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Ted Turner, executive producer of “Gods and Generals,” which premiered in Washington this week, “didn’t set out to make an antiwar movie,” the Washington Post concluded in its coverage of the event, “but history is funny that way.” Not as funny as the Post, which managed to miss the entire point of the movie—that, as horrible as war might be and the American Civil War actually was, some things are worth killing and dying for. ["Washington's Front-Row Seat For History," By Roxanne Roberts, Washington Post, February 11, 2003]

Obsessed with the “VIP audience” that attended the world premiere and hypnotized by the celebrity of Mr. Turner, the Post was easily misled. As a not very important part of the VIP audience, I was not. In the first place, “Gods and Generals” is not an antiwar movie; it’s just a very honest movie about war. Its scrupulously accurate battle scenes lack the tasteless carnage of Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” but nevertheless slam into your soul the horror of war, no matter how well justified. In the second place, the star of the evening was not Mr. Turner. It was the writer, producer and director of the film, Ron Maxwell.

Mr. Maxwell, noted for his earlier production of “Gettysburg,” based on Michael Shaara’s novel about the great Civil War battle, “The Killer Angels,” has turned out what is known today as a “prequel,” telling the story of the war from its beginnings after Virginia’s secession down to the Battle of Chancellorsville in May, 1863, two months before Gettysburg. The movie is based—loosely– on the novel of the same name by Mr. Shaara’s son, Jeff.

I say “loosely” because Mr. Maxwell essentially rewrote the book, which recounts the epic through the personal stories of several major players in it: Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Union war hero Joshua Chamberlain, and others. In Mr. Maxwell’s version, Jackson quickly emerges as the main hero, and the others tend to dwindle in comparison. There’s a reason for this: The real hero of the film is not so much Stonewall Jackson himself as what Mr. Maxwell argues he represents: A Southern civilization defined by religious faith and a ferocious determination to be free of Northern dominance.

That’s the point the Post managed to miss entirely, but you can bet your boots others won’t. For perhaps the first time since D.W. Griffith produced “Birth of a Nation” in 1915, Mr. Maxwell has had the courage and the vision to make a movie that tries to tell the Southern side of the war seriously. It’s a side that downplays slavery and race, a point the movies’ other critics are not going to drop.

It has now become a commonplace on both left and right that the Civil War was really about slavery and Abraham Lincoln’s righteous determination to abolish it, even at the cost of 600,000 American lives. That’s a huge historical blunder that Mr. Maxwell’s movie corrects. As he has Chamberlain explaining in the film, ending slavery was never an original war aim of the Union, and as both Lee and Jackson insist, it was resistance to Northern military aggression that pushed Virginia and the Upper South into secession, not a commitment to slavery.

Actor Stephen Lang’s performance as Jackson, driven by intense religious fires, dominates the movie. Mr. Maxwell is perhaps on weaker ground in having Jackson deliver a short sermon to a slave on how slavery is bound to end. From what I know of Jackson, he thought little about slavery, except to believe that God had established it. Mr. Maxwell may be skirting inaccuracy—and a certain amount of political correctness—in trying to ignore what was a genuine Southern belief that racial slavery was divinely ordained, though Lee himself (played in the movie by Robert Duvall) was a good deal less attached to the peculiar institution than many.

But the director is certainly right to say that for Virginians it was resistance to Lincoln’s call for 75,000 troops to crush the “rebellion” in the Deep South that led the Old Dominion and its Upper South sisters out of the Union. Lincoln’s call for troops is what caused the war—not secession, not slavery, and not firing on Fort Sumter. The prospect of an American president sending troops to fight other Americans was too much for Virginians—and most other Southerners and many non-Southerners—to swallow.

And that, as Mr. Maxwell’s great movie tries to tell us, is what is really worth fighting for—national independence and the freedom that goes with it. These days, when we’re told that national sovereignty is on the way out and Americans are about to be dragooned into fighting yet another war for other peoples’ countries, it’s a point that no American, North or South, can afford to miss.

