California Pushes the Frontiers of Woke
“Christopher Columbus is a deeply polarizing historical figure given the deadly impact his arrival in this hemisphere had on indigenous populations. The continued presence of this statue in California’s Capitol, where it has been since 1883, is completely out of place today. It will be removed.”
—Official statement from the California State Legislature, June 16, 2020
And just like that, the legislative leaders of California’s one-party state are going to remove an inspiring symbol of exploration, discovery, and courage, as well as a beautiful work of art.
Calls to the Capitol have confirmed that California’s legislators have no idea, of course, what may replace the statue of Columbus and Queen Isabella, which, for now, still sits in the exact center of the State Capitol rotunda. Expect something that pleases everyone and no one, some bland and mediocre product of a committee whose primary qualifications will be the “diversity” of the members.
Also this week Sutter Health removed a statue of California Pioneer John Sutter from one of their medical campuses. Will they also change the name of their corporation? Surely if a statue of John Sutter is unacceptable, the name “Sutter Health” is also unacceptable. As one of the agitators for the statue’s removal said, “He’s a racist, he’s a murderer, and he enslaved thousands of Native Americans.” This act generated less controversy in California—who reads history anymore?—than it did in Sutter’s native Switzerland.
All this hate. Such an exaggerated, negative interpretation of history. Christopher Columbus and John Sutter were men of courage, vision, tenacity, endurance, imagination, and humanity. Their lives can be an inspiration to anyone. But we no longer hear that side of the story. The kooks rant, and the cowards take a knee.
And why stop with Sutter or Columbus? This erasure began with statues of Confederate generals, then statues of Confederate soldiers, then statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. With each step in this progression, the logic to destroy became less compelling, assuming it had ever been compelling in the first place. Clearly, nothing is off-limits. Why not carry this historical purge to its logical conclusion?
Blinkered Bias of the Woke Brigades
If spontaneous gangs don’t beat them to it, California’s legislature may carry on by removing all statues of Father Junípero Serra, who by their own standards is an exceedingly toxic historical villain.
Dispatched to the Spanish colony of Upper California back in 1769 by the imperialist Spanish regime working in concert with the hideously regressive Roman Catholic Church, Father Serra slowly marched north from San Diego to San Francisco. In a little over a decade, Serra spread pestilence across the land, imposed European culture, and enslaved the indigenous survivors in the name of salvation.
At least according to the blinkered bias of the woke brigades, the evidence against Serra is clear, and the verdict is beyond appeal. Never mind his passion, his faith, his humility, his charity. Erase Father Serra from history. Destroy his statues, destroy the missions, and while we’re at it, change the names of every Spanish-named city in California. How is it that Italian and English colonial legacies are demonized, yet the Spanish Conquistadors are given a pass? No más.
To provide some helpful examples: San Diego will be renamed Chumash, Los Angeles shall be known as Kitanemuk, San Jose will change its name to Ohlone, San Francisco to Muwekma, Sacramento to Maidu, and so on. Throughout California, not one place name shall remain in either English or Spanish, or any other European language, because these are “deeply polarizing” colonial names that cause people to feel “unsafe.”
The naïve ignoramuses who are the foot soldiers behind this nihilistic assault on American history ought to study world history a little more carefully. Every civilization that has ever existed was established by force, expanding into territories that an earlier civilization had previously occupied. Angkor Wat, Cuzco, Chichen Itza and the Pyramid of Khufu are all relics of conquering imperial slave states. Shall we destroy all vestiges of their presence on this earth? Why not?
Golden State Taliban
California’s legislators who are behind this statue removal outrage don’t care to recognize these facts of history because they are opportunistic political whores, who find it expedient to indulge the extremist passions of a small fraction of Californians.
But from an ideological standpoint, they are making common cause with the Taliban, who in March 2001 blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas. The only difference: In Bamiyan, the statues were blown to bits, whereas the statue of Columbus and Queen Isabella will probably end up on the estate of some Silicon Valley billionaire.
The truth is, everything extraordinary that humans ever produced was made possible because of wealth inequality. Only with uneven concentrations of wealth could any person or civilization afford to create beautiful art, send expeditions across land and sea, research scientific breakthroughs, invent democracy and capitalism, and, fitfully but steadily, advance the general freedom and prosperity of all peoples. We try to create equal opportunity, not equality of outcome. Erasing our history in pursuit of either of those goals is a distraction at best.
What the people who demand we tear down historical monuments are really trying to do has little to do with true social justice. It has little to do with alleviating the alleged trauma they feel when they behold these monuments. These demands are about taking power. They are about convincing a critical mass of voters in the most tolerant, well-functioning multi-ethnic society in history that they should be ashamed of who they are. Because a people who are ashamed do not bother defending themselves.
According to the twisted logic of the Left, it is only a short leap from being anti-racist to being anti-capitalist, and from there to demanding mass redistribution of wealth.
In California, the biggest businesses in high-tech amplify the agenda of the Left—from the rewriting of history to the impossible dream of proportional representation of all identifiable groups in all institutions. They support this because it furthers their own objective, which is to implement corporate socialism.
This explains why every time a monument is taken down and another scheme to compensate the disadvantaged is hatched, these corporations launch a marketing campaign. “BLM” is commercialized. “Woke” becomes a commodity. A global consumer marketplace consisting of undifferentiated human matter is the profitable goal.
Until more Americans, from California to Connecticut, become more assertive in defense of their history and culture, they face a dismal choice: Submit to rule by corporations where the only culture left is mass entertainment and leftist indoctrination, or submit to life in a failed socialist state. Venezuela offers an apt example of that. Anyone who thinks either of these outcomes is unlikely has not spent enough time in Sacramento.
This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.
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Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
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