False History Drove Call for Removal of American Flag at Pitzer
A sculpture of Columbus beheaded in Boston's North End.
The call for the removal of an American flag from the Pitzer College campus last semester is just one example of the ongoing ideological subversion taking place in America. While some may see this as a small and insignificant matter, it is no less than the product of a deep history of cultural-political deception.
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, socialists were on their heels. The world's socialist regimes and the causes they relied on for radical reform were losing their grip on people's rebellious spirits in the face of the rise of pluralistic democracies and capitalism in the West. Marxist thinkers knew they needed to rebrand their theories to keep their movement alive. As such, many proponents of Marxist ideals sought to reinvent classical Marxism within the confines of socio-cultural antagonisms. The renowned Marxist philosophers Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe said it best in their book Hegemony and Socialist Strategy where they wrote that "it was necessary to fabricate and disseminate narratives that generate functional conflicts on behalf of the Left."
In light of this newfound sentiment, in the 1990s, Critical Race Theory, an intellectual descendant of Marxist Critical Theory, emerged in the American academy. Critical Race theorists argue that the multi-racial composition of the United States paired with its past history of oppression towards racial minorities created unending invisible power structures that govern our social relationships and limit the freedoms of all non-white people. Capitalist oppression fell out of fashion, but "invisible racial disempowerment" was in style.
Under this new framework, anyone can easily point to any discrepancy between racial groups and trace it back to "systemic racism." There is no need to make a logical or empirical case to prove that the discrepancy is actually racist or systematically induced. The cause is invisible, and asking to see it is to use the logic of white supremacy; effectively weaponizing morality to bully anyone who questions CRT into silence. This isn't to say that there is no racism in America because, as in every other country and to a much lesser degree, there is. But a nation having issues of racism is not the same as a nation being racist.
Critical race theorists went on to propagate dubious historical narratives. For example, in The 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones argued that America's history and existence are inherently and inescapably racist because of the institution of slavery, an institution abolished in 1865. In other words, past racism is inescapable. America will always be a nation defined by its history of slavery. It will always be a nation defined by evil. This thinking reshapes the American identity. No longer does it stand for shared values like unity, freedom, and the confrontation and overcoming of injustice and adversity. This new history tells Americans to view their and others' place in society through the lens of victims and victimizers. To treat people based on 'good people skin color' vs 'bad people skin color'. Not just 'Americans' but 'American oppressor' or 'oppressed American.'
As if this wasn't enough, new-left militants of this new history have more. They claim the discovery of America was an abusive land grab by evil white men who exploited pacifist natives. And while there certainly was unjust exploitation and some natives were peaceful, this isn't the full story. For instance, ideologues started with a deconstruction of Christopher Columbus using a questionable anti-Columbus document from 2006, written by Columbus' political rival Francisco de Bobadilla, to support their narrative. Headlines drawing on the dubious document include: "Lost Document Reveals Columbus Tyrant of the Caribbean," "Columbus Exposed as Iron-Fisted Tyrant Who Tortured His Slaves," and "9 Reasons Christopher Columbus Was a Murderer, Tyrant, and Scoundrel." Most of these showed an incomplete and manipulated representation of both Columbus and the natives. As Stanford Professor of Anthropology Carol Delaney points out, "these revisionists are blaming Columbus for the things he didn't do. It was mostly the people who came after the settlers. I think he has been terribly maligned." With sentiments like this in place, it became easy to disseminate further narratives regarding the origins of America and its people in a way that favored their ideological cause.
As such, the idea that America is a country founded on the principle of individual rights and liberties was quickly forgotten. Nowadays, people fail to recognize that the US has continually evolved and progressed by the hand of good Americans who saw the evil in their contemporaries' horrible transgressions and fought to create a more just society, inspired by American principles. The American flag stands for these principles, this aspiration, for all. It represents a country that, unlike most others, has always risen against those who seek to abuse and oppress. But as long as social resentment reigns in people's hearts, this will never be accepted. In their eyes, America will only be defined by its worst people and mistakes.
We should not rewrite history to produce false narratives of victimization, oppression, and division; not only is it counterproductive but it's also dangerous. This rhetoric is part of a larger strategy of socio-cultural manipulation that seeks to use each of us as pawns. A strategy that aims to attain power by promoting social resentment, exploiting our intellectual apathy, taking advantage of our vulnerability to social pressure, and capitalizing on our sensitivity to narratives of supposed injustice. A strategy that was kicked off in the wake of the fall of a nation that lived on injustice.
Every person that abandons the intellectual duty of coming to know the truth for themselves is a potential pawn in this game. They are ripe to adopt the distorted "truths" of groups that seek to manipulate masses for political gain under the subterfuge of "inclusivity, diversity, and social justice."
The removal of the American flag at Pitzer College is just another result of this larger trend. Instead of perpetuating narratives of victimhood and division, we should strive for greater commitment to the principles that make America a place so great that even its most vociferous critics won't leave, despite most having the option.