With Saint Louis, ‘Cancel Culture’ Loses its Mind

I last wrote about Hispanic foods company Goya Foods’s branding blunder in which the CEO said the United States is “blessed” to have Donald Trump as president. Today, we’ll look at the opposite side of the coin, when cancel culture loses its mind. And that happens a lot.

When it comes to cancel culture, there are good targets, debatable targets and then there are insane targets. Confederate statues and symbols are the best targets. I can see how they went up in the first place, but the first generation of sons and daughters of men who fought and died. But as time goes on, connections to those people fade and what remains are what they symbolize: a refusal to accept republican democracy and instead opting for war against the United States … over the issue of slavery no less.

A debatable example is Christopher Columbus. Yes, he killed and enslaved native people in the Americas. But he made one of most remarkable impacts in world history by bringing together the two hemispheres. Regardless of whether he ever knew what he found, nobody sailed west before him. After him, the planet could be mapped. At the moment, the aforementioned sins seem to carry more weight than the latter accomplishment and Columbus statues are coming down across the country. But times can change again.

And there are insane examples, such as trying to remove statues of Thomas Jefferson, the Founding Father who authored the Declaration of Independence and, as president, doubled the size of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase. He also owned slaves.

Today we’re going to look at cancel culture even nuttier than Thomas Jefferson. There is a call to rename St. Louis, Mo. and remove an iconic statue in our largest city park.

Why? According to the change.org petition by activist and provocateur, Umar Lee:

For those unfamiliar with King Louis IX he was a rabid anti-semite who spearheaded many persecutions against the Jewish people. Centuries later Nazi Germany gained inspiration and ideas from Louis IX as they embarked on a campaign of murderous genocide against the Jewish people. Louis IX was also vehemently Islamophobic and led a murderous crusade against Muslims which ultimately cost him his life.

St. Louis has a large and vibrant Jewish and Muslim community and it’s an outright disrespect for those who are part of these faith communities to have to live in a city named after a man committed to the murder of their co religionists. I ask all people of good faith committed to the modern values of equity and coexistence to sign this petition to rename the City of St. Louis to something more suitable and indicative of our values.

To be clear, this petition is going nowhere. In a month it has attracted barely 1,000 signatures, while the counter-petition has almost three times that. If the proposal weren’t to fade away, which it seems to be doing as I go to publish, the opposition would continue to pull away in the lead. So it’s not serious, but this issue hits home for this blog and me personally raising a bicultural Catholic family in St. Louis after a decade in Latin America.

Louis IX of France

Born in 1214, Louis IX was crowned king of France at just 12 years old. The only French king to be canonized, his legacy is of a benevolent Christian king who strove to achieve justice and lived in moderation. He implemented legal reforms, banning trial by combat, fire, water, etc. replacing it with trial by jury.

Louis IX financed and inspired a boom of Gothic art and architecture, including the Sainte-Chapelle on the River Seine in Paris. He built schools and hospitals for the poor.

As a Crusader, Louis IX raised armies to lead failed campaigns in Egypt and Tunisia, the second of which killed him. Hence his depiction as a warrior.

The “cancel” petition hinges on Louis IX’s Crusades and the Disputations of Paris, which were effectively rigged debates meant to convert French Jews to Christianity. Deemed to contain blasphemy, thousands of Talmuds and Jewish texts were burned. Some Jewish people were burned. Louix IX threatened to expel Jews from his kingdom, and forced them to wear a badge which would later inspire the Nazis’ “yellow badges.”

Product of his Time

The problem with many of these cancel culture “call outs” is they judge people based on standards of modern morality. We are all products of our time, and these figures lived in very different times with different definitions of right and wrong. Those standards are always changing. Some vices that were deemed normal 500 years ago (slavery) are abhorrent today, while others that seem normal today were illegal 500 years ago (divorce).

Who is to say which era is correct? Given they’re dead, we do. But we’ll be dead someday. Do you want to be judged on the standards 200 years from now? What if climate change makes driving a car or eating a hamburger a grave sin? What if water scarcity leads people of the future to deem us wasteful or ignorant for flushing toilets?

People are products of their environment, and in Louis IX’s case, that was 800 years ago FFS.

