We’ve lost our ability to be nuanced about the past

Americans understand the Founding Fathers and other historical figures weren’t saints.

We’ve lost our ability to be nuanced about the past

In “The Six Grandfathers, Mount Rushmore, and our national identity“ July 8, ECH editor Ray Miller-Still mentions the Sioux name for Mount Rushmore no less than eight times.

He goes on to list the sins of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. What a pity. The writer correctly points out that the four images were originally conceived to represent the founding, expansion, preservation and unification of the United States. I would guess that most visitors to the site understand that. Some people apparently now believe that statues, carvings and other images of historical Americans are similar (in a way) to the saints of the Catholic Church, i.e. that they are to be personally hallowed because of their perfection, but that is not true in the case of American icons – they are not saints. Their images represent an idea and an ideal most often related to an accomplishment – intended to invoke inspiration, aspiration and appreciation but not veneration.

Unfortunately it seems that we have lost the ability to consider this type of nuance, subtlety and ambiguity in our national discussions. What a pity. About 10 years ago, I was inspired by an article in the Wall Street Journal by Bret Stephens entitled “Our Incompetent Civilization”. The principles he cited are timeless, namely that there are limits to virtue and that while we must learn from history we cannot let it cripple us. As we try to cleanse our history we go too far, we inflict a deeply debilitating wound on ourselves – a self loathing that is polarizing and immobilizing. What a pity.

Orwell said, “The most effective way to destroy a people is to deny and obliterate their understanding of their own history”. The high priests of the new totalitarianism preach this gospel of nihilism. They’re unaware that their scripture and orthodoxy are not new, it never works, it leads to destruction – but I fear we will travel down this dangerous path anew. Again, what a pity.

Brian DiNielli


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in Letters to the Editor

LtE bug
Be like the troops: wear a mask

Don’t fall into the “us against them” mindset.

LtE bug
Letter writer will need to ‘eat crow’ on COVID predictions

No, the media won’t just stop talking about the virus once Biden is inaugurated.

LtE bug
Wearing a mask is selfless

Think about others.

LtE bug
Encourage youths to speak their minds

No, the Courier-Herald is not slipping away from “Plateau values.”

LtE bug
No need to vilify the maskless

If you’re not comfortable going out, don’t.

LtE bug
Which voices guide you?

Masks are the visible icon of the growing divide in our nation and culture.

LtE bug
The pandemic isn’t political — mask up

The quicker we do it, the quicker we can open back up.

LtE bug
I will continue to support Mail Express

Don’t malign any business that supports the Plateau.

LtE bug
Questions for Councilmember Chevassus

Will you support COVID-19 victims like you’re supporting Mail Express?

Most Read