Many people don’t understand why universities include a core curriculum of mandatory study, one that usually includes study of classic western art and literature.  This came about in the aftermath of World War I and was reinforced by the horrors of World War Two.  The western world had come perilously close to destroying ourselves, our culture, and perhaps even our living memory.  After two world wars fought within a few decades of one another, the west risked being reduced completely to rubble, or perhaps even worse, having the armies of darkness march all across the face of the earth as Sean Connery quipped in one of our favorite fictional films.  World wars and the destruction they brought traumatized the western mind, making us aware of our past accomplishments, as well as how easily it could all fall apart.

Many of us are concerned when we see mobs of mentally ill children pulling down confederate statues, and defacing others across America.  We’re told that these statues need to be removed because they are racist.  We’re also told that the removal of these statues is a one-off, a singular action that once done will somehow improve the lives of Americans.  Instead, politics is a continuum, and constantly evolving game in which one strategic gambit leads to the next.  Clearly defined end games are not really a norm.

Confederate statues are a representation of an army that fought on the wrong side of history, and also a reminder of America’s legacy of slavery.  They are also many other things.  Racists today use the stars and bars to intimidate minorities, but those of us who have lived in the south and seen black Americans wearing a confederate flag ball cap at the gas station know that history and culture are far more complicated.  Untangling the nuances and ambiguities is no easy task, which is why claims that the statues must be taken down because “racism” as if that is a single blanket excuse for everything, do not really hold water.  If the local community votes to take down a statue in their municipality, then that is democracy in action and should be respected even if we find it disagreeable.  However, when a bunch of kids who have never received a 1099 form are tearing down monuments with historical significance that they don’t even understand, what we have is mob rule.

Reluctantly, I must concede that this is in fact a culture war.  Direct comparisons in international politics are often lacking context.  “This is like that” is often too simple an explanation.  That said, having seen aspects of the Syrian civil war up close, recent events are particularly disconcerting.  For some the removal of confederate statues really may be a one-off, but for a particular movement, it is just one phase in a campaign to erase western history.  These are some facts:

-Last year activists held a protest inside the Natural History museum in New York City, demanding the removal of a statue of Theodore Roosevelt and the re-naming of Columbus Day.  Quoting from The Guardian,

The group started with a 10-stop tour of the museum in which they highlighted a variety of exhibits they felt were racist and misrepresentative, which ranged from how the representation of Africans reinforces negative stereotypes to the exoticizing of Islam in the Hall of Islam exhibit. ‘Where is the Hall of Christendom?’ one of the tour guides asked.”  Nitasha Dhillon, who helped organize the protests stated, “It’s just to echo what this is, it’s really a hall of white supremacy, that’s what this is.”

-This is also reminiscent of what a group of feminists said about Butler Library at Columbia University (which will no doubt that to be re-named) stating that,

Butler is an extremely charged space — the names emblazoned on the stone façade are, for me, a stimulant for resistance . . . I work in Butler but sometimes feel suffocated by it … The point was to transgress the relative conservatism (and its history) of the space with this hysterical intervention.”