Culture

Reagan Warned about Airbrushing Our History Away

Protesters burn an image of the Confederate flag. (Ringo Chiu/Getty)

This Fourth of July we will celebrate our independence and freedoms. But are we now more politically correct than free?

Last week, Apple Computer removed several Civil War games that uses Confederate flag imagery from its app store. Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Twitter that he wished to honor the Charleston shooting victims “by eradicating racism & removing the symbols & words that feed it.” Recall that Soviet leaders hoped they could drop executed party members down an Orwellian memory hole by airbrushing them out of photographs.

Apple relented a few days later and agreed to reinstate some games if they merely, for example, displayed little troops carrying the infamous Rebel banner. But the partial retreat came only after the Game Labs Team, which develops computer simulations, blasted Apple:

Spielberg’s Schindler’s List did not try to amend his movie to look more comfortable. The historical Gettysburg movie (1993) is still on iTunes. We believe that all historical art forms: books, movies, or games such as ours, help to learn and understand history, depicting events as they were. True stories are more important to us than money. . . . We can’t change history, but we can change the future.

Nor are games the only focus of a PC purge. MSNBC’s Al Sharpton and Sharpton’s National Action Network are demanding that the Pentagon eradicate “all remnants of the Confederacy” from its military bases, including the names of Confederate officers who didn’t own slaves. They recently staged a protest outside Fort Hamilton Army base, in Brooklyn, calling for the Pentagon to rename General Lee Avenue, which runs through the base. Memphis mayor A. C. Wharton Jr. is demanding that the grave of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest be dug up and exiled from the city. Huffington Post commenters are demanding that statues of Confederates in Washington, D.C., be pulled down.

RELATED: On Lowering the Confederate Flag

As Matthew Philbin of the conservative Media Research Center noted: “Of course a living, breathing former long-time Ku Klux Klan organizer resided in the Capitol for nearly as long as some of its statues, but because Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd was a Democrat, libs like the HuffPo crowd weren’t interested in history.”

Naturally, there are no calls to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from anything, even though that progressive Democratic president was a strident racist who during his time in office re-segregated the federal work force, fired hundreds of black federal employees, and showed D. W. Griffith’s racist Birth of a Nation at the White House.

RELATED: ’Disappearing’ the Confederacy: The Left’s Frenzy Is Not Meant to Promote Healing or Encourage Dialogue But to Enforce Conformity

The network TV Land is supposed to be about preserving the history of television. But it has just announced it is yanking reruns of the popular 1980s’ show Dukes of Hazzard because the signature “General Lee” car featured in the series displays the Rebel flag on its hood. Ben Jones, one of the actors in the show, is appalled. Jones, a Southerner who marched in the civil-rights movement and after his acting career became a Democratic member of Congress in the 1990s, told a CNN host that white supremacy is “not a Southern sin.” He added:

White supremacy is a sin. Racism is a sickness that goes on all over the world. This man [the shooter] doesn’t represent us. No one thinks it was not a terrible, horrible thing. . . . Y’all can’t define us by the act of a demented hater. It doesn’t connect.

Yesterday Jones told Steve Doocey of Fox & Friends: “We’ve got to stop this cultural cleansing. It’s dictatorial, it’s one-sided, it is un-American.”

While the current topic of debate is the Confederate flag, a much broader battle is being waged against American history itself. Increasingly, courses involving any patriotic content or history are being dumped in favor of leftist “diversity studies” or “environmental studies.” Most American agree that the struggle against racism is vital, but so too is the context that the study of American history provides.

RELATED: We Have Officially Reached Peak Leftism

In his farewell address before he left office in 1989, Ronald Reagan presciently warned:

We’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important — why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant. If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. . . . I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit. Let’s start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual.

In the more than quarter century since Reagan issued his warning, the situation in schools has only gotten worse. Luckily, popular books, films, and the Internet offer an alternative way of reaching young people and passing on a fuller appreciation of America. We’re no longer fighting just to get history into classrooms; we’re now fighting for the right to teach history in all its complexity, not merely the PC versions of it that please sanctimonious leftists. Free speech remains a reality only if its practice is allowed, and increasingly, more and more people are letting the censors and bullies have the only say.

— John Fund is national-affairs correspondent for National Review Online.

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