Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, democratic Presidential aspirant, and momentary favorite of a subset of the Left’s taste-making machine, sought to grab some spotlight back from Joe Biden and his meteoric rise up the candidacy rankings by offering up his own nugget of history-scrubbing. Mayor Pete thinks that Jefferson’s name should be remove from ‘places of honor,’ including certain Democratic Party annual dinners and, presumably, public buildings and monuments, because he owned slaves.

Yeah, he did, even though his history shows he believed slavery to be wrong. So did a lot of other “great men” who built the foundations of this nation. We mustn’t dismiss that human failing, and it should be taught alongside all his writings and contributions to American and the world.

However, we mustn’t fall into the trap of judging everyone in history against a 21st century ethic or a model of perfection born of current sensibilities. To do so would be to assure that we remove just about every historical name from public existence, and relegate them all to history books.

I don’t believe that Mayor Pete believes this should happen, either. But, his opinion (and actions – he stated “we’re doing that in Indiana”), to carry weight, must hold up to challenge.

One challenge, suggested by a political acquaintance, is whether Buttigieg would extend the same principle to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR, back in 1942, signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans. Should FDR’s name be removed from places of honor because of that despicable act?

Another regards the racist, even “by the standards of his time’, President Woodrow Wilson. Indeed, a protest by students at Princeton four years ago made just such a demand, leading to the removal of a mural from the dining hall (but not a change to the name of Wilson college).

How about Lyndon Baines Johnson? LBJ shepherded the Civil Rights Act, a milestone in the improvement of race relations in America, but historical evidence argues that his support for the bill was tactical, not out of principle, and seen primarily as a means of expanding his party’s power. Indeed, he reportedly referred to it, on many occasions, as “the nigger bill.” Should his casual use of the n-word, and the concomitant evidence of racism, precipitate the removal of his name from “places of honor?”

Three heroes of progressivism would, by today’s standards, be figuratively eviscerated, drawn, quartered, and left to wither in the noonday sun of the town square by the raging social justice mobs, yet I don’t hear our Democratic presidential candidates calling for the removal of their names from public edifices.

Why, then, harp on Jefferson, who’s as important a historical figure as Wilson, FDR, and LBJ? Why not go after George Washington, the “father of our country,” who also owned slaves?Has Jefferson become a safe target for the virtue signalers and social scolds?

I don’t advocate for any of these historical scrubbings. Libertarianism, strictly applied, would argue against the elevation of any name on a public edifice, but that’s a bit of academic minutiae that will gain no serious practical traction, and I think it important to have such reminders of history. Among other things, they can prompt us to learn more about these figures, to understand them as more than just names out of a list of high achievers, and to learn from the realities of their lives, successes, and failings.

Those who do should be held up to a consistency standard, if only to see whether they’re intellectually honest or merely pandering. I’d be willing to bet, in the large majority of cases, the latter.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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