millennials who object to having their craft beer smashed with a hatchet. In a gesture to neutrality and fairness, we could start the “Washington” renaming with the first 358-plus words in the dictionary... “A City,” “Aardvarkville,” “Abackburg,” “Abacustown,” and so on. But dictionaries are a social construct of Western civilization’s dead white males (such as Noah Webster, who’s dead). So maybe an alphabetical approach won’t do. Perhaps we can use a random selection of tattoos from today’s young people who are so vigilantly opposed to historical wrongs. For instance, Washington Pass, in the North Cascades mountains of Washington State, could be renamed “This Too Will” Pass, in “Follow Your Dreams” State. Of course, you could wind up being someplace that didn’t have a name at all... a place where you’d need to scroll through Google Maps looking for a hummingbird on someone’s butt, instead. And George Washington is only one small part of the larger problem. Eleven other American presidents, including some of those rated best by historians, owned slaves. Consider: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Andrew Johnson, and, of all people, Ulysses S. Grant. Grant owned only one slave, William Jones,
A lot of work will have to be done if we decide to eliminate all celebrations of wrong, and all memorials to wrongdoers. So, I propose a thought experiment: If we need to make some changes, then, to be perfectly logical, we need to make all changes. At the beginning of our nation (though not at the beginning of enslavement) there is George Washington. He held 317 people in bondage. One American state, 31 counties, 55 cities, towns, and villages, 241 townships, and six major geological features are named after George Washington, as are 12 colleges and universities, nine important public parks, four of the nation’s longest bridges, and innumerable avenues, boulevards, streets, roads, and highways. What shall we rename them? Ideally, they all should be named after oppressed persons. However, due to the oppression of persons because of their race – and also because of their gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation – the names of most of the oppressed are lost to us. And the names of some of the oppressed – Carrie Nation, for example – could prove divisive among
How far can we go in denigrating historical wrongs before we enter the Orwellian world of denying history's existence?
86 | October 2017
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