of exploitation by the racial elite.
This worldview is not only horrifyingly dangerous, but a product of extreme privilege and a shocking lack of awareness of the position from which they make such an argument. The ubiquitous presence of the argument in political discourse, for example, contradicts a key tenet of the contention: how, exactly, are the “white elites” so powerful if the idea that they are systematically oppressing millions of innocent people is so omnipresent that it cannot be suppressed? How exactly are their voices silenced by “the system” if they are all we hear? How is Western Civilization so steadfastly anti-democratic if its own defamation is not only permitted, but made mainstream? These are questions the mob, ironically incognizant of their American privilege, do not have sound answers to.
While millions of people are still sold into slavery across Africa and the Middle-East, they choose to topple statues of people who fought to end the practice here. While millions of hard-working individuals of all races and colors dream of one day living in America, those already here burn it to the ground. Even elected leaders, such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), are now calling for the entire American system to be torn down and dismantled. While millions of refugees flee persecution around the world, they complain about the usage of microaggressions. It is no secret that the people with the most contempt for Western Civilization are the people that have been trapped in a bubble by it for so long that has left them blind and insensitive to the world’s real problems.
American society is not perfect, and it is not only moral, but patriotic, to want better for every single person living in it for the future. What is being witnessed on the streets of this nation, however, is not an attempt at progressive reform but rather at the regressive destruction of American history and culture. It is a defacement of an imperfect, yet progressive history, by a crowd whose high horse of privilege has blinded them from understanding that their lives are the subject of the envy of billions of people. They have become so accustomed to the system they so viciously protest that they have forgotten what its absence truly looks like.
*The author does not claim to represent all the opinions of all the members of the Postpartisan in this essay.