"Cancel Culture" is a Useless Catchphrase & Removing Confederate Monuments is Good Public Policy



The city of Charlottesville, Va., recently removed statues of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, monuments that were at the center of the deadly Unite the Right rally in 2017. Former President Donald Trump and his supporters have labeled such actions as examples of "cancel culture," which has become a rallying cry of the right over the last few years. They would cite the Trump Twitter ban, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's removal from her committee assignments, and Senator Josh Hawley's cancelled book deal as other examples.


On several occasions last semester I had the opportunity to discuss with students the issue of what has become known as "cancel culture," the public reaction toward disfavored ideas, people, or objects. It's become a wonderfully amorphous term that has been thrown around so often, in so many different situations, that it's lost all meaning. And that's a good thing because it was largely meaningless from the start, just another political catchphrase, bereft of substance.


Take, for example, the Confederate monuments issue. They were erected across the South after the Civil War and throughout the Jim Crow era. Many activists find them offensive, an unwelcome and unpleasant reminder of an era in which slavery flourished as part of the region's plantation culture.


Conservatives are quick to argue that removing these monuments is an example of "canceling" Southern culture and history. That, however, has absolutely nothing to do with the actual public policy question which is whether taxpayer dollars should be used to erect and maintain statues on public property created to glorify those that rebelled against the United States in order to protect the institution of slavery. That isn't canceling history, and those that support tearing them down or moving them to museums would be the first to argue that the causes, details and aftermath of the Civil War should be discussed at length in classrooms across America. No one wants to "cancel" Stonewall Jackson; they simply would prefer that we don't immortalize him in bronze or marble as some kind of American hero. And, I would hope that we would all agree that no African American should have to face down Jefferson Davis or Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest [the first Grand Wizard of the KKK] as they enter their local courthouse.


Conservatives that throw around the term "cancel culture" don't want to have the underlying public policy discussion and that's the point of coming up with such catchphrases. It's an attempt to score political points or elicit sympathy without having to defend the underlying issue. It obscures the real point, and the same is true regarding politicians like Donald Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Josh Hawley that claim that they have been "canceled" because of their actions and statements. Blaming cancel culture for the negative consequences you face resulting from your actions is childish. If you made a mistake, accept responsibility and make amends. If you believe the backlash is unfair, explain why and hold your ground. Having to take personal responsibility for your actions hasn't changed even if social media has sped up and amplified the process a bit.


#culture #politics

By: Don Lam & Curated Content

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