Opinion: Letter to the Editor: ‘Political Correctness’

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: ‘Political Correctness’

Those who allege “political correctness” should be compelled to explain exactly what they mean. Often, it seems to be the reflexive attachment of a label to another whose opinion differs from one’s own.

I have not closely followed the Stuart High School name-change debate, so I may well be mistaken, but it appears that this is an example of the churning, however imperfectly, of representative — not direct — democracy. Some in the FCPS community expressed a concern about the school’s name, and that started a process which has culminated, for now, in a 7-2 vote by the elected members of the Fairfax County School Board to change the name. The political process for this sort of thing has functioned as advertised, or, one could say, “correctly.” Is that what you mean?

My own views on what I will call the Monuments Question fall along a spectrum. Although as a resident of Fairfax County, I don’t have “standing,” I think that Jeff Davis Highway should have been renamed long ago, while the Confederate soldier mourning his fallen brethren, on N. Washington Street should remain (as should things named Washington ...). Stuart High School however, should be renamed. While I understand he was an accomplished cavalry officer, he did take up arms against the United States. A Google search reveals neither a Võ Nguyên Giáp High School nor a JEE Rommel High School in the U.S., so I’m not clear why Stuart should have this honor. Attach the scarlet letters to my chest.

This is not “white-washing” history. By my count, Fairfax County Public Library has 22 titles, with multiple copies of each, just about General Stuart, along with innumerable books on the Civil War. Were they to suddenly start removing these from the shelves, even I might accuse them of political correctness. This is not that ... the Fairfax County School Board has voted to no longer honor a man who took up arms against the United States in order to preserve slavery.

To the writer who described the school’s 1959 naming as “... a simple nod to local Civil War history,” I ask, “whose history?” This is not to say there are no objective facts in history, but “history” as I understand it, is the interpretation of facts, as best they can be established. Interpretation begins with perspective, which would appear to be changing.

JJ Fagan