- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2001

What do the Taliban of Afghanistan and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights have in common? The Taliban made news this week for cultural cleansing. By bombarding the colossal stone Buddhas of Bamiyan a pair of statues more than 100 feet high carved out of a sandstone cliff between 1,500 and 1,700 years ago with anti-aircraft weapons, the Taliban blasted a marvel of religious art out of existence in the name of Islamic fundamentalism.

The American civil rights commission did nothing so violent or newsworthy.

As reported by Catherine Donaldson-Evans on the Fox News web site, the commission quite peaceably decided to consider whether it should condemn sports teams or mascots named after American Indians as violations of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination. Should it take this non-rational position next month, it might not be long before the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux and the University of Illinois' mascot, Chief Illiniwek, are, if not exactly pounded into rubble by military mortars, bureaucratically finessed out of existence in exchange for uninterrupted federal support for their schools.

This is not to suggest than a violent campaign of religious desecration is comparable to bureaucrats seeking consensus in a democracy; nor is it to suggest that machine-stitched arm patches, felt pennants or beer mug insignia are on a par with unique and ancient devotional sculpture. Where the Taliban claim Allah is on their side, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission is guided by the dictates of political correctness. Still, these groups share some of the same impulses to mandate the eradication of the past and its symbols in the name of a doctrinaire illiberalism.

Meanwhile, the supposed offensiveness of the mascots under commission review is, to say the least, debatable. Sioux, Seminole, Indian, Redskin or Brave these are all approving expressions of an uniquely American vernacular, a national shorthand for "bigger" and "braver" and "better." And how about the Fighting Irish, the Celtics, the Yankees, the Vikings, or the Canadiennes? Only American Indian mascots seem to qualify as such potential acts of discrimination.

The absurdity of the issue becomes laughable, although there is nothing to smile about in the notion that Ms. Meeks may succeed in her campaign to eradicate a glorious, colorful symbol of American strength. If she does, our cultural landscape will be an emptier place where future generations will have to puzzle over all the gaping holes we have left behind.


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