John Muir gets canceled

This article on the cancellation of John Muir, outdoor lover and founder of the Sierra Club, appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (click on screenshot below), but I also found the same piece in the National Review. (The author, John Fund, is the National Review‘s national-affairs reporter.) Yes, the National Review is a conservative magazine, but investigate the facts for yourself if you’re dubious.

 

The pieces begin with the revelation that Muir was not immune to the bigotry of white people of his time—he made racist statements. But he’s also being tarred for his association with other bigots AND, according to a statement on the Sierra Club website by Michael Brune, Muir even recanted many of his bigoted views. But that doesn’t matter, for the Sierra Club is intent on flagellating itself.

Brune:

The most monumental figure in the Sierra Club’s past is John Muir. Beloved by many of our members, his writings taught generations of people to see the sacredness of nature. But Muir maintained friendships with people like Henry Fairfield Osborn, who worked for both the conservation of nature and the conservation of the white race. Head of the New York Zoological Society and the board of trustees of the American Museum of Natural History, Osborn also helped found the American Eugenics Society in the years after Muir’s death.

And Muir was not immune to the racism peddled by many in the early conservation movement. He made derogatory comments about Black people and Indigenous peoples that drew on deeply harmful racist stereotypes, though his views evolved later in his life. As the most iconic figure in Sierra Club history, Muir’s words and actions carry an especially heavy weight. They continue to hurt and alienate Indigenous people and people of color who come into contact with the Sierra Club.

But is that the case.  If Muir changed his mind—and the article at the top shows how he came to recognize that white people committed genocide on Native Americans. So why do his words continue to “hurt and alienate” people? Do people even know about Muir’s earlier attitudes, what his words were, or how he changed? I doubt it.

It’s even more unfair to tar Muir for being friends with Henry Fairfield Osborn (an famous paleontologist, which isn’t mentioned above), who helped found the American Eugenics Society after Muir’s death. If you’re to be canceled not just because of your own words, but because of your association with someone who had racist attitudes in the late nineteenth centuries, then virtually all white men from that era are guilty and complicit.

But wait! There’s more. No environmentalist organization is free from these taints. I’ve added a link to Nelson’s article in the excerpt below (also from the paper’s piece):

The debate over John Muir is only the beginning of a purge sweeping the environmental community. In Crosscut magazine, Glenn Nelson wrote a piece last month headlined “Toppling John Muir from Sierra Club Is Not Enough.

Mr. Nelson called for dramatic efforts to “overcome a violent history of exclusion” by environmental groups. He said the next focus should be on the National Audubon Society, whose namesake, artist John James Audubon, “was an enslaver who opposed the intermingling of races.” The fact that Audubon may have himself been born to a black Creole woman in Haiti is less important than the fact the Audubon Society “has not reconciled its association with a man who, like Muir, embraced racist ideas and activities.”

If we are to expunge from their place of honor all the historical figures who changed their views later in life or who held views that were common in their time, where will it stop?

The rest of the piece is a series of whataboutery citations of others who weren’t canceled. For example, Fund notes that Martin Luther King, Jr., who wrote an advice column for Ebony magazine, once told a gay teenager to get rid of his “culturally acquired” gayness. Of course he didn’t get canceled. But King wasn’t a bigot, either. Still, that part of the article is largely irrelevant, though it does call out a certain hypocrisy in the Cancel Culture.

We have two issues here. First, how hard do we come down on people like Muir and Audubon who expressed views common in white men of their time but are now seen as odious? In my view, not as hard as people are doing. For, as Steve PInker has amply demonstrated, morality has evolved and improved over the past several centuries. While it’s historically salient to recognize that men like Muir and Audubon did express a common white bigotry, it doesn’t seem fair to single them out—as opposed to everyone else—and then cancel every aspect of their legacy. It’s unfair to expect people brought up in a certain culture to overcome it by becoming super-moral. (Animals named after Audubon will be the next to go.)

