The Case for not Allowing the Destruction of Memorials
1. History is sacred for a number of reasons. It is our legacy. It is immutable (or so it should be). It is the evidence. It is our only record. It goes back to our beginning. What has happened has happened and needs to be recorded “as is” without changes and without sanitation. It needs to be the truth. Many famous people, smarter than me, have weighed in on this point including Condoleezza Rice said, “When you start wiping out your history, sanitizing your history to make you feel better, it’s a bad thing.”
George W Bush said, “Great nations do not hide their history!”
Ben Crump, attorney for the George Floyd family said, “…pulling down statues … we do not get the lessons to understand how we can learn from them.” Just as science cannot be changed without evidence, history can not be changed without evidence and a lot of thought. The historian William Cavert said that acts that try to change or remove events, “erase history.”
2. The memorials we are talking about were put up by people of the past whose motivations were not to celebrate the South or honor traitors (very few losers celebrate), but to provide a focal point for remembrances of their family members who were killed in the war. Many, if not most of them, were erected by the wives and relatives of dead Confederate soldiers between 1890 and 1920 through organizations such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy. I ask you, what do you think the motives of wives and daughters of dead soldiers were by erecting a memorial? I strongly suspect glorification of the Confederacy was not an intended motivation. Tearing down these memorials deprives them of their right to remember and is an act of disrespect for those that are dead regardless of which side they fought on, regardless if one or the other side called them traitors, which by the way they didn’t at the request of Abraham Lincoln, regardless of whatever you may conjure up. They are dead, and their family and descendants want to remember them! The politically correct (American Taliban) thought police at work. Bravo! What an act of thoughtless rudeness.
3. The mob often gets it wrong. How many memorials were taken down, spray-painted, decapitated, burned, or threatened that had either nothing to do with the Confederacy or were heroes of the Union? Firstly, the mob should not have that option, to begin with. They are not the brightest bulbs around in the first place. Did they forget or ever know that Ulysses S. Grant won the war against the slave-holding South? For God’s sake, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves! The Emancipation Memorial (depicted above) in Washington D.C was inspired, designed, and purchased by former enslaved women who wanted to pay homage to Lincoln after he was assassinated. If you are going to disrespect history at least know what you are desecrating.
Theodore Roosevelt was a great supporter of Black equality. He was the first president, along with his wife, to host a black man (former slave) at the White House for dinner, Booker T. Washington. Yet some of Theodore’s statues came down anyway. Hans Christian Heg, whose memorial stood in front of the Wisconsin Capitol, an abolitionist who died from a Confederate bullet fighting to end slavery, went down June 24, 2020 into a lake.
Ponce De Leon, Christopher Columbus, and Saint Junipero Serra are not even from the same century. Are they candidates to be desecrated also? With the level of intellect I have seen so far, I question if the demonstrators know that none of those fought in the Civil war. Or are we now letting the mob cast a wider net as to who in the history of mankind, is or is not PC?
With all due respect, the mob does not possess the qualifications to make that judgement! Current and future history scholars would disagree on the historical accuracy or the historical and artistic merit of these statues. I could add a lot more worthy names to despicable historical characters who have statues still standing, like Vladimir Lenin in Seattle who did away with an exponentially larger number of humans than Columbus ever knew in his entire life time. As much as I despise Lenin, and I do, I would defend to the death his right to be in Seattle ( paraphrasing Voltaire, besides,being a sculptor myself, that sculpting is an outstanding work of art, but more importantly that memorial is history that reminds people of what an A..H… he was). That we are letting blatant ignoramuses decide on the cultural or historical worth of our heritage is itself not exactly Kosher, if not criminal. I am not disparaging black people’s intellect. At least half the people I saw on TV, were white.
George Washington, the father of our country, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, and Francis Scott Key, author of the national anthem, all had slaves, as did many of the wealthy class of that time. Our potential future vice president, Kamala Harris’ family, had slaves. I didn’t see her kneeling with her Kente scarf. Should we bring that up in deciding if that should disqualify her too? From 1724 on, wealthy free black people in several states owned slaves as well, along with some Native American tribes, specifically the five so called civilized tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole). One particularly notorious black man was Nathaniel Butler who became quite wealthy from the slave trade. It is not just the white male privileged that need to share in the blight of slavery.
4. Many of the memorials are on public land, therefore owned by the public. If a memorial is deemed to be so depraved, should there not be a public hearing before publicly elected or appointed people, such as a panel of judges, to decide if indeed the public has a right to remove them? It is furthermore unfair to rob future generations the right to weigh in as to what is and what is not historically or artistically important. And if removed, would it not be more appropriate to store them, possibly in a museum, for future historians to study these obviously historical pieces? If they are on private land owned by private individuals, the destruction of property is also illegal. It is called vandalism, named for the Vandals, a barbaric German tribe that took part in the sacking of Rome.
5. Speaking of Germans, their dealings with war memorials is always brought up. There are no statues of Hitler in Germany! They say. Firstly, they were ALL destroyed by the Allies when they overran the Wehrmacht. In 1945 laws were created by the conquering armies that no memorial to the leaders of the Nazi regime were to be erected. Yet many memorials have remained, such as Hitler’s birthplace, his Eagle’s Nest house, the Reich Chancellery, and his bunker where he committed suicide with his wife and dog. 20 of the Concentration Camps that are preserved, with the insistence of Jewish groups, including the State of Israel, that want them to remain as is so that we “shall remember”! They all are popular tourist attractions and all revenue-producing I might add.
6. We are cherry-picking one facet of history to sanitize. How about we sanitize other facets as well. Not doing so seems discriminatory to me. I have a few in mind. The religious murders conducted by all religions over the centuries in unbelievably cruel ways. The last heretic was executed in 1826, not that long ago. The Vatican has lots of art, including statues as well as books that would qualify as targets for the thought police, and make for a great book burning fire. St. Peter’s Basilica has an altar made of solid gold (that I have seen) stolen from the Americas when the stealing was good. How many Native Americans died to mine that gold. Some of it undoubtedly was part of Montezuma’s when he filled up the room with gold and then got strangled anyway by Cortes. What a prize that would be for looters.
Protestants with the knowledge and consent of church leaders had their own Inquisitions for rooting out heretics. As soon as they got the power to kill, they did. Their favorite way to execute such heretics was by drowning, burning, or beheading the enemies of God. This did not stop with their migration to America until the founders, the same ones that now are getting their memorials torn down, put an end to religious persecution by enforcing freedom of religion. Luckily Sharia Law is not yet established in the West as the burnings are still a favorite way to punish the enemies of Allah. What about the Robber Barons of the Industrial Age? All the children who were forced to work in soot laden factories and died of TB, hunger, and neglect. The ill-gained fortunes by those Robber Barons are still available for looting, the Carnegies, the Vanderbilts, and the Rockerfellers, to name a few.
What about other races and ethnic groups that suffered from discrimination and racism? The Chinese who were imported to do almost slave labor to build our railroads? The Irish that escaped starvation in Europe only to become indentured servants working off their debts to pay the boat ride over. We never really cleaned up the injustices against the Native Americans. Speaking of reparations, there are lots of them who got the short end of the stick that are still alive on the reservations, unlike black slaves. The last black person who worked as a slave on a plantation died in 1971 at the purported age of 130.
7. George Orwell wrote in his book, 1984: “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”