Across the West, values and traditions that shaped its civilization are being revised and dismantled – literally, if they are a Confederate statue. While nominally conservative, in such a climate these five moves are rebellions.
Crosses on Bavarian buildings
"The cross is a fundamental symbol of our Bavarian identity and way of life," said Markus Soder, Bavaria’s leader, when introducing a law all government buildings must be adorned with a prominent version of a crucifix, which come into force on Friday.
READ MORE: Bavaria orders Christian crosses to be displayed on govt buildings
Almost more provocatively, Soder justified the decision not in religious terms, but cultural ones, saying the cross was associated with “elemental values such as charity, human dignity and tolerance."
Markus Soder, Bavarian State Premier, hangs a cross in the entrance area of the Bavarian State Chancellery. / AFP
The prosperous Catholic state has been an unashamed bulwark against multi-culturalism generally, and the recent migration influx specifically, and was predictably subjected to a firestorm of criticism for bringing in division and political grandstanding, though it can be argued that it is a pointed answer to exactly those things.
Putting Churchill on the mantelpiece
Each ideology needs its historical heroes and Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill are patron saints to two differing political movements in the US (where the latter is a more untarnished figure than he ever was in his homeland).
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Whether or not Barack Obama realized the political significance of removing Churchill’s bust from the Oval Office (in his words, to avoid it looking “cluttered”) Donald Trump certainly did. Returning the bust - actually one version of two similar sculptures - to its place as soon as he arrived in January 2017, came off as both traditionalist and iconoclastic, and set the tone for the presidency. The MLK bust also remains, along with that of Abraham Lincoln, whose reputation remains (so far) safe from barrages on either side of the ideological divide.
Academy saves French from ‘deadly danger’
What do you call a mixed group of male and female thespians? Normally, actors. But not if you are a proponent of France’s “inclusive writing” reform. Then you would have to designate them as act·ors·tresses, including all the groups present with a punctuation sign known as a middot, that sophisticated Gallic substitute for a slash. Now, as opposed to English, where only a few words are gendered, but most are not (think waiter-waitress, but not pilot-pilotess) there are thousands of such nouns in France.
A French feminist protest in Paris in November 2017. / Reuters
While the reform started as a niche academic fad pushed forward by obscure activist collectives – “wimmin” in English from the 1970s is a comparison point – it had recently begun to filter through to children’s textbooks and official communication.Well, until last autumn, when the Académie Française, an official 40-strong body that oversees the French language, published the following statement.
“Faced with the aberration of ‘inclusive writing’, the French language finds itself in mortal danger,” it wrote in a statement. “We find it hard to identify the desired objective and how to overcome the practical obstacles of writing and reading – both visually and out loud – and pronunciation. This will increase the burden for teachers and even more so for readers.”
Soon after, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe sent an official note saying that such language would be banned from government publications.
Let them kneel in the changing room
Miami Dolphins kneeling in protest during an NFL game in London last year. / Reuters
Though it may have been motivated by profit-seeking as much as principles, the recent decision to end the sit-down protests against the national anthem that overwhelmed NFL discourse in the past two years by making the dissenters stay out of the view of cameras or face fines was bold (or tone-deaf to its critics).
READ MORE: NFL teams to be fined if players kneel during anthem
It is less obvious that it will stem dissent, rather than set off another escalation in a phenomenon that may have eventually wilted on its own, by offering the protesters a new rule they can defy, drawing media attention to their cause. There has also been a fresh call to boycott the NFL, this time from those siding with kneeling players, but the owners at least no longer feel humiliated by their own employees, and battle lines have been drawn.
Keeping Columbus afloat
A California indigenous protest against Columbus Day. / Reuters
What unites Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles? They are some of dozens of large urban settlements and several states (Minnesota among them) that have in the last four years replaced the 230-year-old Columbus Day celebration, a federal holiday since the 1930s, with Indigenous Peoples' Day, a commemoration of the “genocide” of the native people by European invaders, first marked in 1992.
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In most cases, neither the proponents nor the critics of the change truly care about Christopher Columbus’ actions and attitudes as Governor of the Indies, insofar as they are knowable from the limited surviving sources, and whether they make him a great person, particularly by the standards of his era. Or the morality, relative or otherwise, of the multiple tribes that inhabited the continent prior to the Europeans’ arrival. But the broader implications of this historical revision is unmistakeable – from a confident nation forged from Western civilization’s journey of discovery and exploration, America instead becomes a guilt-plagued white colony bound together through exploitation and slavery.
And the reinterpretation is winning. Step forward the city council of Baltimore, which has one of the most lavish celebrations of the October holiday in the entire country. In December 2016 it voted 7 to 6 to stop the holiday turning into Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In one city at least, the holiday is safe. But for how long?
Igor Ogorodnev, RT