The Discarded Image

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Mitch Landrieu and his growing coalition of disgruntled minorities and public-school-educated leftists give us an idea of where a divided, majority-ruled America is heading.

In May, the mainstream media sacrificed valuable airtime and column space normally devoted to unsourced White House leaks to laud the New Orleans mayor’s effort to remove four monuments to the Confederacy.  Landrieu’s speech praising his own actions in the advancement of the Eternal Reconstruction of his beloved “bubbling cauldron of many cultures” was hailed far and wide, and the local leftist paper, the Times-Picayune, proclaimed him the inevitable frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 election.  This would be remembered as his Cooper Union Address, his “gay friends in Red States” DNC speech, launching him to national prominence à la Lincoln and Obama.

The oration at Gallier Hall was scheduled to coincide with the conclusion of the removal of the 16'6" Robert E. Lee statue, which had, since 1884, presided over Lee Circle atop a column some 70 feet tall.  Unexpectedly, after spending hours in a cherry picker attaching tethers to the bronze sculpture in order to fasten it to a hook and crane, Landrieu’s hijabbed men found it difficult to unbolt Marse Robert from his platform.  And so, with his audience and TV cameras assembled indoors, Landrieu went on with the show, as the workers outside banged on at the sculpture’s base with hammers.

A bubbling cauldron of a crowd had gathered around Lee Circle on the morning of May 19 to watch the dismantlement in gleeful anticipation, and when the cherry picker made its ascent, a mix tape, presumably assembled by Take ’Em Down NOLA, began to play over loudspeakers.  George Michael’s “Freedom ’90,” Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbye!”: The whole list of civil-rights anthems played through, yet at its conclusion, there stood General Lee like a stone wall.  The masked men were still hammering away at his brazen feet.

The list was played again and again, with “Take It Down!” chants interspersed between rounds.  Predictably, the horde longing for selfies with a dismembered Confederate general grew impatient as the day wore on.  Their Facebook Live moment of triumph was repeatedly delayed.  These white activists barely concealed their social-justice fatigue when they were interrupted by a black activist with a megaphone, who threatened to destroy this hashtag-worthy event by drowning out the greatest hits of drug-addled homosexuals with tedious screeds about present-day oppression perpetrated by the racist New Orleans school district.  At least two young African American gentlemen were being deprived of their right to graduate from high school because they were a few credits short, even though, said one of them, “I worked my f---ing ass off.”

“Should we just order Chinese?” wondered one deflated NOLA.com activist/journalist off-camera, moments before the crane began to move, this time decisively, and the diminished, sunburned crowd erupted in cheers.  Dead now for 146 years, the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia was finally hanged, and with no musical soundtrack.  “Hush, it is General Lee.”

As I watched this absurd affair from Northern Illinois, I wondered whether any of the crowd assembled to “witness history” knew anything about R.E. Lee—that he hated slavery, loved the Union, thought secession unwise, knowing it would lead to war.  This man whom the national media, the mayor, and the crowd of armchair activists so breezily declared a “terrorist” was married to the great-granddaughter of George Washington.  In the late 18th century, Lee’s father, “Light-Horse Harry,” fought with the patriots of Virginia when the American colonies seceded from England.  Congress asked Henry Lee to eulogize President Washington at his funeral: “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” he famously said.  “The purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues.  Such was the man for whom our nation mourns.”

And such was the view held by most Americans, North and South, for nearly a century, of Henry’s son Robert Edward, who refused to bear arms against his own family and friends, his native state of Virginia—the state that gave us our first president, as well as the drafter of the Declaration of Independence and the chief recorder of the Constitutional Convention.  After much debate and by vote of the people’s representatives, Virginia peacefully and voluntarily entered into the Union in 1788, ratifying the Constitution.  After much debate and by vote of the people’s representatives and a public referendum, Virginia peacefully and voluntarily removed herself from that Union in 1861, with “An Ordinance to repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution.”  Is it any wonder, then, that Lee lent his sword in service to his native state?

Incidentally, Virginia’s Ordinance of Secession was virtually identical to Louisiana’s.