• Category: History • Tags: Civil War 
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The nation was shocked, shocked to learn that the Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking at Michigan State University last week, doesn’t like the Founding Fathers of the American Republic, thinks they were racists and sexists, and believes that democracy in America dates only from the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

So what else is new?

The rhetorical stones Mr. Jackson pitched into the pond have stirred a few ripples among conservative sages and pundits, but there’s little reason for them to be surprised. Not only has Mr. Jackson himself a long history of spouting such remarks but also this is precisely what we should by now have come to expect from American black leadership. What we are seeing is the genesis and elaboration of a racial consciousness in place of a national consciousness.

As for Mr. Jackson, back in the 1980s he was leading demonstrations at Stanford University demanding that “Western Civ has got to go,” meaning that the university should drop its required course on the history of Western civilization and teach instead the kind of multiculturalist racial and political dogmatism that Mr. Jackson favors. What he said at Michigan State last week is merely the corollary to what he was telling us then.

What he said at Michigan State, to be specific, is that

“…democracy as we know it did not begin in Philadelphia, where a bunch of white men wrote the laws….These men’s wives were not allowed [to vote], these laws were made at a time when only white men had the right to vote…”

“True democracy,” in Mr. Jackson’s opinion, began only with the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Mr. Jackson also had some generally illiterate things to say about recent U.S. foreign policy as well, but ignore that for the nonce and attend to the good reverend’s vast display of his own historical ignorance.

In the first place, the Founders did not claim to be founding “democracy”; they were quite explicit that they were “republicans” (with a small “R”) and that the Constitution they drafted and adopted contained a democratic along with monarchic and aristocratic elements.

If you had accused them of setting up a “true democracy,” most would have recoiled in horror at the thought of it.

In the second place, it’s quite true for the most part that “only white men had the right to vote.” In fact, for the most part, only white, fairly affluent, Christian men had the right to vote, but note that Mr. Jackson doesn’t seem to care so much about the property and religious qualifications. He’s really obsessed with racial qualifications, though he tossed a bone to feminists for good measure.

Are we supposed to be ashamed of or feel guilty about the fact that the white, male Founding Fathers didn’t let blacks and women vote? You bet your knee breeches we are, and with a good many white males today, Mr. Jackson’s guilt trip works well. Many do feel guilty about it.

But it’s very arguable that the “true democracy” favored by that Mr. Jackson and most of the guilt-ridden white men who swallow what he tells them is not all it’s cracked up to be. The country was far better governed in the days when the franchise was seriously restricted. For all Mr. Jackson’s contempt for the generation of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and a dozen other immortals of political thought and practice, “true democracy” has produced nothing whatever like them in its entire history.

But Mr. Jackson’s real message, of course, was to tell us, as he and his fellow pioneers in racial consciousness have told us before, that the Old Republic created by the Founding Fathers is finished, and it’s finished for essentially racial reasons.

“We [meaning the United States] represent 6 percent of the world,”

he intoned.

“Most people on this globe are yellow, black, or brown, non-Christian, female, young, poor and don’t speak English.”

Because the white-male-dominated republic of the Founders is a small minority of “this globe,” Mr. Jackson seems to infer that it’s about to vanish down history’s drainpipes.

It may well disappear, and the rising racial consciousness among the “yellow, black, or brown” peoples of which Mr. Jackson boasted will be one major reason for it. But the truth is that the white, male republic of the Founders was an even smaller part of this globe when it was established 200 years ago, and that didn’t stop it from getting started and prevailing against all sorts of odds.

Back then, you see, white males believed in what they were doing and had the wit and will to do it.

Today they don’t, which is why they pay any attention at all to gentlemen like the Rev. Jackson.

• Category: History • Tags: Race 
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You don’t hear much these days about the war against the Confederate Flag, especially since the flag’s enemies got their behinds kicked when they tried to remove a Confederate emblem from the Mississippi state flag through a state referendum last year. Nevertheless, don’t imagine the enemies of the flag and the heritage it represents are gone; like termites, they do their work when you don’t see them.

