Rod Dreher, who blogs at The American Conservative, had a fascinating post the other day—it was about where you draw your own line at the destruction we’re seeing and say, “No more.”
Dreher’s blog was headlined “Your Woke Breaking Point.”
Rod quotes from Megan McArdle, who cited his “Law of Merited Impossibility.”
Conservatives warning about the dire consequences of some social change are dismissed as hysterical cranks — and then, when exactly what they predicted eventually comes to pass, denounced as bigots for opposing the new order.
Implicit in Dreher’s law is an intermediate phase in which a large number of people sit uncomfortably silent as the radicals take the moderate majority’s well-intentioned efforts further than they ever dreamed.
Rod calls on all of us to name the point at which we draw the line:
Well, what is it for you? What’s your Woke Breaking Point? State it and defend it in the comments. If you can’t, then we all know which side you’re on, whether you do or not. Don’t play innocent. The unwillingness of decent liberals to draw a line in the sand and defend it is why these statucidal Stalinists get away with it.
In a way, I think this misses the point: It is the act of smashing that counts, not the identity of those represented by the statues. Just the smashing, ma’am. This is the point: destruction.
It is pointless to discuss the relative smash-worthiness of various statues. Because of course it is not really the statues that are being attacked. That was clear in a remark of Hawk Newsome, who appeared on Martha MacCallum’s show last night. It was riveting:
“I said,” Newsome told the host, “if this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it. All right? And I could be speaking … figuratively. I could be speaking literally. It’s a matter of interpretation.
For rioters, the statues are a proxy for this country. For us really. You’re wasting your breath if you want to find some line not to be crossed with them. (Although I don’t think the destroyers give a hoot whose statue they are pulling down, or even know about the historical figures, I did laugh at this Babylon Bee spoof: “Cities Protecting Statues by Disguising them as Karl Marx.”)
By the way, I drew my woke line long ago. I won’t reveal the stodginess of my line, but I do know this: Mr. Newsome and his associates don’t care about my line or your line.
Here’s just a thought: Grown-ups should not express themselves by tearing down statues. Statues are, well, just statues. As David Abulafia observes in the [U.K.] Spectator, “Monuments are not all about glory or approval.” Adults should be able to tolerate statues of those whom they don’t necessarily like.
Abulafia spent his lockdown reading Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (in its entirety!). It has some interesting things to say about statues. Abulafia writes about the statues in Constantinople when the city was attacked by Crusaders, an attack instigated by the Venetians:
Gibbon lists the marvellous classical statues, many of bronze, that were melted down by the victors and turned into coins for everyday use. He points out that some of these statues, made for the ancient Greeks, portrayed pagan gods. In the early days of Constantinople, when Christianity was engaged in a struggle against pagan opponents who hoped to keep the temples of the old religion open, these gods were seen as the enemy, albeit one that did not actually exist.
Even so, the statues of the gods were not just preserved but proudly placed in prominent positions not far from Emperor Justinian’s great cathedral of Hagia Sophia. The Venetians, with a better aesthetic sense than their crusader allies, carried off the two bronze horses from the hippodrome of Constantinople, and placed them above the portico of the doge’s immodestly vast chapel, better known as the Basilica of St Mark, where they can still be found (though they have now been moved indoors to avoid pollution). . . .
Both these examples show that memorials are not all about glory or approval. One might argue it is more useful to put up monuments commemorating the wicked than the good (who we now find are being labelled as wicked anyway).
The more radical of the rioters likely don’t know whose statues they are attacking. But they know their real target: civilization, the United States in particular.