- - Wednesday, September 20, 2017


History is complicated, and rarely is anything settled about the facts of what happened, and why, in wars, revolutions and crusades past. Historians are the first to say that those who think they know it all usually don’t. But it’s usually the ignorant who yell the loudest.

Nevertheless, with Robert E. Lee safely down the nation’s memory hole, the ethnic cleansers are after Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and down now to obscure Confederate generals like William L. Cabell. The Dallas Independent School District is studying the biographies of every person (including Mr. Cabell) for whom a school was named, 20 of them, determined to eradicate the memory of anyone whose life is unable to meet the high ethical and moral standards of our time.

Stephanie Elizalde, who is something called the “chief of school leadership” of the school district, told the Dallas Morning News that “if there was any association with Confederacy — not making a judgment for or against — just if we saw Confederacy named in it, we then highlighted it. We are now in the process of doing a second look.”

Jefferson’s well-known villainy obviously cannot be redeemed. He wrote the Declaration of Independence and contributed to the drafting of the Constitution, but name a school for him? Franklin is a curious target. It’s true, Franklin owned a slave early in his life. Slavery was an affliction most associated with the Southern states, the land of cotton, but the sin was actually the gift of Massachusetts slavers, and their sin would lie heavy on other states, including Franklin’s Pennsylvania. Franklin banished his sin and became a prominent abolitionist. But once afoul of the high moral standards of our own century, once a sinner, always a sinner.

This rigorous verdict goes as well for anyone who challenges the madness of the 21st century mob, such as Dustin Marshall, a trustee of the Dallas school district, who unlike the mob seems to actually know something about Franklin and his worthy deeds. “I don’t believe this school was named after Franklin to send a signal of oppression and control,” he says.

However, there are a lot of sensitive souls out there, and many of them, as you might expect, live on campus. Some of them are students at Lipscomb University in Nashville, who were among a group of black students invited to dinner at the home of Randy Lowry, the president of the university.

“Tonight AFRICAN AMERICAN students were invited to have dinner with the president of the school,” one of them said, capital letters and all, in a post to social media. “As we arrived to the president’s home and proceeded to go in we seen cotton as the center pieces.” When the university president was asked about the floral arrangement, featuring cotton blossoms, “his response was that he didn’t know, he seen it before we did, he kind of thought it was ‘fallish,’ THEN he said ‘it ISNT INHERENTLY BAD IF WE’RE ALL WEARING IT,’ then walked off. Another student tweeted: “Shame on president of @lipscomb for the cotton-laced centerpieces at the dinner for African-American students!”

The inevitable craven apology from the president of the university soon arrived. “Last night we invited Lipscomb African American students to our home for dinner to discuss their experiences at Lipscomb,” President Lowry said. “Several students shared with me their concern about the material used for centerpieces which contained stalks of cotton. The content of the centerpieces was offensive, and I could have handled the situation with more sensitivity. I sincerely apologize for the discomfort, anger and disappointment we caused and solicit your forgiveness.”

Round and round it goes, and where it stops nobody, certainly not us, knows. There could be teaching moments in the madness, with lessons in history, agriculture and economics. Why pick on cotton? Not everyone gets to wear silk underwear. The English professors at Lipscomb might even find a place for touch-up lessons in grammar. Just a thought.

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