Segregation by Ignorance
George Washington died 200 years ago. The occasion has prompted
many stories, notably in this newspaper that bears his name.
In this land of unequaled varieties and permutations of the human
species, we depend on the few immutables that hold us together as
a nation. Among these is the esteem in which we hold George Washington
and a few others. Or do we?
During the past decade, concerted attacks have been waged against
the men who laid the foundations of our freedom, our prosperity,
our unprecedented success as the United States of America. There
is now a veritable army of people who pay their rent and buy their
groceries by virtue of performing a continuous post-mortem on our
greats. They find all manner of error and misconduct committed by
the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson when judged
by today's lofty standards.
If the foregoing were insufficient to cause national embarrassment,
think about the other - considerably smaller - army of people who
make frantic efforts to defend them.
We ought to be embarrassed to defend men whose record is the envy
of the world, who risked everything for the common good, who gave
so much that fresh millions in every generation drink from the deep
well of their bequests. Are their detractors simply ignorant of
the facts, or worse?
Of the many divisions produced and cultivated by the false prophets
of the past thirty years, this one is especially potent to make
us two peoples for good. One will be a nation of Americans who regard
the founders as their ancestors even if, as in my case, they were
born, raised and educated across the seas, thousands of miles from
Philadelphia. The other is becoming an amorphous collection of individuals
who define themselves by sex, skin color, bodily habits, or ancestry
elsewhere. They may be easily recognized by their incessant demands
They have a big problem: Where are those rights supposed to come
Well, the Constitution of the United States, of course.
But that was written by...
Yes - the very same men whose shortcomings provide not only a favorite
pastime, but generous funding by institutions who likewise owe their
existence to said document.
That's the frivolous part. There is a much more serious issue to
The 1960s saw an all-out effort to do away with segregation. Because
segregation - where practiced - was a matter of law, it was also
capable of a judicial resolution. The new segregation which has
been in the making since the 1960s threatens to be permanent.
This new segregation does not employ the law, and it does not limit
its destructive practices to skin color. It operates through fostering
misconceptions and resentment. It thrives on ignorance - indeed,
it depends on ignorance for its success.
Here is how it works. No sooner did the doors open wide for all
those who had been left outside - whether in fact or symbolically
- that efforts got underway to make certain they would never walk
through those doors. The slogans of the original campaign had been
about full participation in America. The new slogans suggest that
America is not worth participation.
It is, we are told, a place designed by white males.
Among the many nonsensical phrases coined in our age, this one
is more unworthy of homo sapiens than most. It would be simple to
dismiss it as the talk of people suffering from terminal ignorance.
Alas, it is much more sinister than that.
Having a soda at a Woolworth fountain was of symbolic meaning;
the opportunity to learn by the richest fountains of knowledge would
have been of true significance. Yet, almost concurrent with the
opening of doors was the systematic abandonment of those fountains,
the replacement of knowledge with hogwash.
Part and parcel of that process has been the "deconstruction"
of America's greats. It does not stop with the founders: just a
few weeks ago, a councilman in Richmond, Virginia, took it upon
himself to pronounce Robert E. Lee unworthy.
Occasionally, I had students who told me that, in their opinion,
Mozart and Beethoven were not very good.
Mozart and Beethoven have survived the affront, and there is little
doubt that Robert E. Lee, George Washington, or Thomas Jefferson
will do likewise.
So why the concern?
Because we have in our midst a sizable contingent of purveyors
of falsehoods who, for reasons of their own, are laboring to create
and perpetuate millions who are American only in name, but not in
allegiance. These "reluctant Americans" are in fact the
true homeless among us, because they do not belong anywhere. While
their ancestors may have been, they are not Irish, nor Italian,
nor Hispanic, nor African. They could be American, but don't really
want to be. Many no longer know what "American" means.
Perhaps they ought to read George Washington's Farewell Address
where he explained, and twice underlined, that word.
In the meantime, we are told to judge America's founders not by
what they did, but what they did not do.
Are the people promoting this approach absolutely certain they
wish to establish such a standard for everyone, including themselves?
I doubt it.