The other day, MSNBC host Chris Hayes suggested conservatism has become about victimhood and grievance. I think that is laughably not true and that grievance thrives in liberal ideology that pushes identity politics and speaks in the language of privilege. The leftwing chatter about “privilege” is founded on victimhood and grievance. Conservatives tend not to go there. The entire “social justice warrior” schtick on the left is about victimization and grievance and Hayes is engaging in projection.
One area where a lot of conservatives are tending to go, however, is overreaction to things the left is doing. Instead of considering the action on the merits, the immediately reaction is it is terrible. To be fair, in many cases that is justified. But occasionally an action started by the left winds up not being terrible, but is something people can unite behind.
A case in point is the destruction of the Liberty Monument in New Orleans. There has long been an inert, bipartisan effort to tear it down, but it gained steam in the last few years of social justice warrior nonsense. The Mayor of New Orleans has targeted a series of civil war monuments to Robert E. Lee and others that I think the city would be wise to preserve. But there is wide spread consensus in New Orleans to tear down the Liberty Monument.
As I explained here, the monument celebrates an attempted violent coup by the Democratic Party in Louisiana in the post-civil war South. An actual paramilitary unit funded by a political party tried to oust a bi-racial, lawfully elected government. They were unsuccessful, but after Reconstruction they came to power and rewrote history to claim the monument was about taking back government from usurpers. Who usurped power? Well, in their mind, black voters who they still believed should have no rights.
Thankfully, the reaction against this monument has mostly been on the fringe. But there are some prominent conservative, and not just alt-right, voices who are upset about the monument removal. The entirety of their argument is that if the left wants it, it must be bad.
Lots of what the left wants is bad, but I think conservatives should avoid overreacting or even reacting without all the facts. Otherwise, we will fall into victimhood and grievance like we are already being accused.
I think much of confederate history should be preserved. It serves as a reminder of a part of our history and many of the famous Southern generals helped stitch the nation back together after it was over. We should be willing to highlight those efforts at unity after national trauma.
But let’s not defend the Liberty Monument just to be contrarian against the left. It was erected to celebrate, not commemorate, a violent effort to overthrow democracy by a group of Democrats.