A pair of parallel events occurred Tuesday night that perfectly capture the surreal and troubling times in which we are living.
First, President Donald Trump held a rally in Phoenix, in which he once again offered unto his base the reddest of red meat.
“They’re trying to take away our culture,” he said, of the exploding debate over Confederate statues and monuments.
“They’re trying to take away our history. And our weak leaders, they do it overnight. These things have been there for 150 years, for a hundred years. You go back to a university and it’s gone. Weak, weak people.”
Simultaneously, on the other side of the country, something else was happening. ESPN was scrambling to release a statement on a baffling assignment change that a sports website had caught wind of.
The decision to remove an Asian-American announcer named Robert Lee from calling University of Virginia’s home opener — “simply because of the coincidence of his name,” as ESPN inexplicably admits — unsurprisingly lit up the internet with outrage, jokes and memes.
It also rendered inarguably true the assertion made by Trump himself as well as many others that this debate will descend quickly and embarrassingly down a slippery slope. I’d argue the pre-emptive removal of an Asian-American sportscaster, who had nothing to do with the Civil War or slavery, from a college football game simply because his name sounds similar doesn’t represent a gradual slope, but a 1,000-foot cliff.
In its mock-worthy statement, ESPN laments, “It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play-by-play for a football game has become an issue.”
Of course, Robert Lee’s assignment change and “who calls play-by-play for a football game” is only an issue and topic of conversation because of ESPN’s dimwitted hyperventilating over fears that they would be mocked and embarrassed for having a guy named Robert Lee call their football game. But at a time when ESPN is facing heavy criticism for being an overtly liberal network, does anyone doubt what’s happening now is worse?
Whatever you think of the statue debate, one thing is now abundantly clear: President Trump has won it.
The list of offensive iconography grows by the hundreds every day. From removing Lee statues all over the South to changing the name of Fenway Park’s Yawkey Way and Boston’s Faneuil Hall, even abolitionist strongholds aren’t spared the scrutiny of ravenous liberal activists on a mission to run as far as they can towards crazy with this argument.
And yet, it gets even crazier. A writer at Vice News, Wilbert L. Cooper, wants to blow up Mount Rushmore. Why? Because “demystifying the historical figures of the past, pulling them off the great mountain top back down to Earth where they sh-t, farted, spit, pissed, f—–d, raped, murdered, died and rotted seems like important business for this country.”
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has created a panel to review and remove “symbols of hate,” with even some of the Broadway sidewalk text documenting actual parades through the Canyon of Heroes in his crosshairs, and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito railing against the statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle.
Over at the University of Southern California, activists are taking issue with the school’s mascot, a horse named Traveler. The mascot, according to his official bio, is “a symbol of ancient Troy. Its rider, with costume and sword, is a symbol of a Trojan warrior.”
So what’s the problem? Robert E. Lee’s horse also was named Traveller — spelled differently, but unacceptable nonetheless.
This is nonsense. What’s unnerving to conservatives like me, who are actually sympathetic to the fact that confederate flags, statues and monuments are painful reminders of one of our darkest moments as a nation — and have written so — is that this is exactly what Trump wants.
To distract from his indefensible moral equivalencies between neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and the activists who were there to protest them, Trump dared liberals to go down this kooky rabbit hole of political correctness. It’s fertile ground and he knew they’d take the bait.
And did they ever. So instead of talking about the growing scourge of white supremacy in this country, and what the president should do about it, we’re talking about blowing up Mount Rushmore and punishing Asian-American sports announcers for having the wrong name. Game, set, match: Trump.
Whatever seriousness this argument once had is gone. And I, for one, think that’s a real shame. But in the meantime, all the other Robert Lees out there should think about brushing up their resumes.
Contact Cupp at thesecupp.com.
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