This is especially true when Audubon, uncharacteristically, recognized his errors later in life and corrected them.  The claim that the bigotry of these men still hurts people seems to me exaggerated and, as usual, is undocumented and unevidenced. The assertion alone is taken as the evidence. 

The other issue, largely unconnected, is whether conservation organizations are either excluding people of color or have created an atmosphere that makes them unwelcome. If that is the case, it would seem to have little with John Muir’s bigotry. Nelson’s article makes a case worth hearing that yes, there has been both deliberate and unwitting exclusion of minorities from outdoor groups. And this article in Orion Magazine argues that Native Americans have been treated pretty shabbily by the National Park Service.

So, the eagerness of organizations like the Sierra Club to flagellate themselves for century-old words or attitudes of their founders is unseemly: a form of au courant virtue signaling. But if those organizations could do meaningful outreach to those who don’t often get opportunities to get into the wilderness, they should. After all, we’re all evolved humans, and, if E. O. Wilson be right, we all have a degree of “biophilia.” Surely those who don’t get the opportunity to exercise it should be exposed to the great outdoors, and although the main object of the Sierra Club is to appreciate and preserve wilderness, everyone should be given that opportunity.

84 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    What strikes me as unfortunate is that so much energy is spent on this sort of vapid symbolism that could be directed at actually trying to address current racially-based problems.

    • eric
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      It seems to be a typical human behavior to engage in symbolic actions when we’re either unable or unwilling to do something constructive. I guess it alleviates the guilt associated with doing nothing when we feel we should do something. I wouldn’t even say it’s calculated or malicious – I think it comes from a desire to help, even when one realistically can’t do much.

      Thus, we send thoughts and prayers instead of dollars. And we attack history because we don’t know how to personally reduce current inequities.

  2. Posted September 1, 2020 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    The only answer can be to hunt the animals named after Audobon to extinction.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I say it’s the same old disease that hits many people who glance at history or even read a little about it. Entering a previous world, an earlier culture and then judging it by your 21st century culture. It is truly ignorance and these people should not make the trip. Nearly all famous people from our past would be thrown out and removed from any good they did. People like Lindberg or Henry Ford will be thrown out for sure.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Certainly FDR will have to be thrown under the bus these idiots are driving. He allowed the internment of the Japanese people during the war. So all the good he did during the depression and the war makes no difference.

      • BJ
        Posted September 1, 2020 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        Churchill supported the British Empire and said some racist things, so he’s out. Gandhi said some really racist things; in fact, I remember reading about some of his statues being torn down in the past year.

        Churchill is actually one of my biggest heroes. If anyone is ever looking for what I consider to be the greatest biography ever of the man, do check out Roy Jenkins’ Churchill.

        • eric grobler
          Posted September 1, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

          “Gandhi said some really racist things”

          Around 1904 he wrote the the Johannesburg council and requested than Indians and Africans should be housed separately else there are too much mixing.

          Gandhi considered black South Africans as uncivilized and insisted that the white government make a clear distinction between Africans and Indians.

          One could of course argue that the caste system in India is a much older entrenched form of racism than apartheid could ever be.

        • Posted September 1, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

          Sort of calls for a re-wording of Pink Floyd’s song In the Flesh.

          We’re gonna find out where you folks really stand.

          Are there any bloggers in the theater tonight?
          Get them up against the wall!
          There’s one in the spotlight, he don’t look left to me,
          Get him up against the wall!
          That one looks white!
          And that one’s a cop!
          Who let all these old people into the room?
          There’s a conservative,
          And another with a flag!
          If I had my way,
          I’d have all of you shot!

          • eric grobler
            Posted September 1, 2020 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

            You scare the shit out of me.

