Compounding Revisionism

(June 6, 2017) To those of us with some gray hair it seems like the trend that is culminating with the defacement and removal of Confederate memorials is a recent, if not abrupt, development. Fifty years ago, for example, there was a spirit of reconciliation regarding sectional heritage between the North and South that no longer exists. Presently, most historians insist that our Southern ancestors were the immoral ones who must bear the burden of “being on the wrong side of history.”

My purpose today is not to address the merits, or demerits, of such an interpretation but instead to demonstrate that it has been building for a long time and only seems to be a recent phenomenon.  It began with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, which drew the focus of such now-prominent historians as James McPherson and Eric Foner to the racial side of the story. Although the Academy is now obviously dominated by their acolytes, they did not seem to have such overwhelming influence until “Only Yesterday”… as Frederick Lewis Allen might have put it.  That, however, is characteristic of compound growth.

To illustrate, consider a pond that at the first of the month has Lilly pads on only 1% of its surface area. Swimmers hardly notice the weeds. If the pads grow at a 16% daily rate, after a week they still cover less than 3% of the pond and remain ignored by swimmers. On the 27th day they cover a little over half the pond and even the casual observer can see that a problem is developing. But the significant point is that the second half of the pond gets fully covered by Lilly pads in only the last 4 days of the month. The pad-free surface, like the minority opinion of the Civil War, gets suddenly, and completely, choked off. The chart below illustrates the pattern of compound growth.

The hostile attitude of the Academy toward Confederate heritage is only one sign of a compounding growth in intolerance for minority opinion on American campuses. Recently students  at Evergreen State College demanded that a biology professor be fired because he disagreed with their proposal to require that white students abandon the campus for a day. The politically progressive and racially enlightened professor was stunned to be thus targeted. He felt he should be immune because of his political beliefs.  Such are the consequences of unchecked compound growth. Once the Confederate monuments have been removed the intolerant will seek other fuel to keep their fire burning.

Nobody is immune to tyranny except the tyrants and any excuse will serve a tyrant when deciding to exercise her tyranny.

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4 thoughts on “Compounding Revisionism

  1. Christopher Coleman

    Statues to Civil War dead exist both North and South; I would be willing to guess any town or city in the northeast or Midwest has at least one; suddenly (or not so suddenly) those honoring Southern war dead, or local heroes, have become politically incorrect and the target of censorship (for that is what it is). I contest the proposition that all these monuments were erected with the idea of White supremacy in mind. Moreover, the history of the Civil War was complex and the modern iconoclasts are often acting out of ignorance of what really went on. In Tennessee, for example, the Unionists were often virulently anti-black, even though their main animosity was against Confederates. One of the most vilified of Confederates, Gen Nathan Bedford Forrest, is a prime target of modern iconoclasts, yet they generally seem to be ignorant of the fact that after the war, whatever his previous beliefs and actions, he genuinely worked towards racial conciliation and harmony, often in the face of White opposition. He is even credited with single-handedly preventing a race riot. The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones, apparently.

  2. Cotton Boll Conspiracy

    Remembering history has become a zero-sum game. As someone who enjoys all history, I’d like to see more monuments, plaques, etc., that recognize individuals and causes that historically have been underrepresented, such as those to noteworthy minorities, women, etc. What we have instead is a call to replace monuments which displease some with markers recognizing minorities, women, etc. I don’t know why some feel that it’s not enough to put up new monuments but that old ones must come down, as well.

    1. Phil Leigh Post author

      Adding monuments, as you suggests, seems to be the way to go. It demonstrates the sentiments of the people at the time the memorials are added. What better record of history than to correlate the erection dates to the monuments?


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