Along with me, most of my readers can discuss the fate of the public statues of Confederate leaders and generals with some degree of disinterest, because we have no dog in the fight. We aren’t historically linked to the Confederacy. In my case, so far as I’m aware, none of my ancestors owned slaves or advocated slavery. My paternal ancestors didn’t leave Scandinavia until well after the American Civil War. My maternal ancestors came to Utah either directly from England and Scotland or indirectly, without passing through the South, from hyper-Yankee Massachusetts.
But the fight may soon spill over from mere debate about the legacy of the former Confederate States of America. Here’s a calm and judicious discussion of that topic with which I have some considerable sympathy (if not altogether complete agreement):
But there are manifest indications that not everybody is going to be calm and judicious, and that the debate is likely to expand beyond Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson:
Believing Latter-day Saints, however, should not be feeling complacently secure from such storms. Or, to vary the metaphor, they should realize that the acids eating away at the statues of eminent Confederates will, probably sooner rather than later, be lapping at the feet of the historical human beings whom we believe to have been called by God to lead his Church. And, just as at least a few agitators are probably seeking, by means of the recent controversy over monumental sculptures, to devalue the achievements and virtues and even demonize the legacy of the American Republic, a few will almost certainly be attempting the same transmogrification of the Restored Church.
Consider this piece:
Notice its language about Brigham Young, for example, with my emphasis: “Young ruled the LDS church for 30 years.” And what was the historical impact of “his reign“? Why, what else but “racism, fostering a culture of violence towards others, and polygamy and misogyny”? And note the cool and detached language of this sentence, couched in the passive voice: “A petition has also recently been launched to rename Brigham Young University.” The author doesn’t note that, as a matter of coincidental fact, he himself is the author and prime mover of that petition.
Latter-day Saints should be aware of, and prepared for, the onslaught that is likely to come.
As a religious and political conservative, I’ve watched not dispassionately but with some indignation the long-evident but increasing tendency for people on the left to suggest that conservatives are not only wrong but, to some greater or lesser degree, morally depraved. And, to the extent that the same thing has happened on the right, I’ve opposed it. Sometimes in the face of rather spirited attack. (See, for example, my defense of Harry Reid, with whom I have many major political disagreements.)
I intend to resist attempts to extend this project of demonization back into history. I freely confess that the American Founders and the founders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were and are human. But I also believe them to have been good men, on the whole and for their cultural milieu, and I won’t stand idly by while they’re defamed and marginalized.
I want my stance on record now for the days that are inevitably to come.
Posted from San Diego, California