Progressives may have defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 election, but it is apparent that Trump’s defeat has done nothing to banish the demons tormenting them. Proof of that comes from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where students are struggling to banish a rock for the sin of racism.
The offending hunk of igneous ore is the Chamberlin Rock, which rests atop the university’s Observatory Hill. The 70-ton boulder arrived in Wisconsin (‘gentrified’ it, if you will) sometime during the last Ice Age, where a (racist?) glacier deposited it on the site of today’s university. In 1925 it was dug up and placed on display as an artifact of the state’s geological history.
And with that, the rock’s fate was sealed. It did the worst thing you can possibly do in 2020: exist in the past. You see, it turns out that in the year the rock was dug up, a common slang term for big rocks incorporated an even more common racial epithet. And woefully, a contemporary newspaper at the time dared to use the word. School historians say this seems to be the only time the word was ever used in print, and even as a spoken word it died out during the Eisenhower administration. But such temporal trifles are irrelevant. Students at Wisconsin want the rock gone, as a ‘painful reminder of the history of racism on campus’.
And the school seems happy to oblige. Per the Wisconsin State Journal, U-Wisconsin’s public history project director says eliminating the rock will let the school ‘engage in complex conversations’, like how looking at a rock makes some people feel bad.
But much work remains to be done. It is unclear what should be done with the hate rock once it is yanked off Observatory Hill. Perhaps it could be placed on Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail. But doubtless in that case it would become a pilgrimage site for geology enthusiasts, making it little different from Confederate monuments at national cemeteries. Others have proposed burying the rock back where it was found. Still others say even that would be too little. Much as executed Nazi leaders had their ashes scattered to prevent their graves from becoming shrines, some want the Stone of Sin to be smashed apart so its pieces may be scattered to the four winds.
Even to get that far, though, other priesthoods must be consulted. It turns out Observatory Hill is an American Indian burial site, so tribal leaders must give their approval before the rock can be removed. An archaeologist must also be on hand to ensure that Wisconsin’s cultural history is erased without erasing the state’s cultural history.
A friend of Cockburn’s remarked that this could be a grand lark. Perhaps the students at Wisconsin are playing a prank, and seeing how ridiculous their demands can get before school administrators conceive of a reaction other than wretched obsequiousness. After all, the same list of demands calling for the rock’s removal also called for the removal of a statue of Abraham Lincoln, on the grounds that Lincoln is a symbol of white supremacy.