          • BJ
            Posted September 1, 2020 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

            I’ve been thinking about some Elvis Costello lyrics with regard to twitter mobs lately. From Accidents Will Happen:

            And it’s the damage that we do
            And never know
            It’s the words that we don’t say
            That scare me so

            There’s so many people to see
            So many people you can check up on
            And add to your collection
            But they keep you hanging on
            Until you’re well hung
            Your mouth is made up but your mind is undone

            Accidents will happen
            We only hit and run

          • Posted September 2, 2020 at 7:20 am | Permalink

            Hmmm, I think the original of that song probably needs to be cancelled. The lyrics are definitely non-PC. Never mind the context.

            • BJ
              Posted September 2, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink

              Well, you can bet Oliver’s Army is NOT “here to stay,” as there’s an offending word in it (never mind the context, as you note).

            • BJ
              Posted September 2, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink

              Oh, sorry, I thought you were replying to my comment.

        • Posted September 2, 2020 at 7:25 am | Permalink

          Churchill was, in some ways, pretty nasty. I think that’s part of the reason why he was so successful in the War. When you’ve got German aircraft trying to level your cities and German submarines trying to starve your citizens, safe spaces and preferred pronouns aren’t going to save you.

          • BJ
            Posted September 2, 2020 at 9:32 am | Permalink

            No doubt. Sometimes a bold, tough, nasty dude is what you need, especially when you’re in a fight for your life — or for the entire world. Who knows where we’d be today if Neville Chamberlain had remained as PM.

          • Filippo
            Posted September 2, 2020 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

            ‘Churchill was, in some ways, pretty nasty.”

            I don’t know that “nasty” describes the particular situation, but, IIRC, one time Churchill approved of sending a squadron of bombers on a mission, even though just before he had been informed, via ultra-secret code breaking, that the bomb site had been very recently more heavily-fortified than usual with anti-aircraft artillery, or some such thing.

            That is, Churchill/the British high command couldn’t afford to too much take advantage of the code-breaking fruits lest the Nazis become suspicious that, from the cessation of British bombing runs, their code(s) had been broken. Not an enviable position to be in.

            I’ve also read somewhere that the Brits would (occasionally?) publicly overstate the casualties they suffered, the Germans knowing full well that British casualties were more so than not light. I guess it was for some sort of psychological effect. Maybe to make the German public believe that the war was going better for Germany than it was.

            • BJ
              Posted September 2, 2020 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

              Regarding your first paragraph: yeah, those are the kinds of decisions only a really strong type of person can make. I can’t imagine myself making the decision to send men to their deaths, but, in the end, he was doing what needed to be done. Long-term planning that causes short-term horrors is incredibly difficult. But, if the Germans had indeed discovered that the British had broken their code system because Churchill didn’t send them on that bombing run, it would have been the wrong decision to hold them back and could have led to far more disastrous results.

            • Posted September 3, 2020 at 5:49 am | Permalink

              Decisions like that mentioned in your first paragraph happened frequently during WW2. The British would never take advantage of the ultra intercepts unless they could find or manufacture a credible alternate means by which they might have received the information.

              Churchill judged that the ensuing loss of life would not be as bad as the consequences of not being able to read the German code messages. You need to be a hard, if not outright nasty, person t make those sorts of decisions.

  4. eric
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    If Muir changed his mind—and the article at the top shows how he came to recognize that white people committed genocide on Native Americans. So why do his words continue to “hurt and alienate” people?

    In the kangaroo court, only the prosecution is considered, not the defense.

  5. J Cook
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I have driven Ford vehicles for 60 years.
    If any historical figure should be ‘cancelled’ it is Henry Ford, a vicious antisemite responsible for circulating and promoting “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (and other publications), a tract still in circulation today in the Muslim world and elsewhere and used as justification for violence against Israel and Jews.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      I’m a Ford guy, too, HF’s views notwithstanding.

      But relatedly, my PhD advisor, a Polish, non-Jewish Holocaust survivor whose father, a Polish military officer, was of course killed by the Nazis, drove a yellow VW bug the whole time I was in her lab. I never understood the far more personal and direct disconnect there.

