Chief Magistrate Trump has proposed a National Garden to honour American heroes, with 39 names offered so far for statues. These lists are almost always a matter of taste and political expediency rather than sound historical judgment, but this one is very odd indeed. It seems to have been constructed so as to offer something to everybody (except, of course, Southerners). Like all such hacked together compromises it will not work. It sounds like it was written by Jared and Ivanka or some other in-house pseudo-intellectual.
Where is the first black Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall?
Where is the first black astronaut, whoever that was?
Booker T. Washington? Why is he to be celebrated as a great American hero? Wasn’t he an Uncle Tom?
We have also listed for honour Harriet Tubman, a darling of the latest fake history craze. Instead we ought to have heroes who really fought against slavery---Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, John Brown.
I understand Jackie Robinson, but what about Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle? Ty Cobb is of course out as a Southerner.
And Frederick Douglass too. Wasn’t he the fellow who called Lincoln “the white man’s President” who had no interest in the welfare of black folks?
Harriet Beecher Stowe? It is obvious why she is included, but this third-string writer is the only representative of American literature. There should be Edgar Allan Poe and William Faulkner, but they are too Southern. At least they could have Hemingway or some representative Yankee writer. Melville and Hawthorne are out too. They were Northerners very lukewarm about Lincoln’s war.
What about Elvis, probably the universally best known American of all time?
If I had a vote, which ain’t gonna happen, I’d pick Hank Williams.
I may be wrong but I don’t see any sodomites on the honours list. You could kill two birds with one stone by putting in Walt Whitman.
Betsy Ross and Dolley Madison were great patriots but I don’t think they quite make the company of the greatest. I can provide a long list of real Revolutionary War heroes if anybody is interested: Patrick Henry, Francis Marion, Nathaniel Greene . . .
How about adding the noble woman in Roe vs. Wade who made abortion a constitutional right?
MacArthur but no Eisenhower?
How about Churchill who was half-American, had a great impact on American history, and was greater figure than most of those on the list?
Where is Lyndon Johnson who did more for civil rights than any other President, and also launched The Great Society which provides many thousands of well-paid no-real-work jobs for leftists?
We have Joshua Chamberlain, a fine fellow and a worthy American gentleman, but why not somebody really important in the war against the South like U.S. Grant, who was also a great Civil Rights President? Or even better, William T. Sherman who inflicted great punishment on Southern women, children, black people, livestock, and private property in general?
Curiously there are quite a few Southerners from early American history, Washington, Daniel Boone, Henry Clay, Davy Crockett, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. But these are great people whose Southernness has long ago been obscured to make them into honourary Yankees. Pseudo-intellectuals will never notice the Southern aspect.
Why Amelia Earhart and not Will Rogers who was also important for things besides being lost in flight? At one time among the most beloved Americans. But he has a Southern tinge also and made fun of Yankees.
And for modern Southerners, besides MLK: Audie Murphy, George S. Patton, Billy Graham, who can’t be pinned down by most people as Southerners although being Southern was vital to their greatness.
I admit I had to look up Christa McAuliffe, but that is an OK choice, though certainly not the most important person among the astronauts.
If we are recognising great or even important Americans, any knowledgeable person would have to include world-class figures like Calhoun, Davis and Lee. And Forrest, who both Lee and Sherman said was the greatest soldier in America’s central event.
All in all, this is a trivial list---but perhaps because it is for a trivial people.
Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews