Which statues deserve to fall?


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  john-russell  •  2 weeks ago  •  5 comments

Which statues deserve to fall?
“Needless to say, there are lots of ways to remember unpleasant history without erecting statues to the worst villains of it. The German government understands this, which is why they don’t have statues of Hitler astride a horse, and didn’t name the Munich airport after Joseph Goebbels.”

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

Black Lives Matter protests that started as a response to the police killing of George Floyd have sparked a much larger conversation about racism in America. One part of the discussion has focused on historical monuments that dot the landscape across the country and whether they should remain in place or be removed.

Recent weeks have seen the revival of an ongoing debate over symbols of the Confederacy. In several cities across the country, statues of Confederate figures have been taken down. Some were removed by local governments. Others were torn down by protesters. There have also been efforts to ban the Confederate flag and rename military bases named after Confederate generals. 

It’s not only icons of the Civil War that are being targeted. Statues of some of the most important figures in American history have also been singled out. Protesters in Portland, Ore., tore down statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Monuments to Christopher Columbus have been defaced in several cities. The American Museum of Natural History in New York is planning to remove a statue of Theodore Roosevelt. 

Other statues that have been removed represent people from a broad spectrum of American history, including Spanish missionary Junípero Serra, former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, “Star-Spangled Banner” lyricist Francis Scott Key and the former owners of two NFL teams.

Why there’s debate

The lines of argument about Confederate statues are familiar and relatively straightforward, though   public support   for removing them appears to be growing. The discussion becomes more complex when focus shifts to the Founding Fathers and other central figures in U.S. history.

At the core of the debate is whether the positive things those people did override their sins. Washington and Jefferson, for example, helped free the American colonies from British rule and establish a nation built on the ideals of liberty and equality. They were also slave owners, and they built a system of government that denied freedom and equality to anyone who wasn’t a white man. 

To some critics, these offenses are so deeply immoral that they supersede anything else Washington and Jefferson did. Any monument to a slave owner, they argue, serves as an implicit endorsement of white supremacy and should be taken down. The same logic is applied to individuals who committed atrocities against native peoples, like Columbus and President Andrew Jackson. 

Opponents of these arguments say that destroying monuments to complicated historical figures only serves to bury the realities of American history. The past should be remembered for both its triumphs and its ugliness, they argue. If given the proper context, the statues can provide an opportunity to discuss a more complete version of our nation’s past. Others say it’s good to reconsider which monuments should stand, but the decision should be made by governments, not mobs of protesters. 

What’s next

President Trump on Friday signed an executive order he said would lead to “long jail sentences” for demonstrators who tear down historical monuments. Details of the order have not yet been released.


The Founding Fathers should be remembered for both the good and the bad they did

“The fact that Washington, Jefferson and other early presidents owned slaves should temper our admiration for them but not erase it entirely. They gave us a nation grotesquely disfigured by slavery, but they also gave us the constitutional tools, and the high-minded ideals, with which to heal that original, near-fatal flaw.” — Eugene Robinson,   Washington Post

All statues of slave owners should come down

“We need to call slave owners out for what they are, whether we think they were protecting American freedom or not. … So, to me, I don’t care if it’s a George Washington statue or a Thomas Jefferson statue or Robert E. Lee statue. They all need to come down.” — Angela Rye,   CNN  

We can chronicle history without building monuments to racists

“Needless to say, there are lots of ways to remember unpleasant history without erecting statues to the worst villains of it. The German government understands this, which is why they don’t have statues of Hitler astride a horse, and didn’t name the Munich airport after Joseph Goebbels.” — Amanda Marcotte,   Salon

Expecting perfection from historical figures is foolish

“Every human being worth preserving in bronze or marble blends good and bad, since human beings are complex, imperfect sinners. The only way to present perfection on pedestals would be to sweep away today’s unfavored men and women and replace them with seamless spheres, cones and cylinders.” — Deroy Murdock,   Fox News

There is a clear difference between American icons and Confederate generals

“If, in this moment of long-awaited change, we can’t distinguish between a statue of Abraham Lincoln and one of Jefferson Davis — let alone Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee — while debating the legacy of slavery, then we’re in real trouble.” — John Avlon,   CNN

Statues should be reconsidered through a formal process, not torn down by mobs

“Irrespective of the nature of their grievance — or of the strength of the feeling undergirding it — violent mobs can’t make decisions on behalf of everyone else. If, as is occasionally the case, it is necessary for public monuments to be altered, updated, revisited, or removed, that work must be done within the democratic process and under the rule of law.” — Editorial,   National Review

Tearing down statues gives the systems that put them up a free pass

“When a mob tears down a statue, it is almost always out of pure anger at honoring evil. But the evil and the fact that it was officially honored is lost. Better to have a formal apology and atonement for honoring racism, colonialism, subjugation, murder and exploitation by official government action.” — Arthur Caplan,   New York Daily News

Historical figures rarely fall into clear categories of good and bad

“Yes, it is time, finally, to tear down the statues honoring those who perpetuated slavery, racism, and white supremacy. … But history is not uncomplicated, nor do its players exist in binary categories. This long overdue, and necessary, reexamination of our past needs to take place with an appreciation of the context and complexities of the era within [which] our forefathers lived.” — Steven K. Green,   Oregonian


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1  Tacos!    2 weeks ago

I think a relevant question - perhaps the most relevant - is "why did you erect the statue in the first place?" If it is for honorable reasons, then leave it up. If not, tear it down.

So if you erected a statue of Christopher Columbus to honor his spirit of exploration or recognize him as a key figure in the development of the United States, then leave it up. If you erected it just to piss off native Americans, then it should come down.

If you erected a monument to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson because of their inspirational leadership roles in fighting for freedom, opposing tyranny, and supporting democracy, then they should stay. If you erected them just to piss off black people, they should come down.

I think if you are offended by any such statues, you should get educated about why they are there in the first place before you go demanding they come down. And recognize that no person you memorialize was perfect. If you want a standard of perfection, we won't have any statues at all. And that would be a tragedy.

The German government understands this, which is why they don’t have statues of Hitler astride a horse

Lumping the men who built our country in with Hitler is dumb. Just soooo dumb.

2  Nerm_L    2 weeks ago

There are several problems with the arguments being made to remove statues and monuments.

The arguments establishes the idea that lives do not matter equally.  Justice is served by retroactively assigning guilt to those who cannot defend themselves.  Retroactive guilt marks an individual as a criminal without an opportunity for redemption; once a criminal, always a criminal.  Association with a criminal marks an individual as a criminal; retroactive guilt by association.  Judgement and punishment for retroactive guilt and retroactive guilt by association are determined by a mob.

How do these arguments conform to the ideas of fairness, equality, tolerance, and impartiality?  Are these arguments an honest appraisal of history or a prejudicial appraisal of history?

2.1  Tessylo  replied to  Nerm_L @2    2 weeks ago

"How do these arguments conform to the ideas of fairness, equality, tolerance, and impartiality?  Are these arguments an honest appraisal of history or a prejudicial appraisal of history?"

What do you know of/about fairness, equality, tolerance and impartiality?

You appear to side with the Nazis and the Confederates and blame the victims.  

Mark in Wyoming
3  Mark in Wyoming    2 weeks ago

A lot of food for thought here .

But I think it has to be thought through very carefully otherwise no statue , memorial or place name will be safe , even those that some think should be left standing. it begs to question , should statues to proven cads , sexists and womanizers be left to stand? It is simply how far down the rabbit hole does one wish to go.

One thing that got a little buzz was the naming of military bases after Confederate officers , and for that I think one has to look back at the history of how and why and when a name was chosen.

Of the 10 bases named , they were all created and named in the 1940s , were established during WW2 as both recruitment and training bases .  from a recruitment angle it does make sense to name a base in a specific locale after someone from the state that had a military connection and contributed to the local military history, an appeal to those being recruited to defend  family, home and hearth if not country. It is much easier to get someone to volunteer to defend their family, community, and state, than it is to get someone to defend a federal government.

From the training standpoint , It could have been a source of pride , and willingness to make the sacrifices locally to insure that the men and later women being trained at these bases got everything the could have possably needed to make sure they could be the best fighting force available .

Maybe that's why all 10 bases were named for historical military figures from the particular state or even geographical area. 

3.1  Texan1211  replied to  Mark in Wyoming @3    2 weeks ago

Good points.

I suppose one way we could do things is to raze every statue and name things only with numbers.

Perhaps that way no one will be offended--ever.

It is a slippery slope to go down for sure.


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