    • BJ
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      If we’re going to punish companies for past misdeeds, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and many other German companies built bombs, vehicles, and used Jewish and other slave labor under the Nazi regime during WWII.

      But I’m not so stupid as to think that these businesses as they are now or have been for decades had anything to do with that history. I owned a Volkswagen at one point and a Mercedes at another. I don’t feel bad about it.

      Interesting note: when I was a far-Left radical in my early college days (egged on by the many professors I had who promoted Jewish and Israeli conspiracy theories in the classroom, which I swallowed whole because I trusted them to be authorities who told the truth and had my best interests at heart), I found that books like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Ford’s The International Jew were most easily found in “black culture” bookstores (usually next to Farakhan’s writings) and quite a few general far-Left bookstores, which I used to frequent often. You find these tracts most often among the fringes of the Left and Right. We can only hope that those fringes never discover just how many beliefs they have in common, lest they join forces. To this day, such bookstores are the only places where I have seen copies of these antisemitic screeds in print and on display. Other than those places, I’ve only ever seen them linked online on antisemitic websites and in antisemitic comments (on Youtube, Reddit, etc.).

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      I have driven Ford vehicles for 60 years.

      So six solid decades of Fix Or Repair Daily? 🙂

      Though, gotta admit, when I was a kid my old man had a ’56 two-tone Fairlane with the wide white-sidewalls that I thought was the shit, man.

      And a couple decades after that I owned a ’70 Galaxie 500 with the 352 cu. in. V-8 for a few months. That bad boy purred.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted September 1, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        I had a 72 Galaxy for several years. Was a pretty good car, kind of like driving a boat. Let it go for $500 when we moved to Hawaii in 1980. It would not have fit in well over there. Only Ford I owned until I got a 93 Ford Ranger pick up.

      • Posted September 1, 2020 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        When I was a kid, the neighbor girl (cute!) down the block, her Dad had a ’67 Galaxie, new, powder blue. It was gorgeous.

        https://www.hotrodhotline.com/forsale/vehicles/ford/galaxie_500/1967/listing/126368

        (Not a convertible though.)

      • GBJames
        Posted September 1, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        OK, I’ll play, too. In the early 70’s I owned an old ‘63 Mustang convertible. I should have felt cool but it was not in good shape. Later, after marriage and children arrived, we drove a Ford Taurus wagon. Drove it through the Badlands and out to the Black Hills. My son, six at the time, cut himself in the back seat with a pocket knife that my wife had decided a boy his age needed. Blood all over and a look of horrified terror on his younger sister’s face. Good times.

        • XCellKen
          Posted September 1, 2020 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

          64 was the first year for Mustangs

          • GBJames
            Posted September 2, 2020 at 8:18 am | Permalink

            This old brain!

            It was a 65, now that I am reminded. Blue.

            • Filippo
              Posted September 2, 2020 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

              “It was a 65, now that I am reminded. Blue.”

              Was there a “64 1/2”? That is, two different models came out the same year? That is my fuzzy memory from my mother’s younger sister (assuming she knew what she was talking about), who had a white with red interior.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 2, 2020 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

                I don’t know about that. Mine looked like this, except not in such good shape.

              • XCellKen
                Posted September 2, 2020 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

                Models traditionally were released in September of the previous year. For example, a model released in September, 1963 would be considered a 64 model.

                The Mustang was first released in April 194. Too late to be a 64 model, too early to be a 65 model. Hence, the first year Mustang was considered a 64 1/2 year model

      • Mike
        Posted September 1, 2020 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

        “Found On Road Dead”

      • XCellKen
        Posted September 1, 2020 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

        My mother worked at the Ford assembly plant in Lorain Ohio which assembled Fairlanes. But I think 57 was the first year.

        And while I was still in high school, I worked at the Conrail yard outside of that plant. It was called the Fairlane yard

  6. Posted September 1, 2020 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft will be interred with their bones.

  7. BJ
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    “As the most iconic figure in Sierra Club history, Muir’s words and actions carry an especially heavy weight. They continue to hurt and alienate Indigenous people and people of color who come into contact with the Sierra Club.”

