In life, even an assassin’s bullet couldn’t stop a Bull Moose. In death, all it took was a dose of cancel culture.
At 2:00 AM on January 19, the statue of Teddy Roosevelt that stood for 80 years outside of New York’s Museum of Natural History – a monument not only to the man himself, but to his supreme confidence in the innate goodness of the American people – was wrapped in a sheet and carted off to North Dakota. Protests that his image “glorified colonialism” had claimed another victim.
Ironically, the now-empty pedestal is a short distance from the spot where angry New Yorkers once toppled the equestrian statue of King George III, an act for which George Washington threatened to hang anyone who touched another statue or memorial.
Earlier this year the House of Representatives voted to remove from America’s veterans’ hospitals and cemeteries the creedal words of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address: “Let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.”
If Honest Abe is on the chopping block, then the very idea of America is under siege. The late British philosopher Roger Scruton described this as the “culture of repudiation”. The prevailing liberal clerisy is beset by the fanatical loathing of everything that is America—the deconstruction of all aspects of our political, spiritual, and cultural inheritance.
As millions of parents discovered during the epidemic, the dogmatic cultural relativism of that clerisy is deliberately destroying the capacity of Americans to judge what is truly uplifting about our society and why over one million Americans died trying to preserve it.
The culture of repudiation has given us, as Daniel Mahoney, a professor emeritus at Assumption College, calls it “coercive and moralistic political correctness that rejects objectivity, truth and tradition.” Hence Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt are tossed aside as irredeemable oppressors, not men of good conscious confronting the exigencies of their times–men who created an imperfect but spiritually and morally sublime Republic. Failure to recognize and celebrate their achievements is to acquiesce in the suicide of America and the West.
The United States is the last station on a western continuum running from ancient Jerusalem through Athens and Rome to London. This is the continuum that gave the world its understanding of liberty and human dignity. America is the expression of 3,000 years of historical and religious memory. The emphasis is on memory, what G.K. Chesterton described as the “democracy of the dead” that “refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”
Let us leave with thoughts with one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, himself half-American by birth — Sir Winston Churchill. His epic, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, written in the midst of the Cold War, concludes with this:
“And this is not the end. Another phase looms before us, in which alliance will once more be tested and in which its formidable virtues may be to preserve Peace and Freedom. The future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope.”
“The United States remains the world’s last best hope. As Andrew Roberts states in his addendum to Churchill’s masterpiece, if another power or powers should replace us, “the human race will come to mourn the passing of this most decent, honest, generous, fair minded and self-sacrificing imperium.” The President of the United States and his allies should think about that.
A former secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Robert L. Wilkie is a visiting fellow in the The Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense.