Statues And Monuments Are History    -   November 14, 2020

Are Some Statues and Monuments Bad? – What Should Be Done?

Demonstrations and riots that have swept America seemed bent on tearing down every symbol deemed counter to their view of a properly ‘woke’ society.  Offending symbols include signs and logos, flags and pennants, team names, monuments and statues.

Statues and monuments have been particularly targeted.  Sometimes just because they’re big and visible and fun to destroy.  Often because those pulling a statue down are offended by what they believe it venerates.  Maybe because the protesters don’t really understand the role played in American history by those depicted … or perhaps they do and want it erased!  But always because the protesters feel justified in asserting their views over all others, and their methods over civil procedure.

Throughout history many statues and monuments have projected messages related to perceived virtues – bravery, honesty, humility(!), humanity, sacrifice, strength, wisdom, etc.  Other statues have projected messages of control, dominance, fear and power.

Every historical person and hero honored by a statue or monument was a mixture of good and evil.  But the histories of some are decidedly dark – because those depicted did more personal evil than good, because the motivation for erecting the statue or monument was more evil than good, or because the perceived balance between the relevant good and evil has changed over time.

Statues and monuments (and place names) in America have ranged from the overwhelmingly positive that offend very few, to the clearly evil that ought to offend virtually everyone.  Washington and Jefferson are examples of the former to most; explorers and Southern leaders during the civil war are examples of the latter to many.  The position of hundreds of others between these extremes is controversial, with many adherents of both views.  And some statues and monuments may be appropriate in the context of their beneficence as with a founder or benefactor of a museum or school, but not appropriate on the courthouse lawn.

Beginning in the late eighteenth century, uncounted numbers of statues and monuments have been destroyed or removed following civil procedures or violence.  Others have been more quietly removed.

Removal of statues, monuments and other public symbols should not be mandated by an emotional and vocal few.  The American way requires that removal or relocation should occur only following civil discourse, consideration and general consensus.  And all removals should be preceded by thoughtful consideration of this meme:

"History is not there for you to like or dislike.  It is there for you to learn from it.  And if it offends you, even better.  Because then you are less likely to repeat it.  It's not yours to erase.  It belongs to all of us."

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