When South Vietnam was overrun, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. When the Bolsheviks triumphed in Russia, St Petersburg, Tsaritsyn and Nizhny Novgorod became Leningrad, Stalingrad and Gorky.
It’s a common in history: lose a war, lose a name. In the summer of 2020, half of America has lost a culture war. And the torrent of new names is coming.
On Tuesday, a special Washington DC commission convened by Mayor Muriel Bowser released a toponymy report on the of the nation’s capital. The report’s findings are dire. It turns out that DC is absolutely full of locations honoring people that have been canceled.
Most troublingly, there are gigantic national monuments right in the middle of the city. You may have thought the Washington Monument was a grand tribute to the brave founder of the United States. But it turns out it’s merely a monument to a hateful bigot, and the Bowser commission proposes that the federal government ‘remove, rename or contextualize’ the 555-foot, 44,000-ton monument if at all possible.
The initial version of the document proposed the same treatment, not only for the Jefferson Memorial, but also the George Mason Memorial (honoring the Bill of Rights). Even a statue of Ben Franklin near the White House is targeted. Franklin may have been one of America’s first abolitionists, but it will not spare him from abolition. (A revised version, one page shorter, was published a few hours later, with the section on federal monuments removed.)
But to the commission’s credit, they did not stop with the big-ticket items. In their quest to abolish the past, every school, park, and playground was interrogated, and most were found lacking.
‘The Working Group’s research revealed that more than 70 percent of assets named in the District of Columbia are named for white men, many of whom were not District residents.’
Not District residents! Sacre bleu! No wonder George Washington is on his way out. But even if a person did live in the District, that is no defense. The commission has spent months seeking out so-called ‘disqualifying histories’, and decided that people should have honors revoked not only for participating in slavery but also if they ‘committed a violation of the DC Human Rights Act, in whole or part, including discrimination against protected traits such as age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and natural origin?’
Cockburn wonders if all this was thought out. Who would survive such a test? Anybody who died before 2010 had likely never even heard of gender identity. Can we really assume that Martin Luther King never misgendered anyone? That Abraham Lincoln asked for everyone’s preferred pronouns before addressing them?
Some of the targeted names are predictable. Washington may be the city of presidents, but in 2020 America, at least three-quarters of presidents are basically Nazis and would be punched at an antifa protest. Facilities named for Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Zachary Taylor, John Tyler and Woodrow Wilson are all on the commission’s chopping block. But Bowser’s inquisition is bold. They are not satisfied with taking presidential scalps. Under the rule of wokeness, every man shall be judged according to his worst sins, not his finest accomplishments. And so Alexander Graham Bell, known to most Americans for inventing the telephone, is now proscribed, for also supporting eugenics. William Winston Seaton was mayor of DC for a decade, a founder of the historic St John’s Episcopal Church (the one that was trashed in largely peaceful protests in May). He freed his slaves, but because he spent too long on the wrong side of the national slavery question, his memory must be consigned to oblivion. The same goes for Strong John Thomson. He might deserve some honor for founding some of the district’s earliest public schools, but alas, he was a white male (the worst kind!) and lived in the Jim Crow era, so he too will be removed. And so forth.
Cockburn feels there is an exceptionally large elephant in the room throughout all of this. Mayor Bowser’s illustrious committee has spent many hours pouring over whether Matthew Gault Emery or Guy Mason deserve playgrounds named after them, while missing the larger fact that these facilities are in the city of Washington in the District of Columbia. When President Trump asked rhetorically whether George Washington was next in 2017, he was sneered at. Now look at where we are. By 2025 Cockburn could be blogging from the city of Floyd in the District of BLMbia, and nobody will be laughing then.