The press largely missed last week’s removal of the Teddy Roosevelt statue from the grounds of New York’s American Museum of Natural History, which had been in place for eighty years. Progressives argued it was colonialist in nature, a white man on horseback accompanied by an African and Native American on foot.
Roosevelt is consistently rated as among America’s best ten presidents, an ardent naturalist and political liberal. The African and Native American reflect his renowned role as explorer, not colonialist bent on exploitation. Nonetheless, the efforts of the Left, ignoring cultural antecedents, persist in rewriting history, or what I call “purging” it to conform with ideology.
I’m reminded of Orwell’s still relevant observation that “the really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits ‘atrocities’ but that it attacks the concept of objective truth; it claims to control the past as well as the future.” Similarly, progressives seek to assuage history’s realities by projecting their politics on to the past, while hypocritically ignoring the malignant realities of today’s Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.
As always, we do well to avoid peripheries, whether of Left or Right. We properly amend history by learning from its failures and not repeating them.