I posted last night about the updated statement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and attendant issues:
Although almost everybody is happy about this statement, there are at least one or two exceptions.
Here’s some follow-up material:
Who has told her that she can’t “love [her] culture”? Who has suggested that God doesn’t love white people?
(Incidentally, somebody has asked me whether I don’t believe in “white culture.” Answer: I don’t. I can make sense of things like “Western culture,” “French culture,” “English culture,” “German culture,” and “European culture.” But I can’t tell what “white culture” might be, if it’s supposed to be something distinct from those.
But now I would like to address another issue, distinct but closely related:
In the course of my horrified comments on the alt-right and believers of white supremacy among a small number of — incredibly! — Latter-day Saints, I’ve expressed ambivalence about the removal of statues of Confederate leaders and generals. I’ve even gone so far as to suggest, notwithstanding their involvement with the reprehensible institution of black slavery, that the Confederacy wasn’t (as two or three of my interlocutors have suggested) the nineteenth-century moral equivalent of Hitler’s Third Reich and that Robert E. Lee can be fairly easily distinguished from Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler.
The Wikipedia article on General Lee supplies what it calls “a typical account”(from a professor there) about his postwar tenure as president of what is now called Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia: “The students fairly worshipped him, and deeply dreaded his displeasure; yet so kind, affable, and gentle was he toward them that all loved to approach him. . . . No student would have dared to violate General Lee’s expressed wish or appeal; if he had done so, the students themselves would have driven him from the college.”
In an 1874 address in Atlanta, Georgia, before the Southern Historical Society, the former United States representative and senator and former Confederate senator Benjamin Harvey Hill described Robert E. Lee as follows:
“He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a soldier without cruelty; a victor without oppression, and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbour without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy, and a man without guile. He was a Caesar, without his ambition; Frederick, without his tyranny; Napoleon, without his selfishness, and Washington, without his reward.”
I realize, of course, that Robert E. Lee was, like all of us — and like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and the other Founders — a mortal human being, with flaws. I realize that the account above may be a bit romanticized. I realize that there are those (most prominently, perhaps, in a still relatively recent article in The Atlantic) who would like to take him down a bit (or a lot). But I doubt that anybody can find very many things said about Goebbels and Himmler like those said by the unnamed professor and Benjamin Harvey Hill about General Lee.
In any case, here are three articles that might shed a bit of light on the current controversy revolving around statues of General Lee and other Confederate luminaries:
It has been pointed out that I’m white, which presumably explains my ambivalence and requires that my position be discounted. So, in turn, I point to the following two items:
“Were Confederate Generals Traitors?” (For a photo of Professor Walter E. Williams — a favorite writer of mine whom someone, commenting on my blog the other day, dismissed as a “neo-Confederate apologist” — please see here.)
Much more offensively, given my conviction that Robert E. Lee (apart from his service to Virginia at a time when that commonwealth endorsed and defended the immoral practice of slavery) it has been hinted that I’m an apologist for racism and/or the enslavement of blacks.
This is both false and slanderous, not to say insulting.
Let me take it on a merely political economic level: As I’ve said innumerable times on this blog, I’m a limited-government constitutional conservative who leans strongly libertarian on economic issues. That entails certain very particular positions — among them the absolute condemnation of slavery.
I believe in the almost unlimited right of free association — including the right of bakers, photographers, and florists to refuse to bake cakes, take photographs, and make floral decorations celebrating same-sex marriages (or, for that matter, Mormon temple weddings); the right of Jewish musicians to decline to perform for gatherings of the American Nazi Party; and the right of black caterers to refuse service at Ku Klux Klan rallies.
If I deny the right of homosexuals or Nazis (or Mormons) to compel the services of cake decorators, I certainly reject the notion that one human being has any right to own another.
I would greatly appreciate it if certain folks out there who like to hint that I’m comfortable with black slavery would give it a rest.
In today’s society, the charge of racism — and indifference to black slavery, let alone support for it, would seem to be the very quintessence of racism — is roughly on a par with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “scarlet letter.” It’s a charge that should be leveled with great caution, only in the rarest of cases and on the absolutely strongest of evidence. Leveled against me, it’s quite unjust and irresponsible. I won’t tolerate it on my Facebook page or my blog; it will result in immediate banning.
I am, to put it mildly, not a fan of the alt-right. Its prominence in the Trump campaign, and Mr. Trump’s failure to distance himself from it, played a significant role in my refusal to support or vote for Mr. Trump and in my decision to leave the Republican Party on the night Mr. Trump accepted its presidential nomination.
I liked what David French had to say on the day of the Charlottesville attack:
I also like an editorial posted this morning in the Weekly Standard, as well as the one that preceded it yesterday:
The Weekly Standard‘s editorial strongly reminds me of Mitt Romney’s prescient 29 February 2016 criticism of then-candidate Trump over his reluctance to distance himself from David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan.
I can detect no trace of sympathy in myself whatever for the racism and anti-Semitism of American neo-Nazism. And I shouldn’t even have to say that.