Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Win Myers moves on

No, he hasn’t gone over to the dark side, but in the course of telling us about this op-ed, he lets it slip that he has become managing editor of The American Enterprise (link currently dead, but sure to come back to life), a publication of the American Enterprise Institute. Rumor has it there may be a blog in AEI’s (or TAE’s) future. I hope so.

As for Win’s op-ed, he writes about Vanderbilt University’s attempt to erase an inconvenient part of its (and our) past. Win notes that people do this all the time--altering evidence about or rewriting accounts of the past in order to serve present political or cultural purposes. It’s especially troubling--or ironic, if you will--for a university supposedly dedicated to free inquiry to do so. Here’s his conclusion:

Absent sustained, sincere and rigorous efforts to present any nation’s or individual’s past forthrightly, the intergenerational conversation that is historical debate becomes artificial, stilted and propagandistic. This is true for research and writing based on manuscript collections, letters, public records, works in myriad fields — for the primary sources that historians draw on to craft a vision of how those who came before us lived, what they thought, and why they acted as they did. It’s also true of our physical past, of the remains of those who preceded us. Whether these artifacts are recovered by archaeologists or maintained by historic preservationists, they are a priceless repository of the human experience. It’s why we value old structures and why we support museums.

To join this conversation is to become part of a greater dialogue that, over the centuries, shapes our perceptions of who we are as a people, a civilization and a world. But to deny the past, even to the point of physically expunging the historical record from academic buildings, is to engage in a destructive folly to scrub history in the search for a more perfect future.

What Vanderbilt attempted was indeed intellectually myopic. But more importantly, it was a violation of our obligations to our descendants — and to our ancestors, whoever and wherever they were, to keep the conversation going from one generation to the next.

Read the whole thing.

Discussions - 1 Comment

The idea of free inquiry does not entail the necessity of bestowing (or continuing to bestow) honors on all aspects of our past. Presumably renaming a building called "Bull Connor Memorial Hall" would be OK, wouldn’t it? A statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest could be removed if current community members no longer wanted to honor him, no? Or are we duty bound by history to respect the naming / memorial decisions of all those in the past?

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