by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Steven Watts writes for the Federalist about challenging the political left’s approach to America’s past.
“In times of change and danger,” wrote the novelist John Dos Passos, “a sense of continuity with generations gone before can stretch like a lifeline across the scary present.” For the battalions of social justice warriors battling for racial and gender politics, nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, it demonizes the American past as a story of unrelenting injustice and recently has launched a series of campaigns against it. …
… Clearly, the political left has a significant problem with our national story. They don’t understand history, either the actual developments that made the United States or the field of study that seeks to make sense of that process.
Historians try to understand how and why human beings acted the way they did in the context of their circumstances and possibilities. But social justice warriors know better. For them, the past is a convenient arena in which to practice the latest exercise in cancel culture.
The shocking ignorance of the past many social justice warriors display is all too evident. The 1619 Project overflows with untruthful assertions and gross distortions, beginning with its ludicrous claim that the American Revolution was launched to protect slavery. …
… While this disdain for historical facts is distressing, even more troubling, however is the woke movement’s profoundly wrongheaded approach to history itself. Sometimes, they simply seek to abolish it.
Leftist disciples shrewdly sense (and fear) that history tends to create a sense of attachment and perspective, qualities that blunt efforts to remake the world anew. Revolutionary zealots have always targeted historical symbols as a key enemy in their crusades for purification. …
… The awakened believe that the past is just like the present and its inhabitants should be judged by contemporary standards. This is mistaken. Early on, the student of history learns to beware of “presentism,” or judging the past by the standards of the present.