Rush: Abolition of the Past Only Manipulates the Present

View+north+along+U.S.+Route+1+%28Jefferson+Davis+Highway%29+at+Market+Street+in+Four+Mile+Fork%2C+Spotsylvania+County%2C+Virginia.+%28Courtesy+Wikimedia+Commons%29
Back to Article
Back to Article

Rush: Abolition of the Past Only Manipulates the Present

View north along U.S. Route 1 (Jefferson Davis Highway) at Market Street in Four Mile Fork, Spotsylvania County, Virginia. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

View north along U.S. Route 1 (Jefferson Davis Highway) at Market Street in Four Mile Fork, Spotsylvania County, Virginia. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

View north along U.S. Route 1 (Jefferson Davis Highway) at Market Street in Four Mile Fork, Spotsylvania County, Virginia. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

View north along U.S. Route 1 (Jefferson Davis Highway) at Market Street in Four Mile Fork, Spotsylvania County, Virginia. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Nicholas Rush

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






There has been an insatiable movement to remove any historical statues deemed inappropriate in retrospect. As of August 2018, 30 cities across the United States have removed controversial statues and monuments.

In San Antonio, the “Jefferson Davis Highway” marker was considered too offensive and removed in 2016. Texas has been the most ardent of the statue-destroyers, leading the nation with 34 removals. One can imagine the time-crunched working folks, so outraged with the traffic that the blood-laden words “Jefferson Davis” sent them into a latte-induced frenzy. Perhaps they subsequently skipped work and stormed city hall, demanding the removal of the blasphemous sign.

These removals were — and are — a trend straight out of George Orwell’s “1984.” In one passage, Winston, the main character, finds out that history can be controlled by the ruling party. This party controlled the records, and the memories by extension. A puzzled Winston asks how changing other people’s memories could be possible, and his interlocutor O’Brien replies that “reality is not external and only exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.”

The removal of these statues — these solid, physical records — subscribes to the belief that reality only exists in the mind. By removing the statues, they hope to spread the psychological removal of those portrayed — out of sight, out of mind. To these activists, memory and history can be manipulated by the domineering ideology. Historical figures must live up to the current rubric of modern ideology.

This idea of abolishing the past will only lead to an infinite regress. One could say “America was founded on the backs of slaves,” and while that might be true in many ways, one could then argue abolishing the American flag, not only the Confederate one. One could argue that Thomas Jefferson was a racist because he owned slaves — so should the prestigious University of Virginia, which he founded, be closed and re-opened under a new originator?

History is no more than a continuous fiction, reworked and revisited until canonized. To them, ideology is more important than historicity, and so belief becomes more important than truth. This attempt to rewrite history is a fool’s errand, which would result in infinite removals and leave us with no reality at all. History was not perfect, with its seemingly endless corruption and immorality. Yet, picking through every bit of disgraceful history would surely lead to a reality with no real distinctions — contingent on the approval of the ruling party.

The ruling party, even if benevolent, creates history that is only a reflection of the ruling party. Part of the ruling party is the corporate elite who have their hands in government and media alike. They want to abolish the past in order to keep the ideological hegemony of the present — because that’s just the nature of Big Brother.

In 2002, a senior White House Advisor told journalist Ron Suskind, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors.”

[email protected]

@shinjirush