I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all it was completely logical, the inevitable result of the insane “woke” political correctness that has been building and raging, largely unabated, in the United States now for years. Indeed, in my regular columns and essays I have been writing that this insanity, spread and imposed like a highly contagious and fatal infection—far worse than COVID—would not and could not be stemmed by the pitiful half measures of spineless Republicans and of despicably cowardly “conservatives.”
Yet, the news that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C., had begun to re-label the nation’s founding documents, characterizing them as reflecting “racist, sexist, ableist, misogynistic/misogynoir, and xenophobic opinions and attitudes” and being “discriminatory towards or exclud[ing] diverse views on sexuality, gender, religion, and more, ” still caught me off guard.
We are not talking about secondary copies of the US Constitution, Declaration of Independence, or Bill of Rights, those reproductions that you hang on the wall in a school classroom. No, NARA is the official repository of the original documents themselves, of the original copies signed by the Founders and the Framers. It is those priceless and irreplaceable items held by it in trust that the National Archives has decided to label as “outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent [in] views and opinions.”
Accordingly, that agency of the federal government has begun to “re-contextualize” its more than 100 million documents based on a report issued by its Task Force on Racism and issued April 20, 2021. That report declared that NARA and its unique collections are shot through with “structural racism,” including “a Rotunda in our flagship building that lauds wealthy White men in the nation’s founding while marginalizing BIPOC [black, indigenous, people of color], women, and other communities.” Additional examples of structural racism at the National Archives include “legacy descriptions that use racial slurs and harmful language to describe BIPOC communities.” The National Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero accepted the commission’s report and recommendations, and immediately began the work “to transform its exhibits, archival information and descriptions, and policies.”
NARA’s catalogue and labeling are being rewritten—“re-imagined” is the currently popular term to describe the historical legerdemain. Everything now, including our founding national documents and symbols, must reflect the new consensus, the new revisionist interpretation of American history and all that which will follow: “equity,” reparations, and the eventual and practical disenfranchisement and replacement of “white America.”
You may have thought the “1619 Project” just an outrageous outlier, a radical and intellectually dishonest attempt to redo and refashion American history to fit an extreme progressivist “woke” reinterpretation of our past. But that project, lauded and praised by the loudest voices in academia and heralded by the media (including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and most broadcast outlets) already possesses and dominates by and large our educational system, our entertainment industry, and, yes, our political discourse. And it was inevitable that it would reach the National Archives and its precious holdings.
The re-imagining of the nation’s foundational documents, then, is entirely logical. It is consistent with “1619,” and reflects the powerful influence such thinking has and exerts over our governing and corporate classes.
But what is truly scandalous, and appalling, about what is occurring is that opposition to this outrage has been largely muted, with very little news of it in the media.
You would think, would you not, after all the hullabaloo about the “1619 Project” and the disgustingly weak and embarrassingly contradictory actions of the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees (majority Republican) regarding the hiring of (and tenure for) the Project’s main author, Nikole Hannah-Jones, as Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism in the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, that this latest assault on the nation’s historical past and identity would have been met by fierce opposition and an outcry from conservatives?
Yet only forty-four Republican members (no Democrats) in the US House of Representatives sent a protest to National Archivist Ferreiro, as reported by The Federalist. Those lawmakers called on NARA to remove the warnings on this nation’s original documents and cease politicizing them.
Their communication continued:
“We are deeply concerned by the National Archives Record Administration’s ‘harmful content’ warning displayed on the Archives’ cataloged website, including on seminal documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the U.S. Constitution…”
But where are the other 168 GOP House members? Where is the voice of the Senate Republican Caucus? Of Mitch McConnell? And others?
Certainly, if polled I’m sure they would declare their formal opposition—they may have already done so. But where is their concerted action, other than a few easily forgotten words or fatuous protests?
Over the last few years I have written that the efforts to take down Confederate monuments, most egregiously perhaps the recent disgraceful removal of the Lee Monument in Richmond, were just a first step in a major process of fanatical hatred for and redefinition of American history. It is not only the physical monuments themselves, but what they symbolize, that has to be destroyed and extinguished. And the hysterical campaign to erase those monuments honoring the Confederate dead is just the first part of this effort.
There is a recent documentary, “How the Monuments Came Down,” produced by the Virginia Film Office and widely distributed by PBS which makes this goal crystal clear. Removal of the monuments is only the easiest, hanging fruit, as it were. There is much more to come until, as one of the commentators declares, “we have rooted out entirely white supremacy and systemic racism.”
In their national campaign to erase anything that offends them, the “woke” lunatics have counted upon the benevolence of the establishment Republican Party and very prominent members of what is laughably termed “the conservative movement.” Either by studied inaction or active encouragement, the Rich Lowry types (editor of National Review) and the near-unanimity of the apparatchik pundits on Fox News have cheered on the destruction of Confederate monuments, while simultaneously praising Martin Luther King Jr. as a “true conservative,” despite his embrace of Marxism and a genuinely Communist praxis on various occasions (for example, his address honoring Communist W. E. B. DuBois, February 23, 1968). Their response to the madness griping the nation is to apologize to the Left and whine with a form of virtue signaling: “Look at me! I condemn those Confederate symbols, just like you! Please don’t call me a racist…oh, will you still invite me to one of your swank cocktail parties on New York’s Upper East Side? Please!”
Back on June 16, 2020, I compared the pusillanimous response of our established conservative movement, what my friend Dr. Paul Gottfried calls “Con Inc.,” to a scene in the classic film, “Waterloo” (1970):
“The response of those supposed ‘conservative’ defenders of American traditions to the fanatical tsunami of violent revolutionary lunacy reminds me of the scene in the film “Waterloo” (1970), when an illiterate private in the Duke of Wellington’s army who has engaged in plunder and stolen a young pig, cautions the pig not to squeal, not to alert those around him of his plunder (a capital offense under military rules). ‘Be quiet,’ he tells the pig, ‘and I’ll only eat half of you!’ ”
Whether the craven response by Congress and national conservative leaders, or, more locally, the action of a Republican Gerald Kivett in Sampson County, North Carolina, member of the county commissioners, who made the successful motion to remove the Confederate monument in that largely rural county, it amounts to the same thing: cowardice, the fear of being labeled a racist and perhaps being “cancelled,” hoping to stave off something worse, but at base a lack of conviction and faith.
All the apologies and virtue-signaling of the GOP and ConInc. will not save them or those other symbols of traditional American history. The three-piece suit enablers only encourage the madness, embolden it, and in the end their response, or failure to respond, will not spare them. After Lee, it must be Washington, Jefferson, perhaps changing the name of the US capital? The list of culpables is endless.
The Revolution is not mollified by weakness and groveling. Offering up half a pig will kill the pig, as it will kill what is left of this country.
Boyd D. Cathey holds a doctorate in European history from the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, where he was a Richard Weaver Fellow, and an MA in intellectual history from the University of Virginia (as a Jefferson Fellow). He was assistant to conservative author and philosopher the late Russell Kirk. In more recent years he served as State Registrar of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. He has published in French, Spanish, and English, on historical subjects as well as classical music and opera. He is active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various historical, archival, and genealogical organizations.