History and Heroes
There is a famous joke about a Russian artist commissioned by Stalin to paint a picture of Lenin in Warsaw to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Soviet occupation of Poland. When the artist requested a photograph of Lenin in the Polish capital, Stalin replied that, actually, Lenin had never been to Warsaw -- actually, the Bolshevik leader had never left Russia.
So, on the 10th anniversary, the Communist dignitaries all gathered in Stalin’s private study and, after removing the sheet covering the painting, there was a unanimous gasp: the painting portrayed Stalin in bed with Lenin’s wife. Stalin, absolutely shocked by the insubordination of the artist, shouts, “What is this? This is not of what I asked you to paint! Where is Lenin?!” To which the artist coolly responds, “Why, Lenin is in Warsaw, of course.”
The fact is, only two good things ever came out of Communist Russia: jokes and vodka. Everything else I like to consider part of my “List of Stupid, Horrible, Atrocious Things that the Soviets Did to Their Own People and Others.” This list includes such things as Chernobyl, the “Yugo,” and, most likely even making the Top Five List, is none other than the Ruskies’ attempt at totally destroying the objective past, and replacing it with a communist-sensitive one. Much like Big Brother in Orwell’s prophetic 1984, Stalin et al. were known to use the past not as a paradigm for analyzing the present, but as a tool for controlling all of their comrades. In Tuesday’s edition of The Tech, Aimee Smith, consciously or not, commits the exact same crime [“Profiles in Courage”].
Ms. Smith, who speaks as if it is she that is being oppressed, strips the New York City firefighters of their hero status for being guilty of the crime of racism. Racist? When I watched the CBS special on the FDNY station that had Frenchmen filming the September 11 tragedy as it unfolded, I could have sworn there was not one White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant among the firefighters. Most, of course, were Irish-Americans, but there was a liberal sprinkling of Hispanics and Blacks among the men as well. So why was the unflappable Ms. Smith accusing these heroic civil servants of racism? Because, she argues, they protested a racially diverse statue commemorating the firefighters that lost their lives on 9/11. Seems fair enough to me; I mean, brave firemen of every different color and creed died on the horrible day, so why shouldn’t the memorial statute reflect that? But there is a catch.
This memorial statue is to be based on none other than the most powerful photograph to be taken in recent memory: the vision of three firefighters raising the American flag at Ground Zero, displaying the contrast of our steadfast hold to the values of democracy, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness against those of the others in the world who would like to destroy these ideals. The fact is, the artist commissioned with designing this monument, staying true to his Post-Modern silliness, decided that taking a creative license with the identity -- nay, the racial identity -- of two of the white, Irish-American firemen, and change one to a Black fireman, the other into a Hispanic one.
This racial metamorphosis conjures a slippery slope in logic: if it is necessary to represent the Black and Hispanic firemen, it is also necessary to represent the Muslim, Jewish, Indian, South African, Venezuelan, and Antarctican firemen and firewomen who might have died on 9/11. Furthermore, it disregards and annihilates the concept of reality and historical fact, not unlike the acts of Communist Russia and other totalitarian regimes.
Three Caucasian firemen did, in fact, take the initiative to raise Old Glory at the site of the terrorist attack, and a photographer was there to capture that amazingly powerful moment. What if, however, it was found out that that event did not occur; that, in fact, the picture we all saw in the media was actually a re-enactment? 0To most people, that picture would be infinitely less meaningful. Ms. Smith, however, defends the change of the statue, saying that event of the men raising the flag is, “to serve as a symbol for the nation.” Personally, I vote Aimee Smith to be the person who has to inform the two firefighters, who probably lost many comrades when the buildings collapsed, that they are now being lost from history for the sake of political correctness.
Michael Star is a member of the Class of 2006.