America is clearly undergoing a Cultural Revolution that is eerily similar to Mao’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which took place in China in the 1960s. Maybe Karl Marx was right after all when he declared that “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”
No one on campus dared challenge the Red Guards. Capitulations from school authorities only emboldened them. They led students to strike, refusing to take classes from people who were deemed less than ideologically pure. Professors, teachers, and school administrators were paraded and forced to make numerous public self-criticisms about “transgressions” against government-sanctioned orthodoxy. Soon, college entrance exams were suspended and many schools, from universities to high schools, were closed. The entire education system was paralyzed.
That intensity and zeal to cleanse the past is repeating itself in America. Since recent events in Charlottesville, calls to remove or destroy Confederate statues in the U.S. have only gotten louder. Some places, such as the city of Baltimore and Duke University, already took actions to remove Confederate statues. Over the weekend, however, more and more historical monuments, some having nothing to do with the Confederacy, were vandalized.
It’s true that Confederate soldiers and generals fought to maintain an immoral system. They should not be celebrated. But as Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal wrote over the weekend, “when a nation tears down its statues, it’s toppling more than brass and marble. It is in a way toppling itself. When you tear down statues, you tear down avenues of communication, between generations.”
I always believe if we want to define our future, we have to learn from the past. But if we don’t have a complete picture of the past, how can we make sure we learn the right lessons? Every civilization, every country, every generation of people, has its own good, bad, and ugly. “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” We owe it to ourselves and future generations to preserve a full picture of the past and make sure lessons in full context are passed on.