This week, former astronaut Scott Kelly got himself into hot water with the political Left. How? In an attempt to lament the Republican celebration over the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Kelly tweeted, “One of the greatest leaders of modern times, Winston Churchill said, ‘in victory, magnanimity.’ I guess those days are over.”
This tweet was a problem. Not because it was too conciliatory toward Republicans. Because it quoted Winston Churchill.
Indeed, Kelly soon apologized to his left-leaning fan base, tweeting:
Did not mean to offend by quoting Churchill. My apologies. I will go and educate myself further on his atrocities, racist views which I do not support. My point was we need to come together as one nation. We are all Americans. That should transcend partisan politics.
But, of course, we cannot come together as one nation so long as we engage in the foolish exercise of savaging our civilizational history. Good-faith conversations about American history recognize the multifaceted moral nature of human existence: the fact that George Washington was a slaveholder does not render his status as father of the country moot; the fact that Abraham Lincoln spent most of his career advocating for colonization of black Americans in Africa rather than their full integration into American life does not obliterate Lincoln’s role as the Great Emancipator. Human beings are products of their time — and they are capable of holding viewpoints that resonate down through the ages and the prejudices of their own age. Undoubtedly, a century from now, few will look kindly at even the most broadminded Americans’ views on a variety of issues.
But the process of civilizational development requires us to separate the wheat from the chaff — and to celebrate the wheat.