Imaginary History

January 20, 2001

by John F. Schmidt

Picture three white fire fighters raising the American flag at Ground Zero. Then picture a magical transformation: a statue of one white, one black and one Hispanic. The rulers of political correctness didn’t like what really happened, so they plan to portray it the way they think it should have been.

That is the decision of a group who have commissioned a statue of three firefighters raising an American flag at the World Trade Center site after September 11. It could well become an icon for PC in American society.

The reason given for changing the racial and ethnic mix of the actual group was that those who died were of “all races and ethnicities” and that the statue “was to be symbolic of those sacrifices” so that ultimately a decision was made to “honor no one in particular, but everyone who made the supreme sacrifice.” So said Fire Department spokesperson Frank Gribbon.

I predict that under the banner of political correctness, the statue of the three firemen at the World Trade Center will not be deemed fair or complete even when it includes a white, a black and a Hispanic.

The fact is that only 2.7 percent of the firefighters killed were black. And only 3.2 percent were Hispanic. It is really not fair to portray two thirds of the proposed three firefighters as black or Hispanic since that under-represents the whites. The normal application of political correctness gratuitously assumes that it is fine to show whites in a negative or diminutive light, but let’s not abandon this concept of fairness too soon. To be accurate, let’s show the correct proportions of firefighters’ contributions by the height of the statues. If the White statue is six feet tall, then the correct size for the Black statue is approximately 1 and 15/16 inches. The Hispanic statue should fairly be about 2 and 5/16 inches high. It would make an interesting and accurate portrayal, and would most likely be cheaper too.

But we have not gone far enough.

To be really politically correct, it should also include a representative of all the nationalities who gave their lives, whether willingly or unwillingly. Since there were many nationalities represented there, and very likely representatives of all “genders,” then we are being very narrow indeed if we include only three individuals. Lets make it 125, or 250 or whatever is the correct number.

Our statue is going to be the opus magnus of political correctness.

Since we are on a roll, let’s reexamine the history of great world scenes to see how we could render them in a similar manner:

Suppose the American Continental Congress were portrayed according to standard PC doctrine: it would appear as a mix of blacks, whites and mulattos, with a few French, Indians and a Brit and American Tory thrown in for good measure. George Washington would look good as an Indian don’t you think? After all, it’s the idea that counts.

Or take the famous flag-raising on Iwo Jima: It would not be fair to just picture it the way it actually happened. Let’s just add a couple of women, and American Indians, and why not a couple of Germans and Japanese for good measure. Maybe they were the enemy that day, but weren’t a lot of Japanese interned during the war? Shouldn’t we show that all parties participated in making a noble effort for peace?

We automatically react to such tampering with history. Such false portrayals fly in the face of reality - political and human. Not every person is a hero; not every group is equally represented in the great events. Nor is every race, or religion or nation or sex equal. Not all share in every great event equally. Not everybody shares the limelight, or leadership positions or accolades. It simply is not ordained that way.

But in this brave new world of political correctness, unless everyone is a hero, none can be. Real heroes are an embarrassment in a world of political correctness. They are non-conformists in a world that demands above all that everyone conform. That is why the statues must not portray what really happened. They must portray what the PC controllers would like us to believe should happen. The two are seldom the same. The real world mocks the world of political correctness.

This PC mindset surfaces all the time in our culture. If everyone can’t pass with good grades, then none may receive grades: down with grades. If everyone can’t get into college on their own merits, then remove merit as a basis: down with merit. Instead award college attendance as a spoil of political power. If jobs are not equally occupied by both sexes, or minority races, then force employers to hire based on quotas, so that laws intended to assure non-discriminatory hiring are used to mandate discriminatory hiring. Down with racism: Up with racism.

All of this is a retreat and dismissal of reality in favor of a hoped-for equality of outcome. Yet equal outcomes in life cannot be reconciled with the real world. Reality - the real world - is such that we cannot mandate outcomes. The best we can hope for is to establish a level playing field of opportunity. The race is normally to the swift and the struggle is usually to the strong; bread is often the reward of the wise, and riches commonly come to men of understanding. Yet time and chance happens to them all. It is impossible to mandate outcomes without doing violence to the lives of everyone. Lives lived under the mandate of equal outcomes are lives lived under the slavery of mediocrity for all. Political correctness is the bringer of tyranny.

This truth is very unpalatable to the man of the world, but it is absolutely unavoidable because we live in a God-created world. There is nothing we can do about it. (Ps 2:1-3)

It is true that much unfairness and inequality exists in the world: Jacob is chosen and Esau is rejected; Abel’s offering is accepted but Cain’s is rejected. And three white men raised the flag. Likewise, the reaction to that inequality is all around us: Arabs hate the Jews. The Cains of the world, offering their own works, reject the Abels, who come by the ordained path of Blood. The result is war between them. (Gal 4:29) And some would craft a statue that lies about who raised the flag at the World Trade Center.

Why not just tell the truth in all cases? Why be so frightened of the truth?

The truth is that PC is a rejection of God’s providence. The solution to all the unfairness of this world is not found in creating lying statues about who raised a flag at Ground Zero, or forcing equality of salaries, or racial balance in hiring, or rejecting grades in favor of egalitarianism. It lies in receiving the grace of a loving God who works in the life of whosoever will call upon Him in truth and humility. He alone can make it possible to live with integrity and dignity - and real blessing - no matter what a person’s situation in life.

The apparent unfairness and inequality we see all around us is not a hindrance to good outcomes. It is an opportunity for God to manifest His love and intercession in an imperfect world. The only catch is that He alone will get the glory. (1 Cor. 1:29) PC is the world’s attempt to rob Him of that.

Let’s urge the statue-makers to portray what really happened, and inscribe the names of all the victims from the New York City Fire Department, without regard to race or ethnicity or economic status. They all died in the line of honorable duty, and we commend them to the one living God who made them all. That should be enough for anyone.

Firefighters Dan McWilliams, George Johnson and Billy Eisengrein raise the flag at Ground Zero - photo taken by Tom Franklin of The Record of Bergen County, N.J.

Based on an article Flag-Raising Statue Draws Criticism by Stephanie Gaskell,
Associate Press Writer, © 2002, Yahoo Inc. and the Associated Press.