There is a powerful scene in the 1994 movie Disclosure, about sexual harassment in the workplace, which ably captures the zeitgeist behind the wave of historic monument destruction we are witnessing around the country by ignorant young nihilists today. In the movie, Michael Douglas plays a Silicon Valley tech executive who is being sexually harassed by an aggressive female colleague played by Demi Moore. When he spurns her affections, Moore's seductress launches a corporate jihad against Douglas' hapless character to try to destroy the man, his reputation and his soon-to-be fortune that will result from his firm's forthcoming IPO.
In the course of the story, Douglas' wife becomes suspicious of her husband's behavior. She is disbelieving when he insists that he is not pursuing his beautiful colleague, Moore, but is in fact the target of the female executive's own aggressive sexual advances. In explaining how he has become the subject of corporate sabotage tactics worthy of Machiavelli by his spurned colleague, Douglas delivers a tour de force explication to his wife that sexual harassment is not fundamentally about sex. It is about power. His amorous colleague was just using sex as a vehicle for dominating him and putting him in his place.
This less obvious motivation seems analogous to what is happening to the monuments of America’s most venerated figures. The estimable historian and observer of human affairs, Victor Davis Hanson, provided a superb assessment to Tucker Carlson of the motivations behind those who would destroy statues that depict pivotal figures in our nation's history. As Hanson explains, the destruction of these monuments is not fundamentally about race or white supremacy. That is merely the excuse. The purpose of the destruction of these monuments is humiliation and control of our society by a vicious, ahistorical minority that seeks to impose its will on the whole of our culture by intimidation.
The targets of this tragic and wanton destruction would almost be laughable, were it not for its pointlessness, when viewed in historical context. In Boston, "protesters" (to use the most generous term for thugs) vandalized the Shaw Memorial which is a monument to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment - the first all-volunteer black regiment of the Union Army, which formed shortly after Republican President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. So as part of a protest over the death of a black man, George Floyd, by a brutal police officer, protesters defaced a monument celebrating volunteer black soldiers who fought to defeat the Democratic Party-led South and put an end to American slavery. How absurd.
And then there was the attack on the monument to the North's greatest general in the aforementioned struggle to defeat the Democrat-led South: Ulysses S. Grant. An excellent three-part documentary recently aired on the History Channel featuring general, then president, Grant, and is worth the time to watch. Rather than the slave-owning racist that those who destroyed his monument apparently believed him to be, Grant was a strident abolitionist.
He had married into a wealthy, slave-owning family, and as a wedding "gift," had been given a slave by his father-in-law. But Grant's own father had been an ardent abolitionist and had instilled those same sentiments in his son. In the brief time that Ulysses owned the slave, William Jones, Grant was criticized for working in the fields alongside William, which was just “not done” by a white slaveowner.
Then Grant took the highly unusual step in his locale and in his time of taking his slave to the local courthouse and having him officially liberated, with no recompense to Grant. Grant was a poor farmer at the time, and had he sold that slave, could have netted a handsome sum. Grant was a principled man.
Later of course, Grant, a West Point graduate and Mexican-American War veteran who had resigned his commission after years of service, would re-enter the Army following the South's secession, and led Union forces to defeat the Confederacy, thereby playing a leading role in ending the institution of slavery. But, today, the howling mob pulls down his statue in the pursuit of some warped understanding of “racial justice.” And clearly possessing no understanding of history.
The topic of sexual harassment and assault, and its underlying psychological motivations, has been widely discussed since the rise of the #MeToo movement. Where is the #MeToo movement now? Ever since Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, was himself credibly accused by former aide, Tara Reade, of sexual assault, it seems that #MeToo has gone the way of Michelle Obama’s #BringBackOurGirls – that oh-so-distant social media plea for the rescue of Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014. Remember that?
Will the destruction of monuments, the banishment of American pop culture icons like the Aunt Jemimah figure on syrup bottles, and the kneeling of racially guilt-laden whites before Black Lives Matter activists be as fleeting as #MeToo and Michelle Obama’s tweets?
Eventually, movements like these burn themselves out, but the animating impulse to control others through thuggery, whether in the form of sexual harassment in the workplace or ripping down statues, is part of the human condition. The question becomes: Why do we tolerate the one but not the other?
Greater awareness of and curbs on sexual harassment is all to the good, but if we as a society respond to that form of intimidation by enacting measures to counter it, why do we stand by helplessly as another form of intimidation, the destruction of our history, takes place?
Perhaps it’s time for #StopDestroyingOurHistory.
William F. Marshall has been an intelligence analyst and investigator in the government, private, and non-profit sectors for more than 30 years. He is a senior investigator for Judicial Watch, Inc., and a contributor to Townhall, American Thinker, and The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter at @BillMarshallDC1. (The views expressed are the author’s alone, and not necessarily those of Judicial Watch.)