- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2004

What will our soreheads do when every obstacle to happiness is removed, every slight is avenged, every rough place is made smooth and every unpleasant fact erased from our history books?

We may soon find out. The job is just about finished. We’re down now to mopping up the trivial stuff.

A school administrator in Cupertino, Calif., banished the Declaration of Independence from the curriculum because its references to God might damage the psyches of aspiring little atheists in junior high civics classes. A little learning can be a dangerous thing, so we must impart as little learning as possible. Indeed, nothing is sacred. Demonstrators, some of them dressed for effect in their nether garments, gathered in San Francisco yesterday to protest the Victoria’s Secret catalog because it is printed on paper made from thousands of trees that were slain — reduced to sawdust in the prime of their happy lives deep in the forest — merely to furnish a venue for busty Swedish blondes in immodest bras and bustiers.

The Swedes, who have given us the meatball as well as the dumb blonde, are particularly sensitive to slights others are guilty of, and now a scholar in Stockholm has written a scholarly history of Latin, which started out as “the story of the world’s most successful language” and became, when the professor was overcome with revulsion, a catalog of how politically incorrect the Romans were. Why their language continues, thousands of years later, to be the starting point for any study of linguistics is actually an interesting question, but it became an academic afterthought. The Romans, after all, owned slaves (white folks, mostly) with whom they conjugated more than verbs, engaged in wars (they would have fought with unregistered guns if there had been any), and the red-state Romans would probably have voted to re-elect George W. Bush if only they could have. “Personally,” writes Prof. Tore Janson, this all “makes me feel sick.”

Nausea is not necessarily the best teacher. “Did the sins of the language’s first speakers, camped around the Tiber some 2,700 years ago, pass down to those later great Latinists, Charlemagne, in Eighth-Century France, or to Janson’s own distinguished countryman, Linnaeus, in Eighteenth-Century Sweden?” asks a reviewer in the Times of London. “Was there something in the vowel sounds?”

The righteous war to stamp out history continues closer to home. The wonderful folks who brought us the Clinton follies are trying to make amends, too, not for what they have done but for what they imagine their great-grandfathers might have done. The city fathers in Little Rock, determined to scrub away any historical grime that might detract from Bill Clinton’s new presidential library, changed street signs to avoid offending Barbra Streisand, a fast friend of at least half of the formerly first family, and the other Hollywood celebrities they expect to hang out in Arkansas now that the shrine is open to the public and the library and Little Rock are to rival Orlando and Disney World as the nation’s top tourist destination.

The folks at both the library and at City Hall were mortified that the visitors would see signs on the freeway identifying an exit to Confederate Boulevard, which leads to a hundred-year-old cemetery for Confederate soldiers, and think that Bill Clinton’s neighbors were not the tolerant, righteous, forward-looking folk they certainly are. So they asked the state Highway Department to take down the signs and put up others directing traffic to an obscure stretch of the boulevard renamed for a “community activist,” who is conveniently black, if anyone should ask. No one, not even Barbra, did.

Now they’re talking about changing the name of the rest of Confederate Boulevard, which is not really a boulevard but a decrepit pot-holed street through a decaying industrial slum. A columnist for the morning paper even raises the possibility of calling in the bulldozers to raze the cemetery and evict the ghosts of the great-grandfathers, all to be worthy of what Bill Clinton has done for everyone.

Little Rock years ago renamed streets for Martin Luther King and Daisy Bates, who collected and mentored the nine children who famously desegregated Central High School a half-century ago. These avenues are no more elegant than Confederate Boulevard, running through neighborhoods where even drug dealers take escorts after dark. The big mules long ago deserted the old city and moved into the hills northwest of town, taking their churches, restaurants, clubs, private schools and Victoria’s Secret catalogs with them. “Odium numquam potest esse bonum,” after all. Hatred can never be good, not if you want to take care of business.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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