Which Statues Make the Cut? None?
When statues are torn down for noble reasons, the act and the accompanying video of that act can feel like a cleansing of past evils. Merely seeing the footage can send people into ecstasy and an overwhelming feeling of joy can spread throughout a liberated nation or group of people. Think the statue of Saddam Hussein getting torn down in Iraq or the Nazi swastika getting blown the hell up at Zeppelinfeld. In America, there are large swaths of people who want to do the same to all the Confederate statues littered throughout the country. From a purely historical standpoint, they have a very solid point.
While early Confederate memorials were erected in or near cemeteries to honor fallen soldiers, the majority of Confederate statues were only erected 30-60 years after the Civil War. These monuments did not glorify the average soldier who fought so bravely for an unjust cause, but rather, glorified “The Cause” itself, which no modern American should support. However, as mobs continue to tear down statue after statue–Confederate and non-Confederate alike–we have once again let mob mentality take an otherwise decent idea and turn it into an unmitigated disaster. The problem is quite simple; people, and the statues made of them, are not simple. Your villains are almost never entirely evil, and your heroes are usually far from perfect.
If Statues Are of People, and People are Not Perfect…
Most can agree a statue to Jefferson Davis need not be in a public square. Some can argue the statue should remain as a teaching monument so people can point to it and say, “that man right there was a traitor to the United States and believed evil things.” That point has value but would be more poignant in a museum rather than the center of a town. The statue, or lack thereof, could be just as impactful in a history book. There is no need to maintain a statue in a public space that hurts people. Why cause undue harm to a preserve a piece of history that was created specifically to cause harm and division? It seems rather silly at best and evil at worst.
However, should the statues get torn down by mobs and vandals? No. Again, if you want to hammer home the point that the statue is an affront to kind-hearted and good-natured people, vote on the statue coming down. That might seem like a silly proposition, but statues are currently getting torn down that absolutely should be standing until the disillusionment of the United States of America (coming soon?). When you are tearing down Thomas Jefferson by mob fiat, you have completely crossed the line.
— Bonnie Silkman KPTV (@BonnieSilkman) June 15, 2020
The reason you should vote on the statues staying put or coming down is that at least with a vote, you can have much smarter and more intelligent people raise their voices in defense of the statue. If your only reaction to seeing a statue of Thomas Jefferson is “slaveholder,” you need to pick up a history book. Worse, you look like a simpleton; you are actively announcing to the world you do not have the mental wherewithal to comprehend history. Yes, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, but he was also one of the greatest Americans ever and wrote the Declaration of Independence. He was far from a bad man, but simply a man who lived in his own time.
If you disagree with such a sentiment and think his statues should come down, you are not going to like it when others use your own reasoning and rhetoric. People are human beings. By definition, they are not perfect. We can go through almost all world and American heroes and come up with valid reasons to besmirch their history.
If a Thomas Jefferson Statue Needs to Come Down, Everything Must Come Down
How many people think Martin Luther King, Jr. was a terrific American? I certainly do. But should we tear down all statues to MLK because he was a serial philanderer and rape abettor? Is it time to erase his name from every street and school that bears it? Do we have to cast aspersions on the “I Have a Dream Speech?” If we are going to judge history and the most impactful human beings that dot it, let’s really show how much we know our history.
Does the Washington monument need to come down? After all, George Washinton was not just the first president of the United States, but merely a slave owner. FDR? Nope, why should anybody, ever, praise an antisemite who was directly responsible for the death of 254 Jews and indirectly for at least another 190,000? But nobody seems to have an issue driving on the FDR in New York. Churchill saved the world from the Nazis, but instituted racist practices against the Indians. Speaking of Indians? Gandhi! Gandi can’t be bad right? Wrong! Even though Gandi outgrew his early racist thoughts and writings, he was still–at best–a child abuser, and–at worst–guilty of sexual harassment.
John Brown died trying to abolish slavery while knowing he was right and prophesizing the Civil War… but also was clearly a 2nd Amendment nut, so by today’s leftist standards, he must be ignored. Harriet Tubman belongs in that boat too (she is so… SO badass). JFK? Not too bad… until you stumble upon Mimi Beardsley. General Patton? Strike that. Sgt. York? He can stay.
The more you back this ignorant crusade, the more absurd it becomes; like a black man starting a petition to remove the Emancipation Memorial in Boston when it was originally commissioned by slaves and dedicated by Frederick Douglass! Go down the list of your favorite Americans and you will almost certainly find something wrong with them (maybe not Frederick Douglass). But that’s ok! They were human beings. With all the faults inherent with being an imperfect creature.
Yes, some of the people with statues had faults that were worse than others, but are we really so simple we cannot appreciate the good–nay–the great these great human beings have done for the world without forgiving them for their sins? Who are we to think it is our place to judge them? We are not gods, we are people, just like them. And while they do all have their own faults, if all of us were even a fraction of the people they were, this whole world we live in would be an immeasurably better place. That is what we are doing when we start tearing down all these statues; instead of building the world up, we are literally tearing it down. It should be no surprise when the world starts crumbling with it.