As Divisions Threaten America, The Pressure To Cancel Presidents Is DangerousBreaking News
tags: presidential history, historical memory, monuments
Princeton University has decided to remove former President Woodrow Wilson’s name from its school of Public and International Affairs, citing his “racist thinking and policies.” Looking solely through the lens of race relations, the case against Wilson is clear. In his 1912 run for the White House, Wilson would warm up the crowds with racial jokes that today would be unprintable.
And while lately expressions like “systemic racism” and “white supremacy” have been thrown around quite liberally, the Wilson administration provides literal examples of these concepts enacted as government policy. Gazing back across the long century since Wilson was in office shows the progress we have made as a country.
Wilson is not alone in being erased. Monuments to the once sacrosanct George Washington have been vandalized. Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson statues are also under siege, and the venerable Democratic tradition of the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner has been abandoned because neither party founder meets contemporary muster. The first two Republican presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, are also facing censure and calls from radicals to have their monuments taken down. The fact that between them Lincoln and Grant defeated the Confederacy, ended slavery, and enforced the anti-slavery amendments to the Constitution seems inconsequential to the woke mob.
It is ironic that statues are the most visible targets of radical ire since they are idealized visions of flawed people. Looking at past presidents, how far do we go in demanding they live up to a statuesque level of perfection?
Franklin D. Roosevelt has been conspicuously unscathed in the recent round of iconoclasm, but his record on race is hardly commendable. The same people who castigated President Donald Trump for allegedly putting immigrant children in cages ought to be incensed over FDR’s internment of 120,000 Japanese during World War II, most of whom were American citizens. He also blocked Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, kept the armed forces segregated, and praised Confederate General Robert E. Lee as “one of our greatest American Christians and one of our greatest American gentlemen.”
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