“When you remove history, you set yourself up to repeat it.”
– Lawrence Jones III
You’ve probably heard of a book entitled Fahrenheit 451 (1951) by Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451 follows the story of Guy Montag, a fireman whose job is to burn books with disagreeable and contentious ideas. Initially, Montag takes a sadistic pleasure in torching time-honored pieces of literature and the homes of their owners, but as the story progresses, he experiences a change-of-heart and realizes that he’s been living a lie all along. This unforeseen existential crisis is characterized by Montag’s migration to an underground, secret society where all ideas are free and open to exchange, and the story ends with the atomic annihilation of Montag’s old society and an enterprise to usher in a new age of intellectual tradition.
Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel has been speculated to comment on excessive and unjust censorship in the media. When I was instructed to read it, I couldn’t care less about the premise. “Are you kidding me?” I thought to myself. “Firemen supposedly go around, and burn books because they don’t agree with the ideas they present? That’s absurd! That will never happen in my lifetime.”
But that’s exactly what’s happening to America in 2017. In the past week, multiple Confederate statues have been forcefully taken down and vandalized across the country. News headlines consist of “Philadelphia considers removing statue,” “Chicago Bishop Wants George Washington’s Name Taken Off Park in Black Neighborhood,” and “Confederate monument in Arizona tarred, feathered.” Another article asks about what will happen if America’s children lose our history.
I can’t believe that this is a discussion that we should even be having about political correctness. These statues have been up for 200 years, but all of a sudden, people are opting to take them down because they’re offensive. What’s my stance on the removal of these monuments?
On April 12th, 2017, I posted an article inquiring about the legality of flag burning, concluding that the act of incinerating the American flag is extremely depraved and thus should be outlawed. One-time offenders should incur a small fine, while repeated offenders should face jail time and a complete revoke of citizenship.
I have since reversed my position on flag burning because no matter how upset or disgusted that it makes me, it is nonetheless an exercise of free speech—outlawing it would practically equate to promoting censorship of any kind. Moreover, it would be quite hypocritical of me to say that we should outlaw flag burning but reject the removal of Confederate statues, because they’re two sides of the same coin. In other words, we can’t change the past in the same way that we can’t change the Constitution. Simply because they make us feel “uncomfortable,” we can’t shut them out of our lives and pretend like they don’t exist anymore.
So apparently, it’s okay to burn flags because it is an expression of free speech, but it’s not okay to display a Confederate statue in a state park because it’s a symbol of “bigotry and racism.” Are you noticing the flawed logic yet? Besides, if we’ve begun to normalize the removal and vandalism of historical statues, how long will it take until we literally remove entire passages in history textbooks that inform of Confederate generals and practices of slavery? Or worse, burn history textbooks altogether? What will TRULY separate our reality from the dystopian reality of Fahrenheit 451?
If we don’t want our children to learn about the horrible atrocities that our ancestors have committed, then we need to express to them that ignoring history won’t undo said atrocities. We need to get them to understand that the Confederate statues we’re taking down are not symbols of bigotry and racism, but symbols of what we WILL become if we regress to a state in which bigotry and racism are once again acceptable—symbols of a dark past and an even darker future if we repeat the same mistakes.
The issue, it seems, is as clear as day: continue to delete and rewrite history to push a politically correct agenda, and open the door up to the very things that you’ve already denounced. It’s sad that half of the country doesn’t see it that way.