Locke’s Legacy

David Lewis Schaefer has written an insightful essay defending John Locke’s legacy against woke cancel culture. Historical perspective is often missing from these debates, and Schaefer capably points out historical complexity by placing Locke in his own context and painting a fuller picture of his legacy in America. Here’s his conclusion:

The crimes of the Spanish and Portuguese colonizers against the indigenous inhabitants of Southern America, as well as against the Africans they enslaved to serve them in the Western Hemisphere, were many (far more slaves were imported by the Iberians than by the English). And undoubtedly, American settlers and their governors sometimes committed atrocities (on a much smaller scale) against the Indians as well. But no country or civilization on earth has ever enjoyed a morally unblemished history. On the other hand, no country has ever elevated the condition of so many people, and served as a beacon (and fortress) of liberty, as the United States.

Unfortunately, as Continetti reports, the “disgust” expressed by an alarmingly high percentage of younger Americans against their country is fed in considerable measure by ignorance of the nation’s real history. Wokeism, increasingly instilled by their education (its latest iteration being the New York Times’s “1619 Project”) fills the gap formerly occupied by an appreciation of their country’s achievements, alongside its failings.

The fate of liberty may well hinge on the ability of the individuals who staff our academic institutions, including our most learned scholars as well as elementary and high-school teachers, to transcend the temptations of disdaining both Western civilization and American institutions, in favor of genuine intellectual honesty about our heritage.

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