George Washington University has a new moniker. The former “Colonials” will now call themselves “Revolutionaries.”
The good news is that “Revolutionaries” retains a meaningful connection both to the university’s illustrious namesake and to the world-changing event he helped author.
The bad news, as usual, is that the drive to change the university’s nickname originated in the half-truths and outright lies of woke mythology.
According to a petition posted to the George Washington University Student Association web page, the name “Colonials” is regarded as “extremely offensive” because it “has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression.”
These objections reveal both logical and historical absurdities that lay at the heart of wokeness.
First, there is nothing intrinsically “offensive” about the name “Colonials,” just as there is nothing intrinsically virtuous about the name “Revolutionaries.” It all depends on the one element missing from woke historical consciousness: context.
It is true, of course, that colonialism, as a corollary of aggressive imperialism, wrought havoc across the globe for centuries. Agents of colonialism perpetrated every barbarity known to humankind: theft, violence, kidnapping and enslavement, rape, torture, murder, and the total subjugation of entire populations.
On the other hand, the name “Colonials” does not itself convey “systemic oppression,” whatever that means. George Washington came of age as a subject in the British Empire, a “colonial” by mere definition. The word “colony” also has benign meanings whether applied to people, ants, or bacteria.
Likewise, the moral acceptability of “Revolutionaries” depends entirely on who is making revolution and for what reason. By the logic of the Student Association’s petition, the word “Revolutionaries” might have “too deep a connection” to Hitler’s National Socialists, Lenin’s Bolsheviks, Mao’s Chinese Communists, and many others who brought bloodthirsty tyrants to power.
There is no moral value in “Colonials” or “Revolutionaries.” Apart from a particular context, one is not bad and the other good.
This is one of many reasons the anti-Western, anti-American woke mythology leaves so many sensible people feeling exasperated.
History does not support the near-pathological simplicity of a woke narrative that posits “systemic oppression.” Two hypothetical examples, each rooted in actual history, will suffice to illustrate.
First, an eighteenth-century Scottish Highlander resents his nation’s loss of autonomy as part of Great Britain, sees his culture vanishing and his land stolen, is forced to sail for North America as an indentured servant, wins his freedom, emigrates to the North American interior, becomes an Indian agent, plies the local chieftain with good Scottish whisky, and cheats the entire tribe out of its ancestral home.
Second, a nineteenth-century Cherokee Indian resents the encroachments of surrounding white settlements, sees his culture vanishing and his land stolen, suffers along the Trail of Tears, arrives in his new “home” west of the Mississippi River, resettles and rebuilds with his family, his possessions … and his five Black slaves.
What can the woke narrative tell us about the thieving Highlander and the slaveholding Cherokee? Into which category should we place them? Oppressor or oppressed?
History is filled with such woke-defying complexities.
On a lighter note — one that lends itself to the hope of a happier ending — the university announced its new moniker in a video hosted by alumnus Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Though marred by the usual nonsense that permeates modern academia, such as platitudinous references to an imaginary “global community,” the video does feature several students who applaud the new name because it continues to honor George Washington himself.
This is heartening. One hopes that these and other students will take the time to investigate the true causes and nature of the American Revolution. The more they understand these truths, the more their commitment to preserving them will grow.
Otherwise, one wonders how long such noble sentiments can withstand the malignant forces that provoked the name-change in the first place.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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