(Guest post by Greg Forster)
This story’s so wild, I figured I’d better put the whole thing in the headline. If the headline only covered part of this story, everyone would read it and jump to the wrong conclusions about what’s going on, based on their priors. That’s never happened on the internet before, and I wouldn’t want to be the person to cause the first case!
Loyal JPGBers will recall that in 2019, the San Francisco school board paid $600,000 to remove a mural of the life of George Washington from its George Washington High School. Although the original decision was to destroy the mural by painting over it, subsequently the plan was changed to conceal the mural by covering it.
The mural depicts George Washington cruelly oppressing slaves and Native Americans. (Among much else! The mural consists of 16 panels, and the controversial part is only on two panels.) It was painted in the 1930s by a communist who hated equality and freedom – apologies for the educationally necessary redundancy in that description – and who wanted to destroy the American experiment in equality and freedom by encouraging the idea that the violation of equality and freedom by the American founders discredits the very idea of equality and freedom.
George Washington enslaved people, therefore we should all be enslaved.
The mural was funded by a New Deal federal agency.
The Frisco school board (including 2021 Higgy Laurate Alison Collins) voted to remove the mural, not because they failed to understand that its purpose was to destroy equality and freedom, but because the mural’s explicit depiction of the depraved brutality that is always involved in denying people equality and freedom was upsetting to the students. In the new world of therapeutics, on the woke left as on the nationalist right, psychology trumps justice.
Of the $600,000 spent to remove the mural, $500,000 was spent on an environmental impact statement.
Guess what? A judge just ruled that the school board violated the law in removing the mural – because it failed to comply fully with California environmental impact law. Its $500,000 environmental impact statement apparently failed to conduct a legally sufficient review.
When I first saw two years ago that the environmental impact statement cost $500,000, I thought to myself, “somebody got a sweetheart deal.” It never occurred to me – shame on me! – that they might not even live up to their end of the sweetheart deal. Maybe some of that money can be clawed back, if (as now looks possible) the board gets new leadership.
The mural is now required to be uncovered and visible, unaltered.
Meanwhile, in the two years since the original board vote, the cost of the removal project has ballooned to $900,000. That’s before the judge’s ruling.
Folks, you can’t make this stuff up.
The woke project to destroy the Constitution, like the nationalist project to destroy the Constitution, has a lot of power to destroy things. But they can’t build anything, because they don’t have a deep and stable framework of moral ideas. When the moral imperatives favored by “our side” – facing up to the ugliness of racism, cultivating the psyches of young people, compliance with an environmental protection bureaucracy – collide in ways that require hard choices, which takes precedence? And when people who are all on “our side” disagree, by what process shall we reach a decision?
These groups are all doomed to tear themselves to shreds in bottomless Nietzschean power struggles. Pat Buchanan’s nihilistic question – “Somebody’s values are going to prevail. Why not ours?” – applies within movements as well as between them.