(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.