Thursday, February 2, 2017

Ex Post Facto

The appearance of Andrew Jackson's portrait in the Oval Office has led to cries of racism and bigotry aimed at the new President for allowing the picture to be hung.

This is a branch of the river of outrage toward the Founding Fathers who had the hypocritical effrontery to pass the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights while either owning slaves or voting with or knowing people who did.

So we can announce the appearance of a new social syndrome: ex post facto outrage, that is, fury aimed at people who were behaving consistently with their time but whose time has been eclipsed. Fury without context. So Virgil could not enter Dante's heaven because he was born before Christ and thus not a Christian.

It is asking a lot to ask someone to rise above the thinking of the times as much as it would be to rise above instinct. It takes greatness to do that--and some of these people were great--but often such exceptionalism gets you crucified.

These moralistic time travelers have little appreciation of the revolutionary changes these people lived through and, often, created. Theirs is a Manichean world of trans-time absolutes. It is similar to dismissing Wyatt and Surrey for writing mediocre sonnets; they invented the sonnet.

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