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Port: First they came for the Confederates, and then they came for Teddy Roosevelt

For those of you cheering the violence, remember the next mob may not be one you agree with.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt arrives for the laying of the cornerstone for a Carnegie Library at Fargo College, September 5, 1910. The campus was once located south of Island Park in Fargo. Credit: NDSU Archives, Fargo, N.D.
Former President Theodore Roosevelt arrives for the laying of the cornerstone for a Carnegie Library at Fargo College, September 5, 1910. The campus was once located south of Island Park in Fargo. Credit: NDSU Archives, Fargo, N.D.
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MINOT, N.D. — I wonder if this era of American history will be seen as our Maoist cultural revolution.

A time when dissenters and their works purged from the public eye in favor of the ascendent mob's preferred ideology.

George Floyd's death, tragic and unnecessary as it was, has a real chance to become an inflection point for our nation. An intersection at which we pivot and turn to a better way of doing things.

I'm afraid Floyd's death has become an excuse for ignorant mobs, inspired by the left-wing orthodoxies, which dominate so many of our cultural institutions to exercise their hate.

I have little patience for those who have a fetish for the Confederacy.


It's unfortunate that so many conservatives think, instead of high minded concepts like individual liberty and human dignity, annoying liberals is the defining characteristic of their ideology.

The Confederate flag is the symbol of traitors who fought a war, killing hundreds of thousands in defense of chattel slavery. Conservatives style themselves as proponents of small government. The Confederacy wanted government so big it could force one group of people to be the property of another.

Yet, because flying the Confederate flag annoys the Democrats down the street, because a statue of Robert E. Lee puts the local professor of intersectional feminism into a tizzy, conservatives stand up for these things.

"Statues of Confederate leaders are an unnecessary affront to black citizens, who shouldn't have to see defenders of chattel slavery put on a pedestal, literally," writes National Review editor Rich Lowry . "Many of them were erected as part of the push to enshrine a dishonest, prettied-up version of the Confederacy — they weren't a testament to our history, but a distortion of it."

He's right.

But these statutes were, for the most part, erected through a democratic process. They were commissioned and installed with the blessing of city councils and county commissions and zoning boards. Their decommission should be handled the same way, not least because at least some of these statues have real artistic and historical merit and deserve better than vandalism, however offensive their subject matter.

Besides, if we begin condoning mob justice, where does that leave us?

For those of you cheering the violence, remember the next mob may not be one you agree with.


And it's not just the Confederacy in the crosshairs of the mobs. These supposed anti-fascists have vandalized a statue of Winston Churchill in London . A monument to a man who did more than any other single human being to fight fascism in the 20th Century.

In San Francisco, a statue of Ulysses S. Grant has been toppled . That would be the Grant who led the Union against the Confederacy. He was a man who hated slavery and later, as president, fought the Ku Klux Klan , supported the 15th Amendment expanding voting rights to Blacks, created the Department of Justice in part to enforce civil rights for Black communities, appointed Blacks to positions in government they'd never held before, and in 1875, almost a century before the civil rights movement of the 1960's, signed the Civil Rights Act to address racial segregation (the Supreme Court later overturned it).

"Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but it was Grant who actually freed the slaves," the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education concluded .

But the woke mobs in 2020 have knocked Grant into the mud in the name of social justice.

An interesting term and perhaps more accurate than those who march under its banner would like to admit in that it signifies something distinct from, you know, actual justice.

The mobs have come for Teddy Roosevelt, too.

Roosevelt loved North Dakota, and North Dakotans revere the former president. So much so that, a century after his death, we're in the process of building him a museum and library in Medora near what was his ranch there.

Yet in New York, a long-standing statue in front of the city's Museum of Natural History commemorating his leadership in conservation will be taken down . Museum officials, who work for an institution that was founded by Roosevelt's family, are quick to claim that this is about the statue's composition -- it shows Roosevelt on a horse with a Native American and an African man on the ground beside him -- and not Roosevelt himself.


The mob doesn't agree.

"Critics, though, have pointed to Roosevelt's opinions about racial hierarchy and eugenics and his pivotal role in the Spanish-American War," the New York Times reports .

Roosevelt, like all historical figures, was flawed. Still, he was the first American president to invite a Black American to dinner at the White House, hosting his advisor Booker T. Washington . When racist mobs in Mississippi threatened Postmaster Minne Cox, the first Black woman ever appointed to that position, Roosevelt halted their mail service in retribution .

Don't those things count, too?

Mobs care little for nuance.

Roosevelt's statue, like Grant's, is in the figurative mud, and the ignorant mob is giddy.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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