Magazine article Insight on the News

Politically Correct Memorials Are Figures of Speciousness

Magazine article Insight on the News

Politically Correct Memorials Are Figures of Speciousness

Article excerpt

The "neo-Puritans" is how the London Economist once described the zealots who have become a cultural force in this country. Their scope of prescribed righteousness extends across the spectrum of behavior: speech and manners, dietary and drinking habits and, not least, politics and culture.

We've always been rather odd in this country and taken pride in it. Absolutisms of more or less illogic spring up in rabid bloom and then, in time, fade. Prohibition typified this weed.

Most Americans most of the time simply want to be left alone. They won't interfere with partisans of whatever ideological fad or moral flavor so long as those partisans don't infringe on their own particularities. We've traditionally agreed pretty much with British actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell: She didn't care what people did, she said, so long as they didn't do it in the street and frighten the horses.

Something has changed, though. The "neo-Puritans" are ascendant. We now bend to nearly any politico-moral wind, no matter how lunatic.

Who, for instance, would disagree that barriers to the physically disabled be minimized? But the interest-group campaign that blossomed in the Americans with Disabilities Act mandated that no bumps were to be permitted. Absurd, of course, and it has kept the lawyers for the disabled industry busy. The rest of us are acquiescent.

Then there's the current frenzy (at least along the Potomac) about the memorial in Washington to Franklin Delano Roosevelt - either the savior of democratic capitalism or the procurator of the American welfare state, depending on one's political posture. Roosevelt let it be known that he wanted no memorial beyond a desk-size chunk of stone, which is in place at the National Archives.

Well, Washington being Washington, Congress 40 years ago created a memorial commission. Plan after grandiose plan was drawn up and rejected for this reason or that. The commission finally came up with what would pass muster (it supposed) as an acceptable design. It took nimble footwork given the prevalent zealotries.

The commission had to agree that there would be no portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt in her customary fur piece - offensive to the bird-and-bunny platoon. There could be no portrayal of FDR with his jaunty cigarette-and-holder trademark - the image of the evil drug would corrupt the young. …

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