Austin Texas takes pride in it’s weirdness, and by weird they mean crazy progressivism. The rest of Texas just shakes their head and tries to ignore it. Much like the trifling nephew who lives in your brother’s basement, you know he won’t amount to much… but he’s family. However, if recent reports are true, the weird capitol of the Loan Star Nation may be considering taking its weirdness to a new level: changing its name.
According to an article from CNN, the idea for changing the name came as a suggestion from Austin’s Equity Office… yes, they really have one of those. In their report, they made the recommendation of re-christening a few streets that had names related to the old confederacy. Basically, they said, “Gee! The confederacy was bad because of slavery. Stephen F. Austin was a slave-holder. Therefore, changing the name of the city would be a great idea, right?”
While it’s not surprising that the city of Austin would want to play to its progressive base, for many Texans, this is going too far. However, it’s not as if we didn’t see this coming. The relatively successful move by many state and local governments towards removing Confederate memorials has attained such a fevered pitch, it was only a matter of time before other important historical figures that had nothing to do with the C.S.A., but nonetheless don’t measure up to the moral standards of today, were due for the chopping block. As names such as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis are being cleansed from the public sphere, it’s easy to see virtue-signaling destroyers of history shortly going after Washington, Jefferson, Houston, or even Austin for their sins.
Let me state categorically that slavery is bad, and it is good it was done away with in the U.S. and Texas. However, even with having Confederate memorials and cities named Austin, that is not a controversial opinion and hasn’t been in 100 years. Now, we can take a page out of the ISIS handbook and try to destroy the past for its moral failings when compared to us (as perfect as we no-doubt are!), or we can use this as a teachable moment.
Without Stephen F. Austin, there is no Texas, and therefore having the capitol bear his name makes sense. But all men, even great men, have moral failings. Think of the people you admire or acknowledge as being important to History. How did they measure up to the morality of their day, let alone our more enlightened time? Einstein brutalized his wife. Martin Luther King Jr. was a plagiarist and a serial adulterer. Wernher Von Braun was a defecting Nazi (Seriously! The guy who gave us a viable space program was once a National Socialist!). Nevertheless, all of these people helped create the world we now live in. It’s not necessary for me to cast out the discoveries of Einstein for his unkind treatment of women, nor the social achievements of MLK for his ugly personal behavior, nor disown the moon landing because one of its chief architects was reluctantly a part of the Third Reich. However, while recognizing their great good, I should also recognize and learn from their moral failings.
Who can say how serious Austin is with the idea of changing its name? Perhaps not very. They may be putting this out there to just to see what response they get. Yet, if they do move ahead with such a plan, I think they will have serious blow-back from Texans who think enough is enough. Austin was not a perfect person, but neither are any of us. 100 years from now, how will the Austin politicians be judged? Will their achievements be acclaimed or wiped from the books for their failure to live up to some future moral standard? Additionally, if they lived in Austin’s time, would they have had the same progressive sensibilities that they now pat themselves on the back for? Not likely! This because without Austin and his generation struggling with these issues, we simply would not be where we are today. We like a smooth path to walk on, but it took many who walked before us, tramping it out, to make it that way.
So, what should we do with men like Austin? We could use his life and legacy as a means of fostering a deeper understanding of our own history or, in an act of unmitigated myopic, self-righteous arrogance, try to have him stricken from the record. Personally, I vote to keep our history, warts and all. Changing the name of the city of Austin won’t change the past. Instead, let us be inspired by the good in our past while learning from the mistakes made. For unless we all become angels, we too will continue to strive with our darker natures to attempt some good. Let’s extend the grace we give ourselves also to our ancestors. Let’s forgive them for not being as awesome as we are.