Eleanor Roosevelt famously said that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Although that’s true, we sometimes respond to things reflexively. We’re biological and emotional beings; someone says or does something, and we react. However, she’s correct when it comes to how we choose to let things affect us. If someone cuts me off in traffic, I can chase them down in a fit of rage, or I can let it go, which of course is what the law demands because getting cut-off no matter how infuriating it may be, doesn’t justify the use of violence.
Human beings tend to react in ways that provide some type of psychological or emotional benefit. If I don’t like someone, I’ll go out of my way to find fault with the things that they do as a way of justifying my dislike of them. People are very strange that way.
A recent protest in Charlottesville Virginia over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee left a woman dead and several others injured. That violence occurred because there were people who went to that protest intent on causing violence. Members of the Ku Klux Klan and Neo Nazis, as well as Antifa, came armed with clubs, helmets and masks. You don’t go to a rally with a club, helmet and mask to peaceably articulate your point of view. Unfortunately, every society has anarchist and thugs that enjoy creating chaos and inciting violence, and they showed up on both sides in Charlottesville.
However, think about the object at the center of the controversy, the statue. It’s an inanimate object made of stone and bronze. It has no magical or mystical properties to do anything to anyone. How then was it able to invoke such a violent reaction?
The Charlottesville statue was commissioned by Paul Goodloe McIntire in 1917. McIntire was a philanthropist and benefactor of the University of Virginia, who established the school of commerce and economics, as well as an endowment for the fine arts. He also commissioned statues of fellow Virginians Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, as well as the Booker T. Washington Public Park. He died in 1952, so it’s impossible to know what was in his heart and mind when he commissioned the statue of Lee, but perhaps he was simply a proud son of Virginia?
There are more monuments and statues commemorating the Civil War than any other conflict in our history. This makes sense when you consider that the Civil War was our most destructive conflict, killing or wounding one out of every twenty Americans. Each monument is unique, with its own history and legacy. Some were erected to honor the memory those who perished in battle. Others were erected as an act of defiance against the Civil Rights movement. But again, they’re inanimate objects. They have no innate and inherent meaning or importance. The only meaning or importance they have is what we choose to give them.
We live in the age of victimization. If you can claim aggrieved status, you can use it as a moral lever to force your will upon others. If you don’t like what someone says, you can label it hate speech and suppress their freedom of speech. If you decide that a 100-year-old statue is a symbol of white supremacy, you can destroy public property. Today, just being morally outraged about something, anything, makes you a social warrior and justifies you intimidating, threatening, and infringing upon the civil rights of those with whom you disagree. And it is all politically correct, because it’s all done under the banner of social justice.
Perhaps it’s time for a lesson in both civility and civics. You can’t suppress someone else’s freedom of speech no matter how disagreeable or hateful you find it. That freedom is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It is a cornerstone of the Republic and essential to living in a free society. You can’t vandalize or destroy public or private property because you deem it to be offensive. You certainly have the right to be offended and can petition for its removal, providing you abide by the rule of law and work within the constraints of the democratic process. And under no circumstances, can you ever resort to violence or even the threat of violence because you dislike someone else’s political ideology. Being offended doesn’t make you a victim. Being offended is the price we all pay for living in a free society. If we continue to choose to be ruled by emotion instead of Constitutional principles, our country will descend into mob rule and anarchy.
Thomas Jefferson believed that the American Revolution was the start of a much larger movement that would sweep across the globe freeing the common man from the oppression and tyranny of the European Nobility. France was next, but Maximilien Robespierre, and the Jacobins had more ambitious goals. They set out to create a utopian society and placed political correctness and ideological conformity above the natural rights of man and individual liberty. The Revolution failed and France never came close to establishing a Constitutional Republic or the Rule of Law like the United States. Instead, the “Republic of Virtue” descended into mob rule and a reign of terror that claimed the lives of more than fifty thousand French citizens, and in the end even the “Incorruptible” Robespierre couldn’t escape the guillotine’s blade.