One major termite is historian David Brion Davis, probably the world’s leading authority on the history of slavery and no friend of the American South. In recent years, Mr. Davis has been complaining that the South actually won the American Civil War after all, since, within a few years of Appomattox, both North and South were making up and the great crusade for Emancipation and Reconstruction (not to say Retribution) had been shelved. In the July 18 issue of the New York Review of Books, Mr. Davis, a professor emeritus at Yale, [send him email] returns to his theme. ["The Terrible Cost of Reconciliation" New York Review of Books July 18, 2002]

Reviewing historian David Blight’s recent (and multiple prize-winning)Race and Reunion, Mr. Davis tells us that Blight tries to explain “one of the most troubling questions for the understanding of American history: why it became accepted wisdom … that states’ rights, not slavery, was the cause of the Civil War.”

Since conflict over states’ rights was the major cause of the war, you can see why Mr. Davis finds the “question” “troubling.” Lincoln explicitly denied that he intended to free the slaves, and the Upper South seceded and the war began only when he mobilized troops for invasion.

Mr. Blight’s answer to the troubling question seems to be that both Northerners and Southerners had other things to do and think about in the late 19th century than pushing the federal government into social and economic revolution along racial lines. One such better thing was to restore “sectional harmony” and forge a shared sense of national unity and identity that ignored racial issues and allowed Americans of both sections to live together.

Apparently, Mr. Davis and Mr. Blight regard this achievement as an immense blot on the national honor.

By 1913, the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, surviving veterans of both sides met amicably in their uniforms as “the ultimate triumph of national reconciliation at the African-Americans’ expense.”

“Try to imagine German veterans, in full Nazi uniform, shaking hands in 1994 with American veterans in uniform at the beaches of Normandy,” urges Mr. Davis.

Actually, you don’t have to imagine it; such meetings have occurred, and why shouldn’t they?

Mr. Davis apparently believes that wars should continue forever, until the Good Guys wipe out the Bad Guys to the last man, but aside from that, he also assumes that the conflicts in the Civil War and those in World War II were largely the same.

For most Americans, North and South, then and now, they weren’t, but for some, like Mr. Davis and the other professional foes of the South, they were. The Civil War to them was not simply a war between sectional interests or different views of the Constitution or different economic and cultural systems; it was a war to the death, the purpose of which was to extirpate evil—not just slavery but racial inequality specifically and inequality in general—from the face of the planet, to trample out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.

For that kind of mind, war never ends, for the simple reason that what they think is so irredeemably evil is in fact part of human nature and the human condition.

The reaction against the war’s hidden agenda for social and racial reconstruction, Mr. Davis writes, led eventually to “a Southern ideological victory” that lasted until the 1960s. Then the “civil rights movement” and the happy days of the Great Society descended upon us, and the crusade was in business.

The result to date has been the wreckage of most American cities, the entrenchment of a black underclass, forced busing and affirmative action, mass immigration from the Third World, and a generation of racial hatred, vituperation and resentment, as well as the eradication of most symbols of the Southern and Confederate heritage and the beginnings of a war against American and white culture generally.

Where the new crusade will end no one knows (least of all Mr. Davis), but some are starting to guess, and the future doesn’t look much brighter.

One reason these crusades keep coming back is that the ideologues who incite them—like Mr. Davis—never have to live with their consequences.

The Americans, Northern or Southern, who actually had to fight the crusade and endure its aftermath did— which is one reason, fifty years later, those who survived were ready to shake hands and get on with what was left of their lives.

• Category: History • Tags: Civil War 
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A tip of the hat to a group calling itself the Monticello Association, which represents the 700 or so known lineal descendants of President Thomas Jefferson. Last week, the Association, under immense racial and political pressure for several years, voted to do the right thing by telling the purported descendants of Jefferson’s slave Sally Hemings to take a walk—into some other family. [Jefferson Group Bars Kin Of Slave Washington Post, May 5, 2002]

The decision may seem trivial enough, but it represents not only the victory for historical logic and scholarship over a racial and political powerplay but also a well-deserved kick in the face to those who think shouting “racism” can get them whatever they want.

