Even the mighty Duke, long passed from our midst, is not immune to the ravages of present-day political correctness.
A California State Assemblyman, Matthew Harper, sought to make May 26, 2016 John Wayne Day in the state, but, alas, it is not to be. The bid for the special commemoration of the day the Duke was born was shot down by other Assembly members who say that racist statements made by Wayne disqualify him from earning the recognition.
The proposal seemed innocuous enough, at the outset. John Wayne is a beloved film icon the world over, grew up in Southern California, and even has an airport there named after him, John Wayne Airport, in Orange County. However, as we know all too well, there is a new social climate in America, one that demands that great Americans of history be thoroughly examined through the lens of political correctness before any symbolic honors are bestowed upon them. Many, of course, fail that examination, because the time during which they existed was much different from today, but they are nevertheless judged by the present-day standards that have evolved.
Such is what happened with the proposed John Wayne Day. While there was a time…and it would not have been long ago…that the resolution would have passed quickly and unanimously, this one saw itself subject to a lengthy debate on Thursday and then rather soundly defeated by a margin of 35-20.
The source of the acute difficulty many of the lawmakers had with the proposal are remarks made by Wayne that appeared in a 1971 interview in Playboy magazine. Here is an excerpt:
“We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”
By the standards of today, these comments are considered offensive by practically everyone. However, in the context that Wayne made this statement 45 years ago, and was himself born in 1907, at a time when the social structure and climate of the country was so different from today that it is impossible for anyone of recent generations to even conceive what it was truly like, it seems bizarre that they would cause him to be viewed now as a pariah by the country he loved so much and with which he is so singularly identified.
That is, however, the nature of the beast these days; given the new and unforgiving climate, perhaps even the name of John Wayne Airport will be changed in the near future. As Assemblyman Harper said after the vote, “the orthodoxy of political correctness” is what doomed his resolution. Left unchecked, that orthodoxy will doom us all.
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large