Ten years ago, plus or minus a few, the Tea Party was all the rage. The nation, especially the liberal media establishment, was consumed with "Tea Party terror" and Don't Tread on Me flags, chants, and license plates that signified the growing new movement from the right. In 2010 and 2011, the Tea Party movement was a force to be reckoned with for Republicans and Democrats alike. They rallied around excessive fiscal spending, lower taxes, and any government agent or policy that departed from the spirit of the Constitution and the tenets of laissez faire government. As the Tea Party grew in power and influence, so too did liberal resentment and rhetoric.
One of the more popular writings that reflected liberals' disdain and opposition to the Tea Party was echoed by Joe Nocera in his 2011 commentary titled Tea Party's War on America. Nocera's incendiary language is best captured in his opening paragraph, which reads as follows:
These last few months, much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people. Their intransigent demands for deep spending cuts, coupled with their almost gleeful willingness to destroy one of America’s most invaluable assets, its full faith and credit, were incredibly irresponsible. But they didn’t care. Their goal, they believed, was worth blowing up the country for, if that’s what it took.
By using terms such as "horror, jihad, intransigent, and blowing up the country", Nocera went beyond the descriptive: Nocera's polemical rhetoric was meant to cast the Tea Party as hostile, disruptive, and a movement of unreasonable ideologues.
Since that time, Nocera has moved on, the Tea Party Movement has faded but not folded, and the new cause célèbre is Black Lives Matter. But unlike Tea Party rallies and protests of the past, recent political unrest over police brutality cases has resulted in a wave of riots from Seattle, Washington to Washington, DC that have tormented city officials from coast to coast. With buildings burned, police shot, and monuments toppled, today's hysteria and full-throated anarchy far surpasses the so-called Tea Party Terror narrative promoted by Nocera and many liberal journalists and politicians. Theirs proved to be baseless paranoia over small potatoes in comparison to what we are witnessing today.
With anarchy in the air, as evidenced by widespread looting and social fallout, much anger has been taken out on monuments of all sorts, and yet Nocera and the media establishment have no outrage to offer as buildings burned and national treasures pummelled. From Confederate generals, for whom I have no love or appreciation, to Abolitionists, to former Presidents, there has been a scorched-Earth approach to relics of the past by anarchists and defiant protestors. Even controversial Confederate monuments in the U.S. Capitol have been targeted and ordered removed by Congresswoman and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, though the monument of former Democratic leader and KKK Klegal Robert Byrd remains standing and without threat to this day.
I find it quite ironic that as the monuments continue to fall because they are deemed "offensive", whether they be good guys, bad guys, or dead guys of all types, "offensive" art remains protected, promoted, and celebrated by many in the no-monument anarchy movement. In fact, I'd be safe to say that probably half of the anarchists who engage in monument destruction are art history fans and majors, or budding artists themselves. These will be the first to protect free speech at all cost and abhor art censorship. When it comes to free expression and virulent and offensive art, today's anarchists embrace and celebrate the indefensible without hesitation. Take a trip to any local art studio. It will be dominated by modern art and you'll see everything from the sublime, to the bizarre, to the obscene. My point is that "shock-and-awe art" is predominantly produced by today's anarchy generation, protected, and publicly funded and yet you won't hear one ounce of moral outrage or condemnation from the "woke" crowd. It's all about free expression and you dare not challenge or censor it.
Historical monuments, on the other hand, hail from a time that was far less evolved morally and socially, but early American thought was so advanced that it produced a Bill of Rights that remains vibrant in today's political economy, the same Bill of Rights that guarantees freedom of expression that anarchists enjoy but abuse when they deface and destroy history in all its splendor and controversy. Yes, today's radical mob lacks a conscience and a coherent moral core when it comes to praising obscene and profane artistic expression on the one hand but protesting against it when images of American history are celebrated conversely.
When mob-mayhem is valued over morality and would rather censor history than allow it to educate future generations about timeless truths regarding the evils of racism, abusive power, human dignity, heroes and heroines, and democratic principles, humanity loses and the urban ethos becomes more fragile and unsustainable. We must reverse this very troubling pathway to destruction that has been set in motion by recent events if we are to restore civility and opportunity, especially in our most vulnerable and challenged communities. Yes, we can and must "Make America Great Again" but in order to do so, we can and must Make Urban America Great Again! Anarchy is not the answer, and shame on the media and entertainment industries for celebrating, validating, and elevating social dysfunction and pathological behavior to enhance their biased political agenda. Art must educate and inspire us with truth (good and bad), beauty, and human triumph, all of which ultimately lead to a greater sense of self, society, and self in society. Art in the form of images and monuments from epic battles tells a story. Unfortunately, and especially in the case of the Confederacy, these stories have been less than accurate and one-sided versions of history that have been left unchallenged for far too long. No matter how despicable the Confederacy was and the evil it sought to defend, these monuments should be used for teachable historical moments, Democratic Party history in particular, so that truth is honored, propaganda and myth defeated, and the resilience of the Republic treasured and preserved.
In Addicted to Mediocrity by Franky Schaeffer, son of Edith and the renowned philosopher, theologian, and Christian Apologist Francis Schaeffer, he admonishes modernity, and Christianity in particular, for abandoning history's emphasis on excellence that typified the arts. Franky echoes my thoughts above with eloquence and wisdom and speaks to our crisis in contemporary America today in our challenge to preserve and reclaim virtue and excellence in the public square. In the radical's haste to sanitize society from the sins of the past, Franky Schaeffer's quote below amplifies the importance art plays as the conduit for the exchange of ideas in our culture. Without art and the thoughts and ideas that are generated therein, the public square becomes an endangered, hostile, and hollow place that ceases to inspire and defend freedom and democratic ideals, the kinds that led to our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both of which safeguard human freedom second to none.
For the arts--the vehicle of human expression--are the root of all ideas, and ideas are the foundation on which history is built. Cultural endeavors, the arts, and the media are truly the marketplace of ideas.