In 1998, DNA tests showed that the present-day descendants of Jefferson’s partly black slave carry a chromosome that could only have come from the male line of the Jefferson family. Some historians (one of whom was more recently discredited because of his phony claims of having served in the Vietnam war) jumped to the conclusion that Jefferson himself was the ancestor in question. Since that charge had been made in Jefferson’s own lifetime by a muckraking journalist, it seemed to latter-day muckrakers to be likely enough.

But to others—including Jefferson’s major biographer Dumas Malone—the claim never seemed plausible, and a group called the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society conducted its own investigation. Last year its study reached the conclusion that the claim of Jefferson’s paternity is “almost certainly untrue” and speculated that the Jefferson chromosome got into the Hemings line through Jefferson’s rather wild brother, Randolph.

That theory is as likely an explanation as any and certainly more likely than the speculation that the strait-laced, 64-year-old president was the source. In part because of that study, the Monticello Association voted to deny the Hemings descendants membership and thereby rejected their claim to a blood relationship with Jefferson.

Well, so what? Why is it important that the Hemings family is or is not related to the Jefferson family?

The only reason it’s important is that for those who want to reconstruct American history in accordance with their own racial and political fantasies, it’s very useful to show that Thomas Jefferson fathered a child on a black slave.

For one thing, it can be used to show that white slave owners sexually exploited their black slaves. For another, it can be used to show that many whites are not really as white as they like to claim. For a third, it was used to show that Bill Clinton’s sexual frolics were not unprecedented.

Finally, it can be used to show that a major Founding Father was a hypocrite and a rake. If you’re determined to expose or discredit what you think is the racist, sexist myths and morals of American tradition, the Jefferson-Hemings match is a great place to start.

But since the match probably never took place, the deconstruction can’t either, which is why those who don’t want to discredit most of American history and culture should tip their hat to the Monticello Association. By standing up for historical truth, the Association gave a fat lip to those want to replace truth with their own politically convenient lies.

Was the Association driven by racism? Do all those white descendants of Jefferson just not want all those black descendants of Sally Hemings around?

That’s exactly what the Hemings clan at once charged. “I am personally offended and represent offense for all African Americans,” bawled Michele Cooley-Quill, a Hemings descendant. “This is offensive to the nation.”

Well, not really.

You don’t have to be white to be a known Jefferson descendant, and not all descendants of Hemings are black (Hemings herself was at most a quarter black, and some of her known descendants married whites.) If Miss Cooley-Quill wants to speak for “African-Americans,” she’s not speaking for all Hemings descendants, since not all such descendants are African-Americans.

Most of what the ideologues want to use the alleged Jefferson-Hemings connection to prove or disprove is already known: Some white slave owners exploited their black slaves; some whites are not as white as they claim to be; Bill Clinton was not the first president to have sex outside marriage nor the first to lie about it; and some Founding Fathers were probably not as pure as patriotic literature for children paints them as being. Grown-ups know all these things and always have, and knowing they’re true really doesn’t have any effect at all on American traditions and institutions.

But inventing lies about the past to discredit it probably does, and Mr. Jefferson’s descendants have done both him and his country—as well as historical truth—a pretty good turn by refusing to let lies push in where they’re not wanted and don’t belong.

• Category: History 
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One further casualty of the Sept. 11 attacks may be the word and even the concept “crusade,” which seems well on the way to the same graveyard of perfectly good expressions like “Dutch treat” and “Welsh rarebit,” among others. Lots of Muslims don’t like the term because it calls up unpleasant associations. Therefore, if they don’t like it, we can’t use it.

