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I’m fascinated by the defacing and destruction of statues and monuments around the world, but especially in the US. The mob seems focused largely (but obviously not exclusively) on those who served for the Confederacy during our “Great Unpleasantness.” After all, they are targets of our modern-day “Presentism,” that is, applying modern “morals” or “standards” to people and events from decades if not centuries ago. The complications and nuances of history don’t seem to matter.
But a few particular monuments seem exempt from the current “unpleasantness,” and that baffles me. Especially one particular former Governor of New Jersey, President of Princeton University, and President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson.
This particular historical figure re-segregated the military. He infamously chose “Birth of a Nation” as the first motion picture (silent) to feature at the White House. Never seen it? It glamorized the Ku Klux Klan, the militarized wing of the Democratic Party from the end of the Civil War to the Great Depression. Look up the 1924 Democratic Convention, infamously known as the “Klanbake.”
Wilson was famously reelected in 1916 under the motto, “He kept us out of war.” How did that work out? Like much of the Progressive movement of the day that infected both major political parties, he was a big fan of Eugenics.
Wilson is feted all over Washington DC and portraits and other honors can be found around Princeton University and the New Jersey State Capitol in lovely Trenton, NJ. His name adorns a terrific international organization (that I’ve worked with and is staffed with terrific people) headquartered at the Ronald Reagan International Center, a public building, near 14th and Pennsylvania Avenues in Washington DC. And President Wilson is buried at the National Cathedral in northwest Washington, at the highest point in the District. A church, by the way, that is led by the local Diocese of the Episcopal Church.
No word from anyone, including the Episcopal Church, on the future of Wilson’s “status” atop, or within, certain Washington facilities. I guess we’ll have to wait, either to see what the mob decides or whoever gets to decide the manner by which we shall erase our history. Where this ends, nobody knows. I’d be fine if we called the whole thing off.Published in