How long before George Washington is cancelled?
Now that’s a scary question, isn’t it? But, in today’s political climate, that prospect doesn’t seem quite outside the realm of possibility.
When Nike cancelled the release of shoes featuring the iconic Betsy Ross flag ahead of the Fourth of July this year, Americans across the country in coffee shops, living rooms and, of course, on Twitter, dove into debates about the flag’s meaning.
Symbol of patriotism and independence from a tyrannical monarch, or symbol of hate and racist white nationalism? To many, the answer is clearly the former, but to quarterback turned activist Colin Kaepernick, the answer was the latter. Soon, Betsy Ross and her flag were declared cancelled online.
This trend of “cancelling” – a societal reaction to attack or eliminate someone or something deemed as reprehensible – is unforgiving and dangerous, especially when it concerns history. The Nike case certainly wasn’t the first time a symbol or icon of American history was declared cancelled by a small group of disgruntled Americans, and it certainly won’t be the last.
Earlier this year, John Wayne was declared cancelled when his controversial Playboy interview from 1971 resurfaced on Twitter. Dr. Seuss continues to be re-evaluated in the face of criticism from woke children’s authors and associations who deem his work riddled with racism. It’s always being threatened that the image of Andrew Jackson will be removed from the $20 bill, and Thomas Jefferson continues to face so much scrutiny over slave-owning, that his legacy in the founding of our nation is slowly disappearing.
The list could go on and on.
This re-evaluation of history, on the surface, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It gets people thinking about the nation’s history in an effort to become a more perfect union. But does it always have to become so toxic? If someone wants to read a Dr. Seuss book or watch a John Wayne film, they should have a right to without fear of public shaming. It’s nothing short of intolerant to silence speech with which you disagree, and books and films are just that–forms of speech. If your community has had enough of Jackson and Jefferson, go ahead and do away with them in a way that’s civil and democratic, but with the understanding that they contributed much to our country and that your action today doesn’t change those actions of the past.
Besides, is it not better to educate, rather than try to erase entire chapters of American history?
To declare the Betsy Ross flag as a symbol of racist America is to say that everything that flag represented, and all those who stood for it, were evil racists better left on the ash heap of history and forgotten about. And that has terrifying ramifications. To demonstrate, let’s follow that radical line of thinking for a moment:
If the Betsy Ross flag is cancelled, then the Declaration of Independence for which it represented would have to be cancelled too– ‘all men are created equal,’ nothing more than a lie. And if the Declaration is no good, then so too is its main author, Thomas Jefferson–that slave owning hypocrite. While we’re at it, why not cancel his compatriot George Washington–the land on Mt. Vernon is stained with the blood of human beings held in bondage, after all.
Still think it’s impossible to see the cancellation of George Washington? That just can’t happen, but it will if this trendy radical line of thinking goes unchallenged.
George Washington wasn’t perfect. Our nation isn’t perfect. But that’s the beauty of America. For all her flaws, it’s achieved more in less than 250 years than most countries have in the entirety of world history. Can’t we recognize that while the leaders of our past were flawed, they did some good along the way? We wouldn’t be here without them, after all. Do we really have to be so negative about every symbol, every icon from our past? There’s so much to be proud of, especially when thinking back on the darker chapters, to realize just how far we’ve come and what we’ve accomplished.
As a nation we’re never satisfied with ourselves. We are always striving to be a more perfect union, and that’s a good thing. But this dangerous re-evaluation of history in an already tense political climate is only self-destructive.
The symbols and icons of a nation are supposed to bring its people together. We are woven into the fabric of this country as one people who can learn from the good and the bad in our past to accomplish anything we set our minds to. Discussing and remembering the history of a nation is important. But we can’t let our symbols and icons continue to fall under attack, disappear, or worse, be used to further divide an already fragile union. Because if we become stuck in the past, so focused on looking behind us and trying to correct wrongs that can’t be undone, we’ll lose sight on the magnificent possibilities that lie ahead in our future.
So, how long before George Washington is cancelled?
I remain hopeful it will never happen. But we’ll need to follow his example once more, and put country over petty differences first.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.