The West (that term too is probably objectionable; after all, where exactly is the “West”?) became aware of just how offensive the word “crusade” is to Muslims right after Sept. 11, when President Bush made the blunder of using it in his description of the American war on terrorism. “This crusade, this war on terrorism,” the president announced, “is going to take a while.” “Muslims,” The Washington Post reports this week, “were stung.” ["The Crusaders' Giant Footprints",Washington Post, Oct 23, 2001]

Only a thousand years ago, you see, “the West,” which then consisted of little more than a few gangs of mounted and armored bandits who had given themselves fancy titles, decided to invade the Middle East, which was under the control of the Muslims. The Westerners launched the invasion as a religious war, to reclaim the lands of the infidels (the Muslims) and protect Christian holy places i n the region, and therefore the wars were called “crusades” because of the cross the medieval knights wore and fought for. The Muslims, as the Post is most careful to explain, did not care for that.

“To them,” the Post‘s story assures us, “‘crusade,’ even uncapitalized, is a profoundly loaded term. It evokes not just a war against their people, who were hacked apart, man and child, 1,000 years ago, until the streets of Jerusalem and other cities ran deep in blood. It evokes an unprovoked war against their religion and their every way of life—a war they see mirrored today in the steady corrosion of Islamic values by a globalizing Western culture they believe undermines their families, trivializes learning and profanes their God.”

Only deep into the story does the Post mention, while expounding on how tolerant Islam was, that “Islam spread north and westward from Arabia into the crumbling remnants of the old Roman Empire.” Indeed. And just how did Islam “spread,” do you suppose? Well, now, actually, as the Post finally notes in passing, “Midway through the 8th century, Arab forces had conquered most of the Middle East and were on their way to Spain.” Just so.

The point is that (a) the Arabic Muslims, energized by their new faith, embarked on a jihad (that term might be as offensive to Westerners as “crusade” is to Muslims, but that’s OK) to conquer everything in sight, and (b) most of the lands they conquered—in the Middle East and North Africa—were or had been provinces of the Roman and Byzantine Empires and were Christian. The Muslims might have sat around wondering, 300 years later, why the dickens these “Westerners” were invading “their” territory, but someone should have explained to them that it was largely because they conquered the lands from Christians.

Also, as the Post notes, Muslim rulers by the 11th century had started mistreating Christians under their power, attacking Christian pilgrims and desecrating Christian holy places. Much of the rest of the Post‘s story is devoted to explaining how civilized the Muslims were compared to “Western Christendom … sunk in the Dark Ages of violence, ignorance and superstition.”

Well, maybe so, depending on whether you think Christianity is more ignorant and superstitious than Islam, but the point is that the West, through the Crusades themselves, was beginning to lift itself out of the centuries-long aftermath of the collapse of the Roman Empire and the barbarian invasions. The Crusades were in fact one of the first efforts of Western Man to expand beyond the narrow borders in which he was born. They were indeed often brutal, as most wars eventually are, but so far from being a period for the West to deny and be ashamed of, they ought to be a source of pride.

In the end (or at least up until now), the West surpassed the Muslim civilization, but it ought to tell us something about the state of the West today that no sooner did Muslims start kicking back on Sept. 11, than the West started apologizing for what it did a thousand years ago. The Crusades as a historical episode are now on the same moral plane as slavery and the discovery of America, and without understanding what’s happening or why, Western leaders are happy to abandon every legacy of their race and civilization if only no Non-Westerners are “offended.” If the modern West has no more confidence in itself and its historic achievements than that, then the “West” really should be buried because it’s already dead.

• Category: History • Tags: Crusades 
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After nearly three years of lies and 200 of libel, American scholarship has decided that Thomas Jefferson probably did not sire children by his slave Sally Hemings after all. The news has yet to be published by the same papers and magazines that in 1998 assured us that Jefferson had “almost certainly” fathered a child of Hemings, as The Washington Post repeatedly reported, nor has it trickled up to the heavyweights in the Bush White House, where the president last week signed a proclamation celebrating Jefferson’s birth in the presence of his phony “descendants.” Nevertheless, as Jefferson himself always believed, the truth has a bad habit of coming out.

