Sheinkopf Speaks: Speak softly and let history carry a big stick

Theodore Roosevelt as commander of ‘Roosevelt’s Roughriders’
Theodore Roosevelt as commander of ‘Roosevelt’s Rough Riders’ Getty Images
Hank Sheinkopf

Well, the statue of President Theodore Roosevelt has been removed from the entry level of the Museum of Natural History.

The cries to take Columbus out of Columbus Circle go recently unspoken—or at least unheard. Jefferson is next to be removed. He was the principle author of the Declaration of Independence, and a proponent—but not the author—of the Bill of Rights, and he was a slave owner.

Lincoln undermined democracy as did FDR while leading the nation through catastrophic war. And FDR did less than nothing to save Europe’s Jews while he still could  from the charnel house of Nazism.

The greatest of leaders are flawed. Most lesser humans are as well. And we are all products of the era in which we live, of the mores of the brief moment we remain on this earth, before we become– for generally the following two generations–  memories captured in photographs framed on tables in somebody’s  living room.

All politics is in the present tense. The permanent campaign requires flexing someone else’s political muscles constantly—make them angry, make them believe that only you have an answer and that your answer requires an enemy we can all hate.

These days the battle is to re-arrange history through the lens of the unread and the unlearned. The language tells some of the tale: bad is good. Women in song are referred to by unmentionable words. Profanity is chic. What was once outrage is ok as long as you support taking down statues. And if you have the ability, write a check to a campaign.

But these acts of the political class are symbols. And nothing more.

Teddy Roosevelt is banished. And it was a great one day story. A victory for some truth, little justice and the non-American way. 

Jefferson? First his statue will be removed and then the document he authored can be demeaned, maybe destroyed because its author was a minor part of a just wrong in every way barbarism. 

Since they took Teddy Roosevelt away there have been a few people shot right nearby, and fifteen minutes north from there in one part of the Bronx it’s a good bet mothers have lost children and grandchildren to a street that has no idea why Teddy got taken out of town. Or even who he was.

The words of the day have given our politicians and political leaders cover. Just say something like we’ll pass a law to do this or that. Or we’ll move a statue. Or we’ll create a panel to study whatever it is that the poll said people care about. And condemn this or decry that. 

I am a simple man. All I want to do every day is to ride the subway and not wonder whether anyone else who lives in this most amazing place is going to get shot or killed today or tomorrow for the crime of being alive. You can’t talk with Teddy about any of this. Not that he’d understand any way. Why should he?

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