A plan to revive the American memory.
Radical ideologues are working to destroy Americans’ memory of our beloved past. They vilify and erase our forefathers in our children’s textbooks and jettison their names from public schools and national landmarks. And especially since 2020, they remove their statues—Lincoln and Frederick Douglass torn down by violence, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Arlington Reconciliation Monument removed by administrative chicanery, Robert E. Lee barbarically melted down. National heritage sites such as Montpelier and Monticello damn as villains the men they are supposed to honor. No aspect of our national memory is safe.
Americans cannot let stand this vandalism of our country’s past. Each erasure of our public memory prepares the way for the next round of destruction.
Tradition-minded candidates for the presidency should campaign on a platform to rebuild America’s public memory—its statues, its memorials, and the public commemoration of all our forefathers to whom we should have affection and gratitude. Tradition-minded policy institutes should begin now to plan the legislative and administrative means to restore statues, reform our heritage sites, and create a public calendar to revive affection for the memory of great Americans.
We know how to restore lost public art. After the devastation of World War II, countries in Europe worked for decades to create replicas of their destroyed monuments and architecture. We must learn from them how to repair the devastation inflicted by our fanatics.
We must take detailed photos of every public memorial and make sculptural and architectural plans to recast them all, budgeting the costs. We also must detail the executive orders, departmental regulations, and laws that are necessary to restore our public memory. And we must ensure that such vandalism will not be allowed to happen again by passing laws that severely punish any destruction of public art and any administrative chicanery to expedite its removal.
Taxpayer money should be used only to support historical organizations that preserve America’s public memory—Williamsburg and Arlington, Mount Vernon, and Sagamore Hill.
No taxpayer money should be allowed to support historical organizations that insert ideologies such as Critical Race Theory into their presentation of the past. State, federal, and local elected officials must dedicate themselves to having oversight of these historical organizations. Private donors should do likewise. Legislators, moreover, must end the tax-free status of historical organizations that refuse to reform themselves.
America’s national landmarks are a memory of our past, and we must restore all the names that honor the great Americans of the past. Mount McKinley and Mount McKinley National Park have been replaced by Denali; our president’s name must return. Fort Bragg should be restored, and the name of Mount Rushmore should be protected.
America’s language is English. Wherever an English name exists, it should have priority over a name in any other language. We also must catalogue every geographical name we wish to protect and enshrine it in legislation, beyond the reach of activist bureaucrats.
Americans also need to be reminded why the heroes of our past matter. We need a new public calendar to commemorate all the figures of our history, though it should highlight first the individuals in our history who the woke wish to erase. The president and governors should publicize this calendar with daily proclamations.
New Jersey honors Commodore John Barry, the father of the American Navy, with a commemorative day; the president and governors should honor Barry, and 364 other heroes of American history every day of the year. That list, which should change annually, will teach Americans why we should revere the memory of Henry Clay and John James Audubon, Junipero Serra, and Clara Barton. This public calendar should honor Americans because they made our nation great, not because they check off identity politics requirements.
Our nation’s memory includes Confederates and slaveholders, and the woke activists must not be allowed to use that to divide traditionalists who wish to preserve our nation. The woke have screamed “Confederate!” to set a precedent for erasing our entire public memory. If you love the memory of Abraham Lincoln, you still should defend statues of Jefferson Davis. Once they have erased the memory of the boys in gray, the radicals will undoubtedly raise a drumbeat to erase the memory of the boys in blue. The memorials to the Southern dead are also a memorial of the magnanimity of a generation of Northerners. The woke seek to erase evidence that America has been great not least because it has been gentle.
We have lost our public memory, because statesmen did not consider it a priority to preserve our statues, and our historical sites, and our republic’s calendar. They made a terrible mistake. The American people will not fight for their republic if they do not love it. Affection for the past requires the preservation of public memory. We must rebuild what has been torn down, preserve what we have, and explain to the American people why it matters.
We must undertake this task knowing it is vital to the survival of the republic.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.
The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.