The truth has now been disclosed by a panel called the Scholars’ Commission on the Jefferson-Hemings Issue, which has released a 500-page study of the question and concluded that the youngest son of Sally Hemings, Eston Hemings, probably was not fathered by Thomas Jefferson, as the 1998 study of the DNA of the male Jefferson line was interpreted to suggest, but by Thomas’ brother, Randolph.

“The circumstantial case that Eston Hemings was fathered by the president’s younger brother is many times stronger than the case against the president himself,” the report stated. There is evidence that Randolph was present at Jefferson’s home at the time Hemings conceived her child, and the presidential brother’s character and behavior lend credibility to the theory that he was the father. The 1998 genetic study proved only that descendants of the Heming line carried a chromosome that must have come from a male of the Jefferson line—not that any particular Jefferson contributed the chromosome.

So what? Why is it important, one way or another, whether Thomas did or didn’t father a child on one of his slaves? It’s important because the claim that he did was immediately used—and is still used—to discredit him and prove the sexual exploitation of female slaves by even the most distinguished white masters.

Thus, the most recent pseudo-scholar to twist the evidence is a sage named Joe Feagin, who is not a marginal crank but happens to be president of the American Sociological Association. In his new contribution to learning, “Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations,” Professor Feagin tells us how Jefferson “coerced” Sally Hemings into a sexual relationship and assures us that Jefferson’s paternity of at least one of Hemings’ children “has now been confirmed by DNA testing.”

Not only did Professor Feagin miss the report of the new panel, but also he managed to scramble the interpretation of the old study, which nowhere even hinted that Jefferson had “coerced” anybody. Nevertheless, the lie, built on the misinterpretation, is presented as fact and is conscripted into the never-ending case for reparations.

As for the Bush White House, it too has lent its authority to the further distortion of history and the defamation of a Founding Father by helping to perpetuate the lie. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer announced last week that President Bush would sign the birthday proclamation for the nation’s third president “in the presence of Jefferson’s descendants, including both family members from his marriage … and his descendants from Sally Hemings.” Yet the White House insists it does not take a position in the Jefferson-Hemings controversy. Hello?

Obviously, the wording of Mr. Fleischer’s statement implies that the White House recognizes the Jefferson paternity theory as real. Another, anonymous spokesman told The Washington Times, “The president fully understood that some might not agree with the decision to share this event with the entire family, or choose to be as inclusive but he felt that it was appropriate to bring these individuals together.” So, you see, if you don’t buy the opinion that Jefferson did father one of Hemings’ children, you’re not being “inclusive.” The question, of course, is whether the “entire family” includes the Hemings line or not.

The same press that put the falsehoods about Jefferson on their front pages three years ago have never bothered to rake up the full truth about the plagiarism of Martin Luther King, let alone King’s own sexual voracity, and when King’s friend Ralph Abernathy did publish details of the civil rights leader’s steamy sex life, he was nearly ruined because of it. Apparently, only the sexual peccadilloes of white icons are fit to print.

There is every reason for both the media and serious scholars to disclose the dark side of all historical figures, and there is plenty among America’s white leaders that has not yet been disclosed. But the new report on the “Jefferson-Hemings Matter” tells us as surely as any disclosure ever has that no small amount of what both the press and a good many who pass for “scholars” inflict on the public is not history at all but merely the most transparent political propaganda.

• Category: History, Race/Ethnicity 
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One anniversary that’s not on this year’s calendar is the 900th observance of the capture of Jerusalem by Christian crusaders on July 15, 1099. As a matter of fact, it’s an anniversary that’s probably never been on any year’s calendar, since virtually everyone forgot about it sometime around the year 1600. But some never forget, and they’re getting ready to do what 20th century man is supposed to do, at least in the West: apologize for it.

The London Sunday Telegraph reported last month that a movement is afoot among the Christian churches to apologize for the Crusades. The Crusades, you will recall, were a kind of medieval equivalent of making the world safe for democracy—in this case, Christianity—and a good many Europeans took themselves off to the Middle East to carve into confetti anyone who wasn’t as Christian as they were. In the process, a good many Europeans got their behinds kicked by the locals. Eventually the Crusades failed, and most people went home.

