The Great Erasure

Common ground between the Left and the jihadists: neither can stand up under the pitiless gaze of history.

Did you know that Paul McCartney once wrote a song celebrating slavery? Well, neither did he. It took about half a century after “Penny Lane” was a hit for the Beatles before historians decided that this street in Liverpool was a legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Sir Paul wrote the song as a nostalgic ode to Penny Lane as the scene of childhood happiness “beneath the blue suburban skies.” The Liverpool-born musician could not have known, while composing the cheerful tune in the mid-1960s, that scholars would one day conclude Penny Lane was probably named in honor of James Penny, a local mariner who made his fortune in the slave trade in the 1700s. Historians have not been able to prove this as a certainty, but the mere possibility was enough to inspire vandals to deface a sign in Liverpool with graffiti: “RACIST Lane.”

History is a horror show for liberals, who only look to the past in search of grievances they can exploit in their remorseless quest for political power. The liberal has a quasi-religious faith in Progress, which means that yesterday — another McCartney song title — was self-evidently worse than today. The past was a bad time, according to liberals, who see nothing there but oppression. Your nostalgia for the pleasant memories of childhood is almost certainly racist, and probably also sexist and homophobic. Now that I think about it, didn’t McCartney’s lyrics in “Get Back” mock someone who “thought she was a woman, but she was another man”? Isn’t this the textbook definition of transphobic hate speech?

“Get back home, Loretta,” McCartney sang, but wherever she (or he) was from, Loretta probably wouldn’t recognize his or her hometown today. The vandal horde is everywhere, smashing windows and tearing down statues. If Loretta was from Seattle, a trip back home might land her (or him) in the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ). Protesters in Seattle chased off the police, took over the neighborhood, and set up what seems to be an attempted 21st-century reenactment of the 1871 Paris Commune. If nothing else, the drug-addled mob in CHAZ are proving the truth of Karl Marx’s aphorism that history repeats itself, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

Americans have been fed a racist diet, just the same as the Beatles were raised on racist streets in Liverpool. This is what we are told by the devotees of Progress who go rummaging through the past like Indiana Jones exploring a tomb in a remote jungle — Raiders of the Lost Racism, as it were — in search of something to be angry about. How many statues of Christopher Columbus have been vandalized or removed since George Floyd’s death? I lost count last week at four, but I’m pretty sure it’s more than that now. In destroying monuments to Columbus, however, the vandal horde is at least taking aim at the Spanish empire rather than our own English forebears, but most statues of Columbus were erected as a celebration of Italian heritage. No less a liberal than New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed some resentment of attacks on Columbus, saying “the statue has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian-American contribution to New York.” So it’s OK for the mob to vandalize symbols of your heritage, but not Cuomo’s heritage.

Of course, it’s difficult to understand what a statue of Columbus in New York has to do with police brutality in Minnesota, but we can’t expect vandal hordes to be logical. In their frenzy of destruction, the anarchist mob in Boston defaced a memorial to the all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment, made famous in the Oscar-winning movie Glory; in Philadelphia, a statue of abolitionist Matthias Baldwin was attacked. What liberals call Progress often appears to be a descent into barbarism, but however ignorant the mobs are of the dead men whose monuments they deface, the vandals are nonetheless certain that (a) because the past was bad, therefore (b) anyone who lived in the past is undeserving of respect.

Excuse me for pointing out what absurd consequences might result if we follow the logic of Progress to its possible conclusion. So much news in the headlines of the past few weeks has been absurd that I don’t think we can rule out further absurdities. Our happiest childhood memories are now subject to being denounced as hate crimes, and the history we’re not allowed to celebrate keeps repeating itself anyway, sometimes as farce, but too often as tragedy. “I believe in yesterday,” Paul McCartney once sang. Soon we may be left with no yesterday to believe in.

Which, of course, is the whole point. The goal of the Progressivist project from its very beginning was to mold the unsatisfactorily-evolved masses into New Progressive Man, with or without his consent. What better way to do it than by starting out with a blank slate?

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