Should John Wayne’s name be taken off the airport that bears his name in Orange County, Calif.? A few pundits are starting to say so. The Los Angeles Times called for stripping the Duke’s name off the airport in an editorial. David Whiting, a columnist for the Orange County Register, argues:
When it comes to plastering someone’s name on an international airport that sees nearly 1 million passengers a month, there must be careful, considered and continued thought. What was OK in 1978 [sic – it was 1979] when supervisors named JWA is not necessarily OK in today’s world — and perhaps it never should have been acceptable.
John Wayne did say some terrible things, and not just un-PC things that were later ruled out of bounds. A much-cited Playboy interview from 1971 contains such sentiments as this one: “We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks . . . I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility.” And this one, on Indians: “Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.” On the “perversion” in Midnight Cowboy: “Wouldn’t you say that the wonderful love of those two men in Midnight Cowboy, a story about two fags, qualifies?”
On the other hand, our nation’s capital is named after a guy who owned slaves, which is worse than saying any of these things in 1971. Many if not most of our heroes had feet of clay. Once we start down the road of renaming things, ripping down statues, destroying stained-glass windows, and the like, we’re going to find it hard to declare when enough is enough. I think we’re mature enough to walk through John Wayne Airport without mistaking it for a monument to white supremacy.