Wednesday, December 02, 2015

#UK Covers Up a Historical Mural, and Other Acts of the Liberal Cultural Taliban

The University of Kentucky today covered a mural painted by Ann Rice O’Hanlon eighty years ago because it portrays slaves working in a field. "The reason given," said Kentucky writer Wendell Berry yesterday in an opinion article in Lexington Herald-Leader protesting the decision, "is only that it shows people doing what they actually did. Black people did work in tobacco fields. Black musicians did play for white dancers. Indians did seriously threaten the settlers at Bryan’s Station."

If we're going to start covering up images suggestive of past misbehavior—behavior that did happen, despite our desire to cover it up, can we now cover up our UK insignias on account of its having repeatedly (and successfully) been sued for racial discrimination in hiring and firing? Or how about UK's mismanagement of Robinson Forest, a 14,786 tract of forest left in trust to UK, 3,885 acres of which it allowed to be mined or leased for strip mining and 800 more acres it more recently tried to make available for clear cut logging?

Let he who is without sin cover the first mural.

The action by UK is a part of a larger movement of people who think that the proper response to uncomfortable aspects of our history is to cover it up by covering up images, changing names on buildings, and eliminating or destroying historical markers and sites.

This is all accomplished under the assumption that, in destroying the evidence of our past failures, we somehow strike a blow for justice; that in destroying the records of our past, we somehow rectify it.

Soon no one will know our historical crimes. And we can all pretend that nothing bad ever happened.

All this is our own cultural equivalent of the Taliban's destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan or ISIL's destruction of mosques, tombs, and churches. How can we condemn them for doing the same thing we ourselves do?

What will we do, twenty or thirty years down the road, when we become embarrassed about how we acted in trying to erase our own history? Destroy the records of the destruction of our past?

How absurd we are going to seem to our historical selves?


Seamus said...

Just out of curiosity, what do you think of Nelson Rockefeller's destruction of the mural that Diego Rivera painted in Rockefeller Center?

momuvfour76 said...

The regime which erases history can rewrite history.