But as with most historical episodes (the Crusades went on for a couple of hundred years), there were good things and bad things about them. The good things included a more or less authentic desire to enlighten the world with what the European Christians of the time deeply believed was religious truth. The bad things included pillaging, conquering, and massacring a lot of folks who never harmed the Crusaders. Nevertheless, whatever the good or the bad, only idiots would consider apologizing for them today.

But idiots, of course, is exactly what we’re dealing with, and I for one would prefer the Crusaders. The Telegraph reports that on July 15 this year a delegation of idiots from Europe and the United States calling themselves the “Reconciliation Walk” plans to go to Jerusalem and apologize to Muslim and Jewish leaders for the Crusades.

They will wear T-shirts saying “I apologize” in Arabic and distribute apologetic messages to Muslims on the streets. About a thousand such apologizers have already worn out their welcomes in the area by getting an early start on the guilt trip. Yet the Telegraph also reports that the Christian churches in Europe and the United States are preparing a public expression of repentance for the Crusades.

There are several reasons these people are idiots, not the least of which is that the historical memory of the Crusades has almost entirely vanished today. Assuming the Crusades were wrong, no one feels the wrong any more, nor can anyone seriously claim that all the wrong was on the Christian European side. Apologizing for the Crusades is like looking up a kid you stole candy from when you were in kindergarten and telling him you’re sorry. He not only doesn’t remember the theft; he doesn’t even remember you.

Some church leaders are arguing that there should be no apology from Christians until Muslims also show remorse for the killing they carried out themselves. The problem with that is that it’s moral equivalence. If Christians knocked off a few Muslims in the siege of Jerusalem, that’s no worse than the killing the Muslims themselves committed. The problem with moral equivalence is that it assumes both sides are wrong and does nothing to place ethical blame where it ought to lie. From church leaders we have a right to expect more than this.

Yet right or wrong, the fact that modern Westerners can’t even defend the Crusades as a manifestation of Western man and his civilization tells us a good deal about what’s wrong with Western man today. Western man no longer believes in himself or the civilization his ancestors created, crusaded for, and died for. In place of believing in it and defending it, our religious and political leaders are ashamed of it and want to apologize for it—even for those parts no one remembers.

The Crusades certainly involved some inglorious and unheroic deeds, not all of them committed against Muslims. Christians themselves were often the victims, as in the sack of Constantinople in 1204. But if the Crusades were not entirely right, a healthy civilization can still recognize them as a necessary part in the adventure of our own people in history. The importance of the Crusades is that they were one of the first expressions of the process of heroic dynamism and expansion that distinguishes our civilization from most others.

The same mentality that drove medieval warriors to wage war for the cross in the Holy Land also drove Columbus to the New World and Americans to the Moon. Without that spirit, the West—and America—will shrivel and die and would never have existed at all. That, of course, is exactly what the idiot party wants, and it’s exactly why they deserve a good kick in the behind from the Crusaders still kicking around.

• Category: History • Tags: Crusades 
Sam Francis
About Sam Francis

Dr. Samuel T. Francis (1947-2005) was a leading paleoconservative columnist and intellectual theorist, serving as an adviser to the presidential campaigns of Patrick Buchanan and as an editorial writer, columnist, and editor at The Washington Times. He received the Distinguished Writing Award for Editorial Writing of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in both 1989 and 1990, while being a finalist for the National Journalism Award (Walker Stone Prize) for Editorial Writing of the Scripps Howard Foundation those same years. His undergraduate education was at Johns Hopkins and he later earned his Ph.D. in modern history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His books include The Soviet Strategy of Terror(1981, rev.1985), Power and History: The Political Thought of James Burnham (1984); Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism (1993); Revolution from the Middle: Essays and Articles from Chronicles, 1989–1996 (1997); and Thinkers of Our Time: James Burnham (1999). His published articles or reviews appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, National Review, The Spectator (London), The New American, The Occidental Quarterly, and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, of which he was political editor and for which he wrote a monthly column, “Principalities and Powers.”