Those calling for the termination of Hudson Reporter reporter Al Sullivan are engaged in short sighted, dangerous, and un-American censorship. The accusation against him of racism is obviously and demonstrable proven false by his large body of professional and personal writings. That such a reporter and the institution that employs him have been accused of being a racist and of harboring a bigot, is as ridiculous and sad as it is unsurprising. One need not agree with Sullivan’s analysis or the coverage choices of the Hudson Reporter to understand the invaluable nature of his reporting and analysis of local issues.
That he, in his personal time, wrote a poem positing that those who would tear down statues are engaged in a symbolic politics that fails achieve concrete goals is both his right and a topic that should be engaged with. Racism and bigotry are undoubtedly real tangible issues in society but Confederate statues say more about the Jim Crow and Civil Rights era’s most were put up during than actual state of affairs today. Not only did we just have our first black president but we have black, other minority, and female leadership in all levels of our government, across corporations, and in academia. Just as important is the fact that the physical violence waged by the extremist culture warriors Sullivan critiques is not limited to Confederate statues but has also targeted statues of Abraham Lincoln, Christopher Columbus, many other monuments, and the free speech and free assembly rights of public speakers across the country.
That we should not venerate the Confederacy, should teach people the true reason the Confederacy seceded (slavery), and that we should not revere the moral failings of our founding fathers and other leaders is as self-evident as Sullivan’s constitutional and moral right to express himself. Even pretending for a moment that Sullivan articulated the bigoted notion his detractors claim, rather than pointing out the danger of cleansing history of its disturbing elements, his right to do so is an American value. These values, of free expression and free press, are found so rarely around the world and can only exists if they are upheld as rights even for those with which we disagree. It is inappropriate and particularly dangerous when political “leaders” such as Assemblywoman McKnight insert themselves to score cheap political points while risking the erosion of freedom of speech and a free press independent of political coercion.
Many have argued the commonsense solutions that Confederate statues belong in museums or should have metallic placards explaining the horrible and morally repugnant cause the Confederates were fighting for, but erasing history by merely obliterating monuments as if events never happened anesthetizes a societies historical memory. The old adage that “those who forget history are deemed to repeat it” is applicable both in the efforts to violently topple monuments and to those who have engaged in a McCarthyite witch hunt now targeting Al Sullivan and the Hudson Reporter. Addressing actual bigotry requires education and empowerment not the mentality of the mob and those of its political enablers who have no problem using intimidation to limit a free press and free speech.
Joshua Einstein is the independent candidate for Hoboken City Council, the Republican State Committeeman from Hudson County, a member of the Hudson County Regional Jewish Council, and has been published in over 13 papers and websites.