On January 2, 2016, I will celebrate 20 years of employment at The Rockford Institute. It seems like a long time in many ways, but a rather short time in others. One of my first acts here was to write a fundraising letter for the Center on the Family in America, explaining why the Defense of Marriage Act, no matter how well intentioned, would turn out to be a major mistake. ("If Congress can define marriage as between one man and one woman, it can redefine marriage as between two men, or between one man and his monkey.")
Twenty years later, DOMA—signed by President Bill Clinton—has been completely overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, and gay "marriage" is the law of the land, just like abortion (and for essentially the same reasons). And the world has been turned upside down in other ways as well. On June 29, 1995, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 20-stamp panel to commemorate the 130th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. The panel included stamps honoring Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Joe Johnston, the inconveniently Native American Stand Watie, and—yes—even Jefferson Davis. People lined up at their local government-owned post office on release day not to demand the destruction of these horrifying images or to tear down the flag of the government that approved them, but to purchase full panels that the Post Office obligingly placed in special acid-free envelopes, the better to preserve them from the ravages of time.
But time marches on, and the future waits for no man—er, person—and 20 years later the mere mention of Lee or Jackson or Davis evokes screams of "Treason! Traitors! White supremacists!" (No such cry greets the mention of Joe Johnston or Stand Watie, because none of the proponents of the New History—motto: "Cleansed, Not Erased"—remembers who they were.) For the New Historians (who wear their lack of knowledge of the intricacies of history not as a mark of shame but a badge of honor), the Confederate Battle Flag is no longer "The Conquered Banner" of Fr. Abram Joseph Ryan, the poet laureate of the Confederacy, but the American equivalent of the Nazi swastika. It's not enough, as Father Ryan mournfully urged, to "Furl that Banner"; it must be torn down, trampled upon, set ablaze. Only a fire in the minds of men can properly cleanse history and usher in the glorious world to come in which there will be neither black nor white, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for all will be one in Big Brother.
Scott P. Richert is editor at large for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and Publisher for Our Sunday Visitor. He holds an M.A. in political theory from the Catholic University of America. He has been published in, among others, The Family in America, This World, and Humanitas. He is the Catholicism Expert for About.com.