    I keep seeing reasoning like this. Has there ever been a single person who didn’t join one of these organizations because some figure from the past that they’ve probably never heard of is promoted and once said some racist things? Or who felt “hurt and alienate[d]” by the mention of these figures? Seriously, has there ever been a single instance of this happening? Somehow, I doubt it. I doubt anyone but the most ardent John Muir fans and cancel culture history-combers even knew of his racist statements.

  8. Historian
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Here is a rule of thumb (subject to revision) that I have just thought up as to whether an historical figure should be cancelled i.e., no longer honored. If the person merely expressed a bigoted remark, then no. However, if the person actually acted on bigoted beliefs to harm a person of the despised group, then the answer is yes. Thus, for example, slaveholders, Charles Lindbergh, and Henry Ford should not be honored in society. If John Muir made only racist statements but did not act upon them, he would still be worthy of being honored for his accomplishments. Confederate officers should not be honored. Rank-and-file Confederate soldiers are a little more tricky. If they were not slaveholders and fought because they thought they were defending their state from outside invaders, I would not cancel honoring them for their accomplishments in other fields.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      I find your judgmental attitude an impossible one to live under. Who is to determine and make the judgement on such things from history. You? I guess so because it is your burden to explain how your values today make the decisions to bury people of the past. Who makes the cut? Maybe Washington but not Jefferson? You will decide for us I guess.

      • Historian
        Posted September 1, 2020 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        People by themselves or through their elected representatives make judgments all the time. Is that so hard to understand?

        • eric grobler
          Posted September 1, 2020 at 11:47 am | Permalink

          “People by themselves or through their elected representatives make judgments all the time.”

          Can congress please release “fatwa’s” on historical figures.

          I suggest:

          Jesus bad – white jew
          Muhammad good – liked cats
          Marx good – healthy debates
          Darwin bad – hitler liked him
          Galton bad – eugenicist, made stats
          Idi Amin good – king of Scotland
          Jefferson bad – slave owner
          Paine good – open to a fatwa
          Freud good – incest while dreaming.

          • Posted September 1, 2020 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

            “Darwin bad – hitler liked him” — not really true, by the way, there’s no evidence that Hitler ever read Darwin, and (as far as I’m aware) he never mentioned him in his writings or speeches.

    • eric grobler
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Charles Lindbergh the aviator was a slave owner?

      • Posted September 1, 2020 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        He was a frank bigot and supporter of the Nazis.

    • Posted September 2, 2020 at 7:38 am | Permalink

      Human beings have an endless ability to hold conflicting thoughts in their heads. There are many Christians who accept evolution, for example. I myself both believe that morality should be based in causing the least suffering and yet am prepared to allow pigs to suffer for my bacon sandwiches.

      Why is it suddenly impossible to revile a person for the bad things they did and simultaneously honour them for the good things they did? Why can’t I revile Winston Churchill for his genocidal tendencies and yet honour him for saving my country from the Nazis? Why can’t I revile George Washington as a slave owner but honour him for leading a successful rebellion against my…. oh, wait. No, Washington was irredeemably bad.

      • rickflick
        Posted September 2, 2020 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        Sounds like a Broadway song in the making.
        Especially like that, “…, wait”, line.

  9. S Pimpernel
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Martin Luther was blatant anti-Semite. There goes the Lutheran church.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      Well then some good will have come from all this!

    • eric grobler
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      “Martin Luther was blatant anti-Semite.”

      I was not aware of it.
      What about his relationship with Stanley Levison?

      • Jonathan Dore
        Posted September 1, 2020 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        Martin Luther, not Martin Luther King. I’m pretty sure Martin Luther had no relationship with Stanley Levinson 😉

        • eric grobler
          Posted September 1, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

          Lol, I am only 400 years off track!

      • Posted September 1, 2020 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        That’s MLK’s friend.

