Sunday, December 27, 2015

Throwing Stones and Living in Glass Houses

According to the One who should know, no man is "good;" only God is good.  According to St. Paul, all have fallen short.  So, it is a little surprising to hear that students, who should be learning the lessons of history, seem to have a burning desire to tear down the statues and plaques acknowledging the men who built our Western civilization, and who laid the groundwork that allows these students to now demand their removal.  Apparently, students want to hear only about the good stuff, the things these men did right, but don't want to hear about the...well...not so good stuff.  But history is replete with men who were both noble and upright, and at the same time depraved and sinful.  Men who were brave, and at the same time fearful.  Men who were bold, and at the same time risk averse.  It is well to know both the good and the bad, in hopes that the knowing will somehow make us, if not immune, at least a little more wary of doing the same things over and over expecting different results.  But first we need to be honest with ourselves, and with others.  Our motives are no more pure than the men of the past.

I believe Woodrow Wilson was such a man.  I despise many of his actions, and he was a true racists and a progressive (read socialist).  He was also erudite, ambitious, and determined to make his mark on the world..  It is appalling that students at Princeton University, where Wilson was the president, want to remove all trace of him.  He was just as much a man of his time as are we.  How will history judge us?  After all, taking pot shots at a dead man is not exactly brave.

Then there are the men who were ruthless and brutal, but felt the need to offer up some their fortunes in hopes that history would smile favorably on them.  According to the American Thinker today, such was the case of Cecil Rhodes in Michael Curtis' article "No one wants to be called a racist."  Rhodes was the philanthropist who funded the eponymous scholarship at Oxford University, Oriel College, and also founded the state of Rhodesia.  Curtis writes:
Rhodes was a man of enormous achievement, the founder of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia), but a highly controversial figure.

Rhodes, a man of his times, was a believer in the Anglo-Saxon race as the master race, and a colonialist who wanted a united South Africa and a Cape to Cairo railroad running through British territory. He was also a confirmed racist. He began the policy of enforced racial segregation, an early form of apartheid, in South Africa. His private army, the British South Africa Company’s Police (BSACP) murdered thousands, perhaps as many as 60,000 Africans. He acquired land through armed force. He prevented Africans from voting for the House of Assembly in the new political system.
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It has been said that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.  It has also been pointed out that history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.  But if we destroy history in the mistaken idea that sweeping it under the rug is the same thing as getting rid of it altogether, future generations are bound to repeat it in ever rhyming stanzas.  We should acknowledge the noble things these men did, but also the craven and crass things they did, because in looking at their stories, we may see some hope for redemption in our own.

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