Gov. Matt Bevin’s action to remove Jane Beshear’s name from a visitor’s center next to the state Capitol reads like a petty, ill-considered act, but Kentuckians can take solace in knowing that it has long precedent.
There’s even a Latin term for it, damatio memoriae, or condemnation of memory. In Ancient Rome it was reserved for heinous people who had brought shame to the empire, such as the family of Caligula. Dictators throughout history have used it simply to erase the memories of those they crushed on their way to power. Joseph Stalin purged all mentions of his opponents, even editing them out of individual photographs. In the United States the images of disgraced leaders from Benedict Arnold to Spiro Agnew have been suppressed.
This is Bevin’s second swipe at blotting out Beshear, whom he removed from the Kentucky Horse Park Commission earlier this year.
So, we can see where Bevin fits into this erase-the-past tradition but it’s a little hard to lump the former first lady in with Caligula, Stalinist in-fighters and Agnew.
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Former Gov. Steve Beshear named the center for his wife shortly before he left office because she had raised money privately to transform an outdated utility building on the grounds into a welcome center for Capitol visitors.
Hardly a good reason to damn her memory, Governor.