Above the fold on the front page of the Picayune (before its merger with the Times) on October 14, 1870, was the headline “Adjournment of the Eighth District Court in Honor of the Illustrious Dead.”  “The city is in mourning,” the story said.  “All classes of our population, forgetting old differences, join in expressions of sympathy at the irreparable loss which our common country has sustained in the death of Gen. Robert E. Lee.”  The loss, said the Picayune, was

crushing . . . And not here only: but in the North there will not be a heart that responds with admiration in the contemplation of a pure life—an elevated character, grandeur of soul, singleness and purity of purpose, united with all heroic qualities; that will not beat slower in grief as the tidings reach there that he who embodied all these, who reflected so brilliant a lustre in the American name, has ceased to exist.

In its obituary, the New York Times praised Lee’s character and singular talents, though it decried his participation in the “rebellion” and referred to his perceived duty not to “raise his hand against his relatives, his children, and his home” as an “error of judgment,” a participation in a “wicked plot.”  Nonetheless the Times obit concluded that Lee, “by his unobtrusive modesty and purity of life, has won the respect even of those who bitterly deplore and reprobate his course in the rebellion.”  Two days later, the Times declared that “The English journals are teeming with eulogistic obituary notices of Gen. Lee.”  One week later, it reported glowingly on a gathering at none other than the Cooper Union, “in tribute to Robert E. Lee.”

It is noteworthy that none of these papers, Northern, Southern, or European, mentioned a war prosecuted either to extinguish or to defend Southern slavery, let alone a conflict designed to settle the future of “white supremacy.”  For the South, it was a defensive war against an overweening, nationalist invader.  For the North, it was a war to quell a “rebellion” against a Union that was somehow sacred and indissoluble.  Abraham Lincoln, remembering his revenues, had not threatened slavery where it already existed, had promoted an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing that the peculiar institution would live in the South in perpetuity (the “Corwin Amendment”), and in his 1862 Emancipation Proclamation held out the promise that any state in “rebellion” which would rejoin the Union could keep its slaves.  White supremacy was quite simply the status quo of every state, North and South, whether blacks were enslaved or free, before and after the War.

For his part, Lee wrote to Lord Acton in 1866 that the South

receives without reserve the amendment which has already been made to the Constitution for the extinction of slavery.  That is an event that has been long sought, though in a different way, and by none has it been more earnestly desired than by citizens of Virginia.

It was on George Washington’s birthday in 1884 that Lee’s statue was dedicated in New Orleans.  Two of his daughters, Jefferson Davis, and General Beauregard—who after the War advocated civil rights for freedmen—were in attendance.  What would they have made of 2017’s carnival of ignorance, conducted on those same grounds?  And what would they have thought about Mayor Landrieu’s assertion that they were on the “wrong side of humanity”?

Admittedly, there is a logic to Landrieu’s thesis.  New Orleans has a long history that is not limited to the relatively brief period of time during which it was a part of the Confederate States of America.  It is

a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans—the Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha.  Of Hernando de Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Colorix, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of France and Spain.  The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more.

What Landrieu apparently doesn’t count as worthy of remembrance, then, is not just the CSA but the entire dark age of New Orleans as part of the United States of America, from the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 to some mystical time of leveling perfection that may not ever come, so long as race-baiting politicians can incite resentment to garner votes from a near-permanent black underclass and (now) a generation of young white adults taught to hate their ancestors and view all history through the lens of Critical Race Theory.  It’s a clever means of changing the subject while the percentage of blacks in New Orleans living in poverty (and subject to violent crime) soars above that of the rest of America, a reality attested to by Ben C. Toledano in “New Orleans: An Autopsy” ten years ago.  The rule of Leftist Supremacists, from Moon Landrieu in the 70’s through six black Democratic mayors and up to Moon’s son Mitch, hasn’t altered these deplorable conditions, nor has the removal of the Confederate monuments which, Landrieu admits, he never paid any mind when growing up in New Orleans.

Leftists pay no mind to history in general, nor to the complexities of human nature.  There is no need.  The past is only a tool for manipulating the masses in the name of Progress, which translates into Power for men like Landrieu.  And while we titter over Donald Trump and the Russian Connection, America’s institutions of learning continue to graduate masses of Mitch Landrieus who are compelled to denounce anything of historic virtue or value and “take it down.”       

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