As painful as it is to say about the current state of our nation, the attack on memorials to the work and lives of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, and Christopher Columbus was inevitable. Radical thought encourages radical action, which encourages ever more radical demands and actions.
It’s been a long time in the works, and then a spark in Minneapolis set it ablaze.
Our most recent spiral of radicalism began with an extreme use of police power. The crushing knee to the neck of George Floyd captured the nation’s attention and set local protesters into the streets. Then, as darkness enveloped the city, some of the protests spun into violence. Businesses were looted; buildings burned.
The protests in Minneapolis sparked other protests against police brutality around the nation, many of those evolving quickly from peaceful and organized marches into illegal mobs violating curfews, stopping traffic, smashing windows, burning police cars, attacking police lines, and burning buildings.
In some places, feckless local leaders allowed the violence to continue through their streets. In other cities, local leaders established curfews and called in for armed assistance. Once trouble started again, however, most backed down. Then the groups moved from destroying businesses, theft, and arson to tearing down statues of confederate military officers.
That not being enough, they reached further back into history to attack statues of the very men who founded the nation and ultimately paved the way for liberal values to flourish on the continent and spread around the world. Washington, Jefferson, Columbus—they all had to come down!
As our hearts break for the plight of those victims of police abusing their power, it also breaks for a country that would permit mobs to burn our cities, pull down our public monuments, and “cancel” or break our fellow citizens who dare have a different opinion on social media.
But, as I said, it has all been inevitable for a long time. Radicalism begets radicalism.
For more than a generation now, we have been allowing the pyre to grow. American history has all but been lost in our public schools. For too long, the teaching of social studies, civics, and history has been given to the football coach to ensure his income, or to teachers who have degrees in pedagogy but little interest in and knowledge of the subject. The unifying symbols that fueled a love of country have been displaced.
Our colleges have ditched traditional history and replaced it with degrees that are more “relevant” to the economy or more immediately useful to promote social justice. The heroes that fueled the ambitions of generations of Americans have been carefully and systematically dismantled. Our hollowed-out students have been filled with victimhood, envy, and a partial or bad history, and energized by pseudo-scientific social science terms and concepts.
We have allowed a great pyre to be built in our midst. Then, in what seemed like a routine police call for a petty criminal action, the spark was flung by a bad cop overreacting, and the death of a citizen on camera. The dry and hollow pyre exploded in a great deluge of flames that continues to consume and destroy—statues, police units, orthodox opinions, historical figures, law and order, economic opportunities, and livelihoods.
Radical thought led to radical teaching. Radical teaching led to cowardice in orthodox teaching and opinions. Weakness on the part of the stable middle led to a defensive reaction on the right. Reaction leads to reaction, and, like two similarly charged ends of a magnet, the two sides repel one another, leaving no center that is vital to any free and ordered society.
Plato taught this lesson 2,500 years ago when he explained that extremes in weather and in politics always lead to the opposite extremes. In Book VIII of his classic “The Republic,” he showed how the extremes of progressive democratic movements would lead to the rise of the tyrant. Time will tell where our extremes lead us to in our Republic.
In political philosophy and in the history of the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the Cultural Revolution in China, one can see the formula clearly. Radical politics can never be satisfied, because the problems it seeks to fix aren’t political. Like a mad snake chasing its tail and seeing it as sustenance, radical movements will chase enemy after perceived enemy, grievance after perceived grievance. It will seek ever more radical solutions as problems don’t seem to be solved by their past demands.
Finding no ultimate satisfaction, they must continue until they consume themselves—like Robespierre being ushered to his own gallows or Trotsky being murdered by the more pure Marxists—and burn out.
Until we fix the problems in the human heart, until we mend our broken families, until we grow a healthy culture, until we value the truly valuable, and until we defend the foundations of order and liberty for all, we will have no end to the troubles in our cities. Fixing our problems will take time and calm deliberations and careful considerations and much prayer. Radical demands for instantaneous satisfaction and pulling down inanimate objects will not accomplish what is required.
Time will tell if we can settle down to that hard and time-consuming work before it’s too late.
Gary L. Gregg is the host of the McConnell Center Podcast and author or editor of numerous books, including “Patriot Sage: George Washington and the American Political Tradition.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.