After losing his father so young, Louis IX grew intimately close to his Spanish mother, Blanca de Castilla (who, as a sidenote, lived up as a Latina suegra in oppressing her daughter-in-law). Blanca was born and raised in the middle of the Moors’ seven-century occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. His sweet, beautiful mother was born and raised a native in an occupied land. She hailed from an occupied people actively resisting foreign occupying forces.

More than 200 years would pass after Louis IX’s death before the Spanish Christians would finally expel the Muslims. Today we marvel at the Taliban for resisting American occupation for 20 years. The Spaniards of Blanca’s time had grandparents and grandchildren who fought in the same struggle against the Moors.

People today think of countries like Turkey, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon as Muslim countries, and so they may think they were always Muslim countries. They were not. Islam didn’t spread with proselytizing missionaries like the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on your door. Those countries were converted by the edge of a sword, converted by conquest, much like the conversion of Native Americans in Latin America. That is how humanity operated for centuries.

When Louis IX ruled France, Muslim kingdoms still posed a threat to Europe. They still occupied his mother’s country. The Crusades he led were not about genocide or exterminating Muslims. He would have seen it as liberating lands in the name of Christ, which was what devout kings on either side did for centuries before and centuries after. Muhammad himself was a religious militant who converted others largely by conquest.

Imagine Louis IX in a different light. Imagine him as a Mexican general who perishes while leading an army to retake California from the Americans. Is he still a bad guy?

Louis IX’s Crusades were unsuccessful, but the fact that he led them at all was inspiring. Born a king, he could have enjoyed a life of luxury. Leading a war back then wasn’t like leading a war for the last 300 years. Back then, kings were soldiers too. They wouldn’t be on the front lines, but they wouldn’t be far. Losing in most cases meant being killed or captured. He risked his life to serve his God, and his people loved him for it.

Burning books and branding Jews was fairly tame given the French held trials by fire or combat before Louis IX assumed power. This was 300 years before the Spanish Inquisition in Iberia and the Americas, when being Jewish or even Protestant could lead to some hardcore torture.

What Cancel Culture is Really About Sometimes

Louis IX became an icon for French Christendom, and that is what inspired the naming of so many places in the Louisiana Territory. Before the French, there was a defunct city in Cahokia, but what is now St. Louis was built by Frenchmen. This was a French city, and it’s still a very Catholic city.

And that is what many of these callouts are about. Generations of people have come of age learning all men are created equal, but societies are not exactly equal in their opportunities or outcomes. Given white people sit at the top of the hierarchy in a world where life isn’t fair, any white person in history is seen as perpetuating the injustice, regardless of how they lived their lives.

Terry Crews caught a lot of backlash for this tweet. I am not sure whether Black Lives Matter as an organization is guilty of this, but some of the cancel culture is certainly guilty of not being about anything more than chastising white people.

And for an example, I’ll share this Facebook post from the guy whose brainchild is renaming a metropolitan area home to 2.5 million people.

ISIS, Al Qaeda, neo-Ottoman Traditionalist Sufis, “rad trad” Catholics, Evangelical rightists, the BJP are all the same. They glorify an historic period in which it was their way or punishment and death and now are left to futile terror attacks or just being Twitter trolls.

This is just kooky. Equating evangelicals or the trend toward orthodox rituals with ISIS and Al Qaeda is misleading. It’s like saying to Umar Lee is just like ISIS. After all, they’re both Muslim.

Twitter trolling or even supporting the Trump administration’s policy of jailing children of immigrant peasants is not the same as beheading journalists or blowing up skyscrapers full of people with airplanes. Lee’s intent is to knock down white people. And if that’s the intent, then I’m with Terry on this.

And with that, I want to share the best speech I’ve heard on the issue, courtesy of Barack Obama.

God, I miss that guy!

Did you like this one? See The Moorish and Arab Influence in Latin America.

One comment

  1. Washington was one of the largest slave owners of his day. Is there a move to rename Washington DC to, maybe, BLM? And not DC. District of Colombia recalls Columbus, a major racial terrorist. So a good name could be BLM Antifa. All good and politically correct city name

    Like

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