August 29, 2019

LIONEL SHRIVER: The abject stupidity of the San Francisco George Washington murals debacle.

So what’s the problem with these images? I fear I will bore you. ‘Don’t tell us,’ you say. ‘Pictures of slaves and dead Indians make students feel “unsafe”. The murals are “offensive” to certain “communities”. Did we get that right?’ Of course you did. But to be fair, when 49 freshmen at George Washington High were asked to write about the murals, only four wanted the works erased; the rest would preserve them intact, visible, and in place. Aside from a handful of noisy activists, this isn’t a snowflake story. It’s the grown-ups who are the idiots, and who assume that their city’s children are idiots — since if there are any kids who repeatedly pass these murals on the way to class and fail to get their message (and that’s hard to imagine), these children are already in a school where at least in theory one learns things.

It’s progressives of the sort who sit on the San Francisco School Board who are always banging on about the importance of teaching students the sordid aspects of American history. They’re the ones who would happily set aside lessons on the ingenious civic architecture of the Constitution in preference for concentrating solely on the document’s initial hypocrisy over slavery, and who denigrate George Washington as a slaveholder. They’re the ones who love nothing better than to induce a burning sense of hereditary shame in upcoming generations over how the West was won. So they’re the ones who, we presume, had they the talent, would paint the very murals they now want to obscure. ‘Bewildering’ doesn’t begin to say it.

Would that I could reassure my British readers that this urge to artistic vandalism is an American affliction, perhaps one specific to whackadoodle California. But campaigns to take down monuments and ban art that doesn’t pass an ever-stricter political purity test is not constrained to the US.

Read the whole thing, as the left’s cancel culture airbrushes down the memory hole the work of a communist painter hired by the FDR administration, in the name of what Rod Dreher dubbed “moralistic therapeutic barbarism.”

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