        Martin Luther was an anti-semite. However he split from Rome. The significance of that started the entire protestant reformation and ultimately hundreds of factions of Xians.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Given your nom de commenter, I take it you’re aware Baroness Orczy was a war-mongering imperialist? 🙂

    • Filippo
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Martin Luther was blatant anti-Semite.”

      And misogynist. Regarding women and childbirth his view was “Let them die of it. That is what they are for.” Quite the noble point of view.

      As it was a different time, how much slack should we moderns afford him? Should one today (and the women of that time who had to bear up under this attitude) be only moderately miffed at him?

  10. Posted September 1, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I find it strange that people attribute negative qualities to an object or idea because of the faults of its creator. Is that not totemism?

  11. Jon Gallant
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    The incessant, nitwit invocation of the
    “hurt and alienated” phrase reveals the underlying attitude: it is the “therapy society”, the medicalization of everything.
    Lukianoff and Haidt go into this in “The Coddling of the American Mind”. One wonders how the many bearers of this attitude are
    bearing up when a real medical issue, like the present pandemic, presents itself.

    Come to think, maybe that explains some of the rush to self-flagellation. A classic scene in “The Seventh Seal” shows how some in
    the 14th century thought to deal with the Plague of that time. Could it be that our present-day self-flagellants, as Medieval as ever, are acting on the same urge?

  12. eric grobler
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    “If you’re to be canceled not just because of your own words, but because of your association with someone who had racist attitudes in the late nineteenth centuries…”

    I have a terrible confession to make; I played Cowboys and Indians as a child and I was neither a Cowboy nor an Indian.

    Thus I am sorry to tell you, but you will now need to confess that you have interacted with me online.

    • Posted September 2, 2020 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Sorry, I am worse than you. Not only did I play cowboys and indians as a child, but the indians were always the bad guys.

      Not only that, but in the brief period when I followed American Football, my favourite team was called the Washington R*dsk*ns.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    … the Sierra Club is intent on flagellating itself.

    Sierra folk strike me as having more a sackcloth’n’ashes-type vibe.

  14. Steve Gerrard
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Since John Muir founded the Sierra Club, and John Muir is an evil bigot who must be cancelled, so his evil club must also be. The Sierra Club itself must be cancelled! Shut the whole thing down!

    Yikes. These people are something else.

    • C.
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Some ant species raid other colonies and take slaves, therefor ants should be canceled too. And is there still a discussion about whether the fungi and algae are a symbiotic association or is the algae a slave held captive by the fungal hyphae? No, best cancel lichen as well. And then what about coral? Are xoozanthellea willing symbionts or slaves awaiting a thermal event to escape the clutches of their evil coral overlords? Better cancel them too! And then there’s cuckoos, brown-headed cowbirds… cancel all of nature!

    • davelenny
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      It’s much worse than you think.

      Nazism included a strong back-to-nature component, so no half-measures here – let’s cancel the whole environmental awareness movement.

  15. Posted September 1, 2020 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    There is no end to this. Eventually they will be after all of our ancestors from 250,000 years ago who would rape and pillage the nearest tribe for control of the valley floor. Our specifies is rife with suffering.

    Why are so many people so insecure about the past? We are better (on average) than we’ve ever been. I think we can admit that our ancestors made some mistakes and probably most of them weren’t their fault.

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    … and, if E. O. Wilson be right, …

    Nice to see you leanin’ into the subjunctive mood like that, boss.

  17. C.
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    The Cult of Wokeness allows for no absolution, no forgiveness, no penance, no change of heart, mind, or ideology. One must live a pure life from the moment of conception, if not before, and forever remain ideologically pure until the sun becomes a red giant and engulfs the earth in it’s fiery dying embrace. No amount of self-flagellation, self-hatred, self-immolation can erase the stain of having been impure in heart, mind, or soul. “Yes, there’s a spot. Out damn spot!” Except that there is no rubbing it away, in the eyes of the Woke, it remains there still.
    “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
    To the last syllable of recorded time.
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death. Out, out brief Candle!

