Carla Marinucci writes on what I consider to be surprising debate in California over a decision to spend an enormous amount of money on literal whitewashing:

A San Francisco school board decision to spend $600,000 to paint over a New Deal-era mural of George Washington as a slave owner is fueling a family feud among Democrats…

“I think of myself as liberal, progressive, and have been all my life — but I’m just sort of stunned by this,’’ veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum said Sunday. “We have a little more important things to do — like defeating Donald Trump — than to whitewash a mural.” …

The San Francisco Board of Education voted unanimously last month to paint over all 13 panels of the 1600 sq. ft. mural “Life of Washington,’’ a historic work commissioned during the New Deal that depicts George Washington as a slave owner. The move came after several vocal protesters demanded the move at a public meeting, saying their children were “traumatized” by depictions of the nation’s first president standing over the images of dead Native Americans. …

Democratic strategist Mike Semler — who has advised Senator Dianne Feinstein and who has taught public policy at Cal State University Sacramento — this weekend sent out an emergency email alert seeking support for an effort to back a ballot measure to save the mural. He said the effort, dubbed the Coalition to Protect Public Art, aims to solicit funds to initiate a ballot measure designed to protect this art, “and perhaps other New Deal art in San Francisco’’ which may also be targeted. …

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, in a recent San Francisco Chronicle column, likened the school board supporters’ and tactics to the worst of Trump‘s backers. He noted the vocal group seeking to destroy the painting did so by bullying the recent school board meeting with a claim to be “traumatized by the mural.”

“They’re clearly traumatized by something,’’ he wrote. “They’d be horrified by the comparison, but they’re really no different from the most boorish of President Trump’s supporters.”

Brown said that his own daughter, Sydney, a Washington High graduate “was never traumatized by Arnautoff’s painting — as a matter of fact, it generated conversations at home that otherwise would not have occurred. It was a learning experience for her, and for me.” …

“Was Washington a slave owner? Yes. Did he command troops that killed Native Americans? Yes,’’ says Shrum. “But George Washington — it seems stupid to have to say it — performed an incredible service for this country. We wouldn’t be here without him.’’

This brings me back to Michael Brenden Dougherty’s prediction that, even before the last of the Confederate monuments are removed, the next step in the logic of civic whitewashing will be the removal of the founders. An unacknowledged aspect of this attempt to reshape the public landscape is that it works against a “knowledge of self” for future Americans, who will simply be ignorant of certain key aspects (both good and bad) of our country’s past.

Political taboos, to the extent that they set parts of American history as “off limits,” have the effect not simply of destroying awareness of those off-limits aspect, but also of destroying knowledge broadly, in the sense that fluency with one’s past is impossible if there are gaps in one’s memory.