As you may know, some students at Princeton University are requesting – demanding! – that Woodrow Wilson's name be obliterated from campus buildings. Not only did Wilson graduate from Princeton, he was president of the school, governor of New Jersey and an impeccably 'progressive' president of the United States. So what's the beef?
Well, our 28th president was a dyed-in-the-wool racist who re-segregated the federal bureaucracy. His retrograde racial views have long been known to anyone who has taken the time to read about Wilson, and this latest campus dustup raises a question: Why stop with Woodrow Wilson?
The town of Princeton and the university itself are named after William III, Prince of Orange, whose family was deeply involved in the slave trade. Princeton has streets and buildings honoring native son Paul Robeson, the singer, athlete, actor, and unapologetic Stalinist. Robeson, undeniably a remarkable and talented man, clung to his affection for communism and the USSR even after being told that the Soviets were persecuting Jews. Perhaps his name should be vanished, Soviet-style, from the town square.
To the north in Connecticut, Wesleyan University got its name from John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church. A couple of centuries before San Bernardino, Paris, ISIS, and all the other Islamic-related mayhem, Wesley described Muslims as 'destroyers of human kind.' So shouldn't the trustees consider re-naming their ultra-liberal university?
Not to be outdone, Winston Churchill, whose name adorns numerous American schools, wrote that 'no stronger retrograde force exists in the world' than Islam. And let's not overlook President John Quincy Adams, who warned that the Koran advises 'perpetual war' against infidels. Yes, JQA was an Islamophobe, but don't mention it to the good folks of Quincy, Massachusetts.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a saint in the church of liberalism, had some serious issues with homosexuality. As secretary of the navy, FDR went on a crusade to find and weed out 'sexual perversion' in the Navy. The Great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln opined that the white race must always retain 'the superior position.' Think of all those 'Lincoln Elementary Schools' and "Roosevelt High Schools' across the USA and the big payday in store for stone masons.
In West Virginia, pretty much everything not nailed down is named after long-serving Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, whose career included a stint as Exalted Cyclops in the local Ku Klux Klan chapter. If there are calls to have his name sandblasted from all those edifices, we have not heard them.
Most towns, probably yours included, have streets named after slaveholders Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. Yes, a stroll on Madison Avenue in New York City may require a 'trigger warning' for some of today's more delicate college students.
The point of all this is not to say that everything should be renamed, but rather that nothing should be renamed. Unless, that is, some horrible new disclosure comes to light. Anyone with a pulse and curiosity could have known that Woodrow Wilson was a stone-cold racist, that Honest Abe honestly felt blacks were lesser beings, and that Churchill loathed Islam.
These were men of their times expressing views that were common then, but which we now consider repugnant. They should be judged by the standards of the eras in which they lived, not by our notions of what is acceptable. Demonizing FDR for his views of homosexuality makes as much sense as criticizing his fondness for cigarettes.
However, if we suddenly discover that Wilson was, say, a pedophile, or that Lincoln was a serial killer in his spare time, a re-examination will be in order. Short of that, how about we just leave things the way they are? Sorry to all you brick layers out there.
As an aside, back in 1964 Shirley Ellis had a runaway hit with 'The Name Game.' If you're of a certain age, you can still recite her unique lyrics – 'Lincoln, Lincoln, bo Bincoln, Bonanana fanna fo Fincoln.' It was a light song infused with fun and joy.
But today's Name Game is one of bitterness, usually played by left-wingers who revel in feeling 'oppressed.' And if they really want to start down the slippery slope of erasing past leaders from public streets and buildings, why not go all the way? Out with Washington and Lincoln and Roosevelt, down with Churchill and Wilson and Madison. Let the re-naming begin!