As the midpoint of 2020 approaches, America’s landscape has changed dramatically.
In the midst of a global pandemic, American cities burn, riots fill streets across the country, statues of historical figures are coming down and talks to rename military bases are continuing to take up airtime. Corporations kowtow to the demands of angry social media users, brand mascots disappear almost overnight and the demands of activist groups across the country increasingly appear as if they were written by 20th Century Marxists.
In the personal lives of individuals, comments made on the internet are now made with the care one takes to walk on eggshells, all thanks to a simple word: doxxing. Merely offending the wrong person can result in the “offender” having his employer contacted and his address leaked to the world, putting his livelihood and life at risk.
History has increasingly taken a revisionist turn, with everyone from the founder of Coca Cola to the Founding Fathers suddenly being denounced by sociologists, politicians and young activists for merely existing in a historical time period viewed through the lens of the present. Statues -ranging from Civil War Confederate generals to Union President Abraham Lincoln- are being defaced, defiled and demolished in the name of some untold “new era.”
However shocking all this may seem, there isn’t anything novel about it or far-fetched. In fact, while it may seem like fiction out of Orwell’s 1984, it also seems awfully familiar to a very real time, strategy and era that took place just over half a century ago.
Enter the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of the Chinese Communist Party, a ten-year campaign that in many ways was carried out in a strikingly similar manner to today- to preserve the desired future by washing away all remnants of the past.
The Cultural Revolution’s success depended on a few factors, including a radicalized youth, the justification of violence against certain segments of society and an adherence of the “Four Olds:” the idea that old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas must be destroyed in order to preserve the preferred ideology (in this case, Chinese-style Communism, known as Maoism) for future generations.
During the Cultural Revolution, the Four Olds concept caused untold damage to China’s rich history, culture and heritage, ranging from the renaming of roads, destruction of statues and razing of ancient temples. It even went so far as to result in the remains of ancient Ming Dynasty Emperors and Empresses being dragged from their tombs, denounced and burned by members of the Red Guards, a fanatical student-led paramilitary organization under Chairman Mao Zedong that espoused far-left ideals.
By the end of the Cultural Revolution, much of China’s preserved ancient history was erased, 30 million Chinese perished, and the country was put on what many believe to be an irreversible path of increasing authoritarianism that continues today.
So what does the Cultural Revolution have to do with police-brutality protests, the relabeling of products (such as Aunt Jemima pancakes or Land O’ Lakes butter), the renaming of military bases and/or the tearing down of statues?
To (somewhat ironically) quote 18th Century German Philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, “The only thing we learn from history that we do not learn from history.”
During the Cultural Revolution, the eradication of the Four Olds often meant removing aspects of history entirely, but also depended on the removal of certain truths within history in order to further the goals of the CCP.
While the tragedies that surrounds recent protests are no doubt tragic, the sudden urge to remove statues, change installation names rewrite history and and remove aspects of historical facts, figures and other matters on everything from butter to band names (with Lady Antebellum being a recent case) seems oddly disconnected and eerily familiar.
For example, look at the removal of the Native American woman from the Land O’ Lakes line of butter and dairy products. On the surface, it could be argued that the image of a Native American on butter could be considered offensive to some, not unlike the Washington Redskins logo. US lawmaker Ruth Buffalo (D-ND) even went so far as to claim that the maiden mascot went “hand-in-hand with human and sex trafficking of our women and girls … by depicting Native women as sex objects.”
But where did the mascot actually come from?
To start off, the female mascot has a name- Mia. The version of Mia that we know was the creation of Patrick DesJarlait, a Navy veteran of World War II and a member of the Ojibwe tribe.
At the time of DesJarlait’s work, the veteran was breaking racial barriers by establishing himself in a commercial art and advertising world that was predominantly white. In an op-ed in The Washington Post, DesJarlait’s son, Robert DesJarlait, claimed his father gravitated towards native art projects in order to maintain authenticity and a connection with his own culture.
“With the redesign, my father made Mia’s Native American connections more specific. He changed the beadwork designs on her dress by adding floral motifs that are common in Ojibwe art. He added two points of wooded shoreline to the lake that had often been depicted in the image’s background. It was a place any Red Lake tribal citizen would recognize as the Narrows, where Lower Red Lake and Upper Red Lake meet.”
Mia was left out of the younger Dejarlait’s own educational piece, “Rethinking Stereotypes,” for good reason.
“Mia simply didn’t fit the parameters of a stereotype.” he wrote. “Maybe that’s why many Native American women on social media have made it clear that they didn’t agree with those who viewed her as a romanticized and/or sexually objectified stereotype. Instead, Mia seems to have stirred a sense of remembrance and place, one that they found reassuring about their existence as Native American women.”
A slightly more controversial case, Aunt Jemima Pancakes and Syrup, has drawn recent attention from activists who believe the brand and it’s image are rooted in oppression, the mocking of African Americans and minstrel shows, which frequently featured “blackface.”
While the concept of “Aunt Jemima” was created less than half a decade after the American Civil War by businessman R.T. Davis (who yes, drew the inspiration from a minstrel show), the heart, soul, and character of Aunt Jemima was Nancy Green, a Kentucky native who was born a slave.
According to a US Army article, “Playing the role of ‘Aunt Jemima’ gave Green financial independence few African Americans and few women in general experienced at the time. She used her wealth as a means to empower her community. She was particularly active in her church, leading missionary trips, investing in anti-poverty programs for African Americans, and advocating for equal rights.”
From butter to pancakes and syrup, both cases reflect upon the ingenuity and worth ethic of American citizens willing to push the boundaries of then-modern society in order to better their own lives and the lives around them, all while pursuing worthwhile causes.
As for the trashing of statues? It seems no statues are off limits in America’s new Cultural Revolution.
In a stroke of irony, not only was the Lincoln Memorial damaged with paint in the District of Columbia, but a certain statue was also defaced- one that has poignant similarity to a doomed statue at the center of one of the biggest travesties in the history of democracy.
Defaced by rioters in early June of 2020, the Victims of Communism Memorial is dedicated “to the more than one hundred million victims of communism and to those who love liberty.”
It is also modeled after a statue of the “Goddess of Democracy” statue hastily erected by Chinese students protesting in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.
For those unfamiliar with history, those pro-democracy students were viciously gunned down by military forces, run down by armored vehicles, beaten, arrested, tortured and made an example of by the Chinese Communist Party- with many of the victims still unaccounted for. To this day, the death toll remains disputed, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand.
The statue in DC was defaced by what were believed to befar-left activists (who have a history of attacking the statue) almost 31 years to the day that the Tiananmen Square Massacre took place.
“Given that Antifa groups openly espouse Marxist ideology and have vandalized our memorial before, it’s not surprising that the group would deface it and dishonor the memory of more than 100 million dead again,” Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation Executive Director Marion Smith said in a statement to the Daily Caller in early June.
From academics (who survived life under a Communist regime) departing tenured positions at Ivy League schools due to increasing reminders of the old way of life to radicalized students demanding the toppling of a statue of Thomas Jefferson, the “New Red Guard” of sorts has been in position well before the somewhat cataclysmic year of 2020 came to be. As many pounce upon the catalyst of civil unrest with agendas of their own, the question remains: Is this America’s “Cultural Revolution,” and if so, how can it be stopped?
For now, there can be no certainty- as “history is written by the victor.”
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