  18. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    If there is one historical figure that should be ‘cancelled’ it is Christopher Columbus, a rogue, extremely cruel, bloodthirsty, child-raping and genocidal monster. Even many of his contemporaries, no choirboys themselves, were appalled by his cruelty.

    • Posted September 1, 2020 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      I think it would be a good and shocking thing to make big Hollywood movies about persons like Columbus, showing what he was like. That’l clear up the Columbus Day thing! Actually, we need some dates for more agreeable holidays anyway.
      Also Moses (that would be fiction, I expect),but still — the fictional Moses was clearly a genocidal control-freaking psychopath.

      • eric grobler
        Posted September 1, 2020 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        I doubt you would add Muhammad to your list.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted September 1, 2020 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

          I would not have any problem adding Muhammad to the list, if we were sure he ever existed. His historicity is not very clear (albeit somewhat more solid than that of Jesus).

          • eric grobler
            Posted September 1, 2020 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

            The point is that Hollywood would not dare making a film about Muhammad.

            I think it is a good thing to portray historical figures realistically but not if it targets Europeans unfairly.

            Take slavery, children should be taught about the European slave trade but also about the history of slavery in Islam, China and the Americas before Europeans arrived.

            I am amazed how many educated people are ignorant about slavery in Islam.

            • Posted September 1, 2020 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

              …or the rules about slaves in the Bible. And, slavery among the Greeks and Romans and all the other civilizations we look back on with extreme favor. And, the Chinese and Japanese and all the oriental civilizations. Have there been any civilizations anywhere in the world in the past that didn’t have slavery?

  19. Posted September 1, 2020 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I recently began reading Muir’s A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf. I read it (and his other books) last in the 1980s. I loved his books then (and still do, in large part).

    This time I was strongly struck by his use of typical perjoratives of the day for black people. Plenty of “Darkie” and “Sambo”, and similar.

    I’m sure all of this was just the slang of the time and no one noticed it.

    The interesting thing is that it didn’t strike me in the 1980s like it does now. (Similarly with Huckleberry Finn.) Things have changed.

  20. rickflick
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    This is getting ridiculous. Probably 95% of white men during Muir’s time were racists of one degree or another.

    • Curtis
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      95% sounds too low to me. I would guess that well over 99% were racist, misogynist and homophobic. Their names should never be spoken.

      • Posted September 1, 2020 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        Most of them never are.

      • eric grobler
        Posted September 1, 2020 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

        You mean you are morally superior to practically everyone of your parents generation?

    • Posted September 2, 2020 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      Why did you add the qualifier “white”? I’d be fairly sure you can find evidence of racism in every human society.

  21. lesliefish
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    That’s it, the “anti-racist” movement has heeled over into total insanity. Has anybody considered that, if revering “individualism”, “hard work”, “honesty”, “objectivity” and “rationality” are characteristics of “whiteness”, then *Whites really are superior* to people who don’t value those things?

  22. drosophilist
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Cancelling Muir over his racist views (which were typical for almost every white person of his time) is ridiculous. Might as well cancel every white person born before 1990 and have it over with.

    On a related note, here is a good article by WEIT favorite Prof. John McWhorter in the Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/09/academics-are-really-really-worried-about-their-freedom/615724/

    • C.
      Posted September 1, 2020 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      Well, if by “good article” you mean “pretty damn depressing article”, then yeah…

      It’s not just higher academia that’s struggling with this purge. The rot goes deep down into primary and secondary education as well. But the question is, what to do? At least those fleeing China’s Cultural Revolution could hide in Hong Kong, those trying to escape Lysenkoism had the West. Of course, those with heterodox ideologies aren’t being “disappeared” or “re-educated”, so that’s something. But I long for the days when being liberal meant something, when it meant pro-free speech, free thought, free inquiry…what my friend/surrogate older brother said to me so many years ago rings so true today, “You can go so far to the Left you end up on the Right”. The left has embarked upon it’s own McCarthy purge, yet seems impervious to pleadings of decency.

