Given how much evil there is in the world, given how many signs of moral, intellectual, and economic decline there are here in America; and given the increasing irrelevance of America to world events, it is fair to ask why the American Left is preoccupied with the name Washington “Redskins.”
The Washington Redskins have been in existence for 82 years. For about 80 of those years, virtually no one, including the vast majority of American Indians, was troubled by the name. Yet it is now of such importance to the American Left that the majority leader of the United States Senate has repeatedly demanded, from the floor of the Senate, that the team drop its name; 50 U.S. senators, all of them Democrats, have signed an open letter demanding the same; Sports Illustrated’s Peter King no longer uses the name; other leading sportswriters have adopted the same practice; and the president of the United States has weighed in on the issue.
The pressure is relentless. There is more concern in the pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times — not to mention the rest of the Left — with the Redskins than with the fact that the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups for investigation, one of its division heads pleaded the Fifth Amendment before Congress, and the agency claims it lost all relevant e-mails and hard drives.
The angry will tell you that the name “Redskins” is profoundly offensive to American Indians and that they — the angry — are simply more sensitive to racial slurs than others are. This explanation is self-serving but insufficient.
The great majority of American Indians understandably just don’t care. Like heterosexual AIDS and so many other crises, this has been entirely manufactured by the Left. Since 1947, there has been a movie theater, the Redskin Theatre (with the same logo as the football team), in Anadarko, Okla., a city whose population is divided evenly between Indians and whites and that calls itself the “Indian Capital of the Nation.” Why, in 67 years, have the Indian populations of Anadarko and Oklahoma not changed this theater’s name? Because the Left hadn’t made it an issue. It’s not an Indian issue; it’s a left-wing issue.
And why is the Left so preoccupied? It isn’t because they are more morally sensitive to injustice. That is what the Left believes about itself. But there are other reasons for the manufactured hysteria about the Redskins name. Here are some:
First, there is a rule in life: Those who do not confront the greatest evils will confront much lesser evils or simply manufacture alleged evils that they then confront. This has been a dominant characteristic of the Left for at least half a century.
The greatest evils since World War II have been communism and, since the demise of communism in the Soviet Union and in most other communist countries, violent Islam — or, as it often is called, Islamism. Islamism is the belief that sharia (Islamic law) must be imposed wherever possible on a society, beginning, of course, with Muslim-majority countries. These Islamists are, as the British historian Andrew Roberts has noted, the fourth incarnation of fascism — first there was fascism, then Nazism, then communism, and now Islamism.
For many years most of the Western Left was supportive of communism, and after the 1960s, it was simply hostile to anti-communists. The Left was far more concerned with attacking America than with attacking the Soviet Union. So, too, today, the Left is far more concerned with attacking America — its alleged racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and economic inequality — than with fighting Islamism.
Second, the corollary to the above is that those who do not fight the greatest evils invariably loathe those who do. The Left hated American anti-communists much more than it hated communists. The Left today hates traditional America much more than it hates traditional Islamists. The Redskins name is a symbol of that hated America.
Third, the Left has huge nostalgia for the Sixties. In the Left’s eyes, virtually every one of its causes is as morally urgent as the civil-rights battles on behalf of blacks (for which it falsely claims exclusive credit). Therefore getting the Redskins to change their name is a contemporary expression of working to give blacks full voting rights.
Fourth, aside from tearing down another American tradition, and showing how awful America was and remains, the motivating issue here is left-wing self-esteem. Remember it was the Left that developed the self-esteem movement. And nobody feels as good about himself as the Left does when it finds another American moral flaw, especially when that flaw is another example of “intolerance” and racism.
Fifth, and finally, the Left is totalitarian at heart. Whenever possible it seeks control of others, and it loves to throw its considerable weight around. The left-wing president does it so often that the Supreme Court has unanimously shot down his attempts on a dozen occasions. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, under huge pressure from leftists, just dropped conservative Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist George Will. Under pressure from left-wing professors and students, Brandeis and other universities dropped the few conservative speakers they had invited to this year’s commencement exercises. Coercing the Redskins to do their will is only the Left’s latest attempt to force its views on the vast majority of its fellow citizens. That’s why it’s worth fighting for the Redskins. Today it’s the Redskins; tomorrow it’s you.
— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His most recent book is Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.