“If Republicans are serious about rejecting white supremacy,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement last week, “I call upon Speaker Ryan to join Democrats to remove the Confederate statues from the Capitol immediately.”
The 10 statues include Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Confederate States of America president Jefferson Davis, and vice president Alexander Hamilton Stephens. As the Washington Post noted, the Robert E. Lee statue dates from 1909 and the others arrived during the following 20 years, with Jefferson Davis and Confederate colonel James George joining their fellow rebels in 1931.
Southern Democrats played a major role in placement of these statues, which never drew protests from prominent Democrats such as Sen. Robert Byrd, a former Ku Klucker who became a mentor to Hillary Clinton. Tilting at statues is a new cause for contemporary Democrats, but California got something of a head start.
In 2014, governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that outlawed the sale or display of the Confederate flag on state property. In 2015, state senator Steve Glazer, Orinda Democrat, authored a bill to remove the names of Confederate political leaders and senior military officers from public schools, buildings, parks, roads and so forth.
As it turned out, Glazer’s bill would affect only two southern California schools. For Ben Boychuk, it amounted to “an attack on history itself,” but the conservative writer wondered why Glazer was not more inclusive.
For example, Henry Haight, California’s 10th governor, “was an unabashed racist and opponent of the post-Civil War reconstruction.” Even so, Haight has a school named after him and San Francisco’s Haight Street is named for the 10th governor and/or his banker uncle.
California’s purge-happy Democrats can also find fertile ground in Spanish colonialism, and on that theme the timing is good.
The same day South Carolina lowered the Confederate battle flag, Pope Francis apologized for “many serious sins against the native peoples,” of the Americas committed during European colonization. The Pope has a strong case for repentance because Spanish colonialism was built on enslavement of the native peoples they conquered.
Under the encomienda system, native peoples were part of the land grants the conquistadores gave to Spanish settlers. The native peoples were required to work for the encomenderos, who considered them property. The white Spanish imperialists were also unabashed racists who exploited slaves from western Africa for mining and agriculture.
The Spanish imperialists regarded all native peoples as heathen savages and sought to convert them to Roman Catholicism by any means necessary. The 1513 El Requerimiento drafted for King Ferdinand declares that the Pope rules all people. So convert or else the Spanish, with the help of God, will use force against you, “declaring war” by all possible means, and “enslave your persons, wives, and sons,” as the King sees fit.
Not much room there for negotiation, diversity, or democracy. And no separation of church and state.
California’s chain of religious missions is the direct legacy of Spanish colonialism. So are city names such as San Diego, Santa Ana, Santa Barbara and many others. Father Juan Crespi came up with El Rio de Nuestra Señora la Reyna de Los Angeles de Porciúncula, more commonly known as Los Angeles.
By the standards of the historical purge crew, these names are long overdue for fundamental change. Los Angeles could become Mickey Mouse City and San Diego the Navy Base City. San Francisco could opt for Sanctuary City and the state capital of Sacramento could be Politicianburg.
The change could start with Franciscan Father Junípero Serra, still hailed as the “founder of California.” The Golden State boasts scores of Serra statues, including one erected in 1976 at a rest stop on Interstate 280, also known as the Junípero Serra Freeway.
Those statues recall a legacy of imperialism, racism and slavery, and by the standards of Pelosi’s crew they should all come down. On the other hand, the statue of Harry Lundeberg should be left standing outside the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific in San Francisco.
Lundeberg was an “uncompromising foe of communism in labor” who battled it out with the Communist Party USA and Soviet agent Harry Bridges. One of Bridges’ biggest fans, as it turns out, is Nancy Pelosi.
In 2001, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, Pelosi wrote in the Congressional Record: “Harry Bridges was arguably the most significant labor leader of the twentieth century,” a man “beloved by the workers of this nation, and recognized as one of the most important labor leaders in the world.”
For the San Francisco Democrat, Bridges’ International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union was “the most progressive union of the time.” The House Minority Leader never had second thoughts about celebrating her “favorite Stalinist,” as Joshua Muravchik put it. The Democrats have no problem with that, and faithfully keep Pelosi, 77, in a leadership role.
Robert E. Lee, meanwhile, commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant on April 8, 1965, and died on October 12, 1870. Lee also shows up in “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” by The Band. Maybe Nancy Pelosi’s Democrat purge squad will target that tune, even the version by Joan Baez.