Wednesday

November 22nd, 2017

Insight

The summer the nation went mad

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published July 14, 2015

  The summer the nation went mad

We'll remember this as the summer the nation went mad. Lynch mobs are usually brought to the boil by a heinous event, encouraged by heat, humidity and harangue. There was a heinous event, now all but forgotten, but this is hardly a long, hot summer. There's a drought in Southern California but June and July have been moderate and pleasant, with considerable rain, nearly everywhere else. Nevertheless, a lynch mob with tar, feathers, rails and ropes has been on the scout for somebody to harass, hurt or hang.

Mobs are usually raised from the ranks of the poor, the wretched and the hangers-on from the refuse of the shore, as in Emma Lazerus' famous poem at the Statue of Liberty. But not this time. The usual masters of successful rabble-rousing, Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, have taken a holiday. We can't blame them. The usual shouters on all sides have been strangely quiet.

This time the leaders are the "respectables," as the elites imagine themselves: know-it-all academics, the usual pundits looking for attention, rectors and reverends and other divines out to get a few lines in the public prints, governors, senators, mayors and assorted politicians in pursuit of voters with unrequited grievances.

So far the mob hasn't employed the rope, so far as we know, perhaps because the respectables don't know how to tie an effective noose, and have contented themselves with digging up old soldiers in the South, changing street names, razing ancient statuary, throwing out politically incorrect stained glass at the cathedral in Washington that purports to represent the nation, all to eliminate the last traces of good men and true honored by the men and women of their generation.

The New York Times even tried to make a scandal of a new novel - a novel! - that draws a literary hero as an accurate representative of his times and place, as if the reviewer and her editors could not discern the difference between art and reality, fact or fiction.

No one can tell exactly what set off the mob. Some put the spark at the Emanuel Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where 9 devout Christians of the African persuasion were mercilessly murdered by an apprentice barbarian with a gun. Photographs of him posing with Confederate and American flags, as if he understood any better than the respectables what those flags represent, put the mob in a frenzy of frothing-at-the-mouth anger. Suddenly there was breaking news from 1865, and the newspapers, television networks and everybody with a laptop were all over it. This was the revenge the Radical Republicans failed to exact at the end of a civil war that had morally and physically exhausted the people who fought it.

But the nine slain Christians have been all forgotten in the frenzy over Confederate relics and souvenirs. There are the inevitable demands that everything connected, even in demented minds, with the verboten past must be excised, expunged and forgotten. Memorials to founding fathers who owned slaves, including Washington, Madison and Jefferson among early presidents, are suddenly politically incorrect, and consideration must be given to doing "something" about them. A mob can always figure out "something." Even the Stars and Stripes, which flew over undisturbed American slavery for nearly a century, might be altered to reflect "the real America," perhaps with the rainbow which Barack Obama painted the White House.

The mob hysteria inevitably embraces the current presidential campaign, which has only 15 months to run. The current campaign must be concluded by November next year to make room for the beginning of the campaign of 2020, when Hillary is expected to make her third race as the inevitable president, perhaps with Chelsea as her running mate. The Clintons think big.

Donald Trump sets every respectable Republican's hair on fire, makes his teeth itch and his hands reach for the smelling salts. Nearly all the 28 Republican presidential candidates, or whatever the current number is this morning, elbowing each other aside to get out of the old mob to get into the new one, are eager to throw a rock at the Donald. Buffoon or not, the Donald has got the number of the respectables, who come to Washington to do good and stay as long as they can do well.

The Republicans always talk a good game but rarely play one, satisfied after they get to Washington to follow the example of the Democrats they replace, to guard the inventory of their perks, surrounded by aides and go-fers to speak for them, listen for them and when necessary go to the toilet for them. All hat, as the Texans say, and no cattle.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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