Jewish World Review July 23, 2014 / 25 Tammuz, 5774
Quick, hide the past
By Paul Greenberg
JewishWorldReview.com | "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."
--Party slogan, "1984"
It is an essential part of the totalitarian mentality -- excuse me, not mentality, but to use today's neo-non-word, mindset. As if approved ideas could simply be poured into the mind to set, the way concrete is. And any trace of what was once there will be covered, effaced, smoothed over. For the past must not only be hidden but, to the well-trained mindset, it never existed at all.
It's an approach as old as the French Revolution, which was not only going to create a new socio-economic system but a New Man -- just as the Bolshevik Revolution set out to do the same. And would end in the same result: total dictatorship. Bonaparte was the natural result of one revolution, Stalin of the other.
Some things never change, except maybe the name of the dictator. The Reign of Terror became the Great Purge became Mao's Cultural Revolution as one revolution followed another, each bloodier and more terrible than the last.
It's not just results that some revolutions seek to impose but finality. For there must never be any going back to the old order, the ancien regime. Louis XVI and his queen had to be guillotined, and the Tsar's family stood against a wall and mowed down. Lest any trace of the past survive to return. Or even be remembered. Except in the caricature of history the New Order would authorize.
It's not just totalitarian regimes that insist on a kind of historical amnesia: "College to remove
To quote the university's president, slavery was a "regrettable chapter of our history, and we must confront and try to understand this chapter."
But why remove only the flags? What about the general? Why even keep Lee's name as part of the university's? Not to mention
No need to go into detail about how they both came to oppose slavery and eventually provided for the emancipation of their own slaves, which both of them had acquired largely through inheritance or marriage. That would mean going into history, which can be messy. Unlike ideology, which can be as superficial as President Ruscio's explanation for why the flags are being removed, which was as lengthy as it was superficial. Just forget all those bothersome historical details, along with slavery, the Confederacy and anything else in the past that might disturb our equilibrium -- or educate us.
Yes, the flags had to go. To quote the law students' letter of protest, they felt "alienation and discomfort" whenever they saw those banners. Their tender sensibilities should not have to be subjected to such a sight. It's enough to make you wonder how these law students will face up to some of the characters they may run across when they become lawyers, civil or criminal: murderers, rapists, serial killers, abortionists, chiselers small-time and big, gangsters, pimps....
Maybe these future lawyers could be given what today are called trigger-warnings, formal notices now issued by some of our more prestigious universities so their students can be forewarned, and won't risk being shocked on opening any book that deals with history, that record of mankind's follies, crimes and atrocities.
So, yes, hide those old Confederate flags away, maybe in the kind of dusty display cases museums use. Or at least call them something else, like Historical Artifacts. The way the signage for
Yes, that's the ticket. Change the name, change the past. Just as Constantinople became
No, we wouldn't want the past to live, or even be remembered. Lest it disturb our innocence, which is not always easy to distinguish these days from what used to be recognized as just plain ignorance.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
© 2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.