The purge

Rename your schools, change the logo of your restaurant, tear down the memorials to your heroes. Every day a new demand for submission and erasure, and the beaten dogs eagerly comply more often than not.

Having more or less won the culture war, the left is doing what the left does best and executing a purge. What’s the point of winning a revolution if you can’t, afterwards, destroy all your enemies?

What’s happening now is nothing new. During the Roman Empire this practice was called damnatio memoriae, and–worryingly–first became popular during the death of the Republic. In the Soviet Union they had a saying: ‘the future is always certain, and yet the past is always changing.’

It’s an authoritarian tic. The one who believes in freedom has nothing to fear from history, because he isn’t trying to control others with a manufactured narrative. He has nothing to fear from symbols he disagrees with, because there is no one he is oppressing who might cling to them.

It doesn’t matter to them that there are many people who admire Robert E. Lee, who think that Confederate soldiers were often brave and worthy of a memorial, or that the Rising Sun and the Confederate flags aren’t synonymous with Nanking and slavery. The victorious Union contented itself with a material victory over the South, but the people who attack it now want to rip the very marrow of pride out of Southerners.

It is evil to demand that any people live eternally in shame. Not when the history of the world is so bloodstained that you couldn’t find a single person with a thousand years’ worth of innocent forebears. It is wrong to demand, as the price of forgiveness, a man’s pride. Not Japanese, not Germans, not Southerners, and certainly not white people as a whole. It is wrong to demand it, and it is cowardly to submit to such a demand–that’s my opinion of all the people who give in day in and day out in the hopes of making their lives just a little easier. They’re selling us all out.

To authoritarians, only their opinion matters. Only their feelings matter. Only their interpretation of history should be told. Only their icons should be displayed in public spaces. That perspective is not worthy of an American.

I suspect the reason that this embryo of intolerance and instability continues to grow is that there are fewer and fewer people who believe the old values. There are fewer people who are, in any sense, Americans.


Richard Fernandez wrote an excellent article regarding the moral hazard of large organizations, but kicked it off with a bit of a moot point:

Winston Churchill memorably predicted the end of the German East Asia Squadron when it slipped out of Tsing-tao harbor under Admiral Maximilian von Spee. “He was a cut flower in a vase, fair to see yet bound to die.”  Winston knew that the Spee’s s squadron however imposing and bravely led had no means of support.  Sooner or later it would come to grief, which it duly did.

In drawing this parallel, he runs afoul of my admiration for Admiral Spee. The eventual destruction of Spee’s East Asia Squadron was one of the low-lights of Royal Navy history, and I’m sure that’s not what Churchill had in mind when he described the squadron as a ‘cut flower.’ Perhaps Spee was a cut flower, but one determined the prick the limeys with whatever thorns he had.

The Battle of Coronel, where Spee ran into the first British attempt to stop him, resulted in 1500 British dead, and the Germans hardly suffered a toothache in return. Emden, detached from Spee’s squadron, went on to become one of the most successful commerce raiders in history while operating alone and without support. This gripping story is all told in Massie’s Castles of Steel.

So it’s exactly the opposite of the metaphor Fernandez wished to make. The Royal Navy was the one, in this situation, that was ‘too big to fail.’ Spee did more damage than anyone could have envisioned, including the man himself. There’s a reason the Germans named a class of heavy cruiser after him.