  23. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    It will be so much better when all the SJWs go back through history and eliminate all the people who did anything bad according to their virtue today. History will be eliminated and the people can rot in their own virtue.

  24. SB
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Our department at a major university just removed a long-standing portrait of a 19th century naturalist, for his racist views/comments. I was kind of hoping the staff and faculty would consider a crowd funding campaign to bring a couple of minority students in as interns once this pandemic lifts. Guess the former was easier than the latter..

  25. Posted September 1, 2020 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Our ancestors, of whatever color, were quite open verbally and behaviorally about their racism. Over time, many learned to keep those thoughts and feelings to themselves, but the racism didn’t go away. In the current U.S. environment, there are fewer restrictions on expressing racism or acting on it because we have politicians and other powerful people who clearly are racist. I, and my family, will not permit racist statements or behaviors in our presence without countering it. I can only hope that if enough people try to stand up for the equality we purportedly believe in, there may be change. I don’t necessarily have faith that I’ll see it in my lifetime.

  26. Wayne Y Hoskisson
    Posted September 1, 2020 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    I have been a member of the Sierra Club since 1993 after several years of debating whether I would end my non-joiner tendencies. At the time I joined 3 other environmental organizations as well. Considering an earlier post on WEIT I would agree it was not an episode of contracausal free will. On Aug. 29 PCC noted that my great, great grandfather, Brigham Young died on that day in 1877. Through the Sierra Club and other organizations I have visited Washington, DC many times since 1995. A couple years ago a friend took a picture of me standing in front of a statue of Brigham Young in the rotunda of the Capitol Building.

    I did not join the Sierra Club because of John Muir or his writings. In fact I have not been able to get very far in any of his books. I joined because the world of my youth was rapidly diminishing. When I was 12 we lived on the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains a few miles south of Salt Lake City. In the winter a dozen deer would visit our backyard. We moved to the foothills in Provo, Utah when I was 12. We spent the long summer days playing cowboys and Indians or stagecoach robber and sheriff along the base Of the mountains. This was an idyllic life for someone who loved libraries and nature. In 1960 I went on my first backpacking trip and found a world more incredible than I thought it could be.

    I joined the Sierra Club and immediately became active as a volunteer. The SC made it possible to work effectively as a volunteer on issues I cared deeply about. Most of my efforts involved wilderness or other measures to retain lands in a condition as close to natural as possible. In my time we (a coalition of organizations) have protected about 4.7 million acres of public lands in Utah in some form. When the courts throw out President Trump’s reductions to the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante NMs about 5.5 million acres will be protected.

    Since 1995 I have served as a volunteer at many levels in the Sierra Club including state, regional and national committees. About two years ago a few of us formed a group to implement guidance for the Jemez Principles in our public lands advocacy. We will change the way we operate. The Jemez Principles were created in a collaborative effort in New Mexico that could guide the efforts of conservation efforts by organizations like the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club adopted the Jemez Principles as operating principles around 2014. We have experienced some finger pointing and guilt accusations but the Sierra Club has been making an effort to be a more equitable and inclusive organization. I do not see a quick and easy change. It takes personal resources to be able to make the kinds of time and financial commitments many volunteer members make month after month.

    The Sierra Club is a voluntary organization. There is no catechism, there is no loyalty oath, and there is never a moment you cannot walk away if the Sierra Club no longer seems to fit. Most volunteers I know have had at least a moment of doubt.

    At any rate it was not my choice, it just happened. Maybe there was a glitch in the brain of my great grandfather when Brigham Young married his third wife. Or maybe that happened 1200 years ago when my Anglo-Saxon ancestors killed Celts for Woden.

    After all that, one wife seemed like more than enough for me. And the power of prophecy cannot be inherited.


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