By David Haldane
June 18, 2020
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First they toppled the statues.
Among the many casualties were America’s European discoverer, Christopher Columbus, and Gen. Robert E. Lee who led the southern Confederate army during the American Civil War.
Next they went for journalists. The executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer was forced to resign following his paper’s publication of a column headlined “Buildings Matter Too” lamenting property damage during that city’s recent riots. And, almost simultaneously, the New York Times’ opinion editor stepped down after coming under fire for running a U.S. Senator’s Op-Ed piece urging that, if the rioting got too violent, it should be quelled by federal troops.
Finally, HBO Max ditched “Gone with the Wind,” a 1939 Hollywood classic set in the American South during the 1860s, because a well-known filmmaker found it racially offensive. Gone with the Wind!
All of this and a great deal more has happened in the wake of last month’s brutal killing of a black man, George Floyd, by police during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota; an event now wreaking havoc in America and the West.
Believe me, I get the anger. As I’ve written before, the video of that killing is difficult to watch and points to serious changes in policing that must take place. But I’m also beginning to fear that the collateral damage has been – and will be – quite lasting and severe.
In Seattle, Washington, a group of protestors has occupied a six-block area, declared it autonomous and, with the mayor’s support, banned police from entering. Earlier this week, a Wendy’s drive-through restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, was burned to the ground after police there shot a fleeing black suspect who was attempting to hit them with a taser. Within hours, the police chief had resigned and the involved officer fired. And in a cringe-worthy attempt to pander to protestors, two dozen virtue-signaling Democratic lawmakers recently donned African cloth scarves to spend nearly nine minutes kneeling for photographers.
The media has also bought big-time into the narrative that America is systemically racist. After declaring in its Sunday edition that “a global cultural shift is happening before our eyes as protest slogans become policy…” the Los Angeles Times announced that, henceforth, it will capitalize the word black when referring to African Americans. Paramount Network has discontinued “Cops,” a longstanding reality TV series documenting law enforcement officers doing their jobs. And Miriam-Webster, publisher of America’s most authoritative English dictionary, has reportedly said that it will broaden its definition of “racist” to encompass current claims.
In other words, one observer recently declared, “what we are now witnessing is the broadest protest movement in American history.”
None of this, of course, is unprecedented.
During China’s Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong in the 1960s and ‘70s, young people took to the streets to burn religious statues and artwork as well as raze Buddhist temples, churches and mosques. Their goal: to destroy anything and everything associated with China’s pre-revolutionary past. Eventually that included people, especially those deemed “counter-revolutionary” or “bourgeois” due to wealth, education, culture, or privilege. Before it was all over, the so-called Red Guard even organized “criticism, self-criticism” sessions – a Marxist-Leninist concept originally developed in the Soviet Union and later refined by Mao – to re-educate those believed to harbor “counterrevolutionary” or otherwise undesirable thoughts. For many, unfortunately, re-education meant death.
While it’s still a stretch to liken Black Lives Matter to China’s Cultural Revolution, there are some disturbing parallels already emerging: the tendency to suppress free speech considered offensive or politically incorrect; the perceived need for recipients of so-called “white privilege” to confess their “sins” while professing a newfound allegiance to the “woke” revolution; and, of course, the desire to stamp out all vestiges of a history deemed unenlightened.
Here’s how a professor in the Dept. of Africana Studies at Massachusetts’ Wellesley College put it in a recent Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times: “Today, if America were a house, fixing racism would not involve repairing broken windows or fixing leaking roofs. America’s systemic racism is asbestos and black mold. It requires a gut job.”
Neither I nor anyone I know condones racism or considers it a good thing. Most Americans, I think, would support any reasonable effort to alleviate its sting. But many of us also don’t believe, as apparently this professor does, that America is rotten to its core.
Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to say that in public. For, as the great novelist James Baldwin, himself an African American, once wrote: “Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart; for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.”
As many others have said, a battle is being waged for America’s soul. Here’s the fear fueling my nightmares; that, when it’s all over, the non-racist democratic values that once made the country shine will, like that old movie, be gone with the wind.
The jury deliberates as we speak.
David Haldane is the author of an award-winning memoir called “Nazis & Nudists.” A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an American journalist, essayist, and broadcaster whose radio work was awarded a 2018 Golden Mike by the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California. He currently lives in Mindanao with his Filipino wife and their two children. This column tells the unfolding story of that adventure. http:///www.davidshaldane.com
Originally Published in Mindanao Gold Star Daily