We were pleased to co-host a special lecture in Richmond on February 24, 2023, alongside our friends at Common Sense Society, featuring the British intellectual and well-known author Douglas Murray. Murray is an associate editor of The Spectator and the bestselling author of numerous books, including The Madness of Crowds and The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam.
Known for his incisive wit and sharp commentary, Murray’s talk on “uncanceling history” addressed the current trend (popular in many intellectual circles) to thoughtlessly condemn so much of Western history without pausing to appreciate its beauty and major contributions to world culture and flourishing.
What did we discuss?
Western history is increasingly under attack. Why do figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill continue to face such intense opposition? There are serious consequences to historical vandalism, and it’s terrifying to think how far our society is willing to go on in this destructive streak.
Murray showed that many of the people eagerly tearing down statues and attacking our past often make inflammatory claims that they are unable or unwilling to defend in public, simply accusing their opponents of bigotry. These claims include that capitalism is connected to slavery, or that race relations have not improved at all in America over the past several decades—which Murray considered to be a patently absurd claim.
Our ancestors took great risks to give us the legacy we enjoy today in the United States, and to the critics who insist this a fundamentally and irredeemably terrible country, we must ask, as Douglas Murray did: compared to what, and compared to where?
What did we conclude?
The outlook of "presentism"—judging the past by the standards of the present—is incorrect and shortsighted, and can directly lead to the historical vandalism that has ruined some of our most significant monuments. If we are to live together in a society that values free speech, we must be able to debate our past openly instead of shutting down those with whom we disagree.
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