Two months ago, Donald Trump argued against tearing down Confederate statues by saying , “George Washington was a slave owner… So, will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down statues to George Washington?” This question began another oh-so-predictable round of ritualistic media eyerolling. Every editorial for days was titled something to the effect, “No, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson aren’t next.” They spoke in a knowing tone. That same tone Andy Griffith uses to explain to Opie why he has to work for his quarter-a-week allowance. Sit on our collective knee, Mr. President, while we impart some grown-up knowledge.
Now, less than three months later, it turns out George Washington is a safe-space ruining, bubble-popping, micro-aggressor after all. That’s why the Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia—a church Washington attended for two decades—has decided to remove a small memorial marking the pew where the father of our country worshipped. According to a Fox News article, leaders of the Church said, “The plaques in our sanctuary make some in our presence feel unsafe or unwelcome.” That’s right! A small rock inscribed with the words, “In Memory of George Washington” apparently makes someone in Alexandria feel “unsafe and unwelcome.” Whoever that someone is— And I have 20 bucks that says it’s no one— let’s hope they never hop in their car and drive 20 miles north on (trigger warning) George Washington Memorial Parkway. If the name of the street alone doesn’t trigger them, imagine how imperiled they’re going to feel when they show up in a giant city called (insert full body shiver here) Washington, D.C. where the tallest structure is a 555 foot monument to (big, sarcastic gasp) George Washington.
If the thought of remembering George Washington sends someone’s head spinning with vertigo, a smart idea might be to live pretty much anywhere else in the entire world. In fact, the surgeon general should slap a warning label on the entire Potomac River. Warning: George Washington slept here! Like every night.
Ironically, the decision to remove any sign of George Washington from the church is built upon the foundation that “all are welcome.” Church leaders said, “Many in our congregation feel a strong need for the church to stand clearly on the side of ‘all are welcome- no exceptions.” Well, one exception of course—George Washington.
No historical figure can measure up to the impossible standards of presentism. Presentism, the most profoundly ignorant lens through which history can be viewed, denies societal evolution. It holds up the highest aspirations of 2017 and demands ex post facto adherence to them. What will American values look like in the year 2275? I hope abortion is universally abhorred, but I also hope they won’t tear down all the statues of Barack Obama just because he was pro-choice. Whatever those future values will be, I assure you we’re not living up to them or surpassing them. I hope we’re not. Because that would mean we’ve reached the apex of our potential and humanity is all downhill from here. But I also hope they don’t tear us down because we couldn’t throw together an overnight Utopia.
America is an imperfect place. So what? Across time and space, all societies are imperfect. But America has a system that allows us to evolve rather than rot in moral stagnation. Take a look at the constitution, and our evolution is clear. The Thirteenth amendment abolishes slavery. The fourteenth amendment guarantees citizenship to freed slaves and provides every person equal protection of the laws. The fifteenth amendment guarantees suffrage for black citizens. The nineteenth amendment guarantees suffrage for women. Look at our landmark Supreme Court decisions like Brown v. The Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia, Obergefell v. Hodges. Look at acts of Congress like The Civil Rights Act and The Voting Rights Act. All brought to you by the imperfect United States of America.
Today, a perceived injustice can be corrected more quickly than ever. According to Pew Research, in 2003, only 32 percent of Americans favored same-sex marriage. In 2017, only 32 percent oppose it. That’s not just a change in policy over 14 years, it’s a vast change in the attitudes of the people. For a diverse population of hundreds of millions of people inhabiting about 4 million square miles, that ability for cultural change is astounding.
George Washington commanded the Continental Army that made an independent America possible. He presided over the convention where our system of government was created and put on paper in the form of a Constitution. He was the first executive to preserve, protect, and defend that Constitution. Yes, he played a role in perpetuating the institution of slavery, but he also played a pivotal role in creating a government with the ability to abolish it.
Removing a small memorial to George Washington is ignorant and self-righteous. It’s part of a race to see who can win the “most easily offended” superlative. In their world of Politically correct make believe, George Washington is unworthy to be in their presence, but in actual reality they’re unworthy to be in his.
Views expressed in op-eds are not the views of The Daily Caller.