President Trump did raise a very important question today: where does it stop? Who and what should be remembered and memorialized and commemorated? The statues of Confederate leaders, as a rule, did not go up right after the Civil War. Robert E. Lee himself was opposed to putting up monuments to Confederate generals. The monuments went up as living memory faded away in the early twentieth century, and especially in the post-World War I backlash against black people, spurred by their fighting and dying in that war and by the unforgivable presumption of surviving black veterans that they ought to get some respect. Nothing doing, said conventional white American wisdom. The peak of Confederate commemoration was the heyday of the Klan, the 1920s, and not only in the South. (As Malcolm X said, if you are south of the Canadian border you are in the South.)
Donald Trump challenged those who, he said, want to “change history” and “change culture.” I thought he wanted to be a great president. Doesn’t he want to have a crack at changing history and culture? Yes, truth and reconciliation are complicated. No time like the present to get started. By the way, I accept that the only empirically verifiable doctrine of Christian faith, as Reinhold Niebuhr said, is original sin (and I do not feel any need, in spite of that, to subscribe to the the whole scheme of vicarious atonement). Because of that, I do not feel any need to prove the moral purity or righteousness of the people who counter-protested against the neo-Nazis, white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Confederates. Proving or disproving their moral perfection is beside the point. The family history of the accused murderer in Charlottesville sounds heartbreaking, but that is finally beside the point too. The point is who do we honor, and where do we want to go next. If our president does not want to be considered a despicable racist, fine. Show us a way forward. Show us who and why and what should be considered memorable and venerable.
BTW Mr. Trump I doubt Rupert Murdoch wants to go down in flames with you. Watch yourself.