“It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of a son of a bitch or another. –Malcolm Reynolds, Firefly
Okay, so there is a lot of discussion about statues at the moment which is really stupid for three important reasons.
The first is that there are actual racist laws that need to be changed. There are organizations that have to be gone through with a fine-tooth comb to remove every corrupt racist/stupid/corrupt/violent SOB we can find. There are people in jail for crimes that shouldn’t be crimes that need to be released. And of course, there is a cadre of felon in the White House. You know, actually important things that need to be changed immediately because they actually affect people’s lives.
Secondly, I’m not convinced that the attacks on some of the less objectionable statues—like the statue to the idea of Progress that was ruined in Wisconsin or demands to take town statues of abolitionist Founding Father Caesar Rodney of people who fought against slavery and injustice—aren’t being done by Trumpkins and the police with the intent of making legitimate protesters look bad. We already have a video of cops doing the looting and cops destroying their own property and then saying it was protesters…so until you can prove that it wasn’t the MAGA crowd behind this, these acts of violence are suspiciously up their avenue.
But, thirdly, and what I actually want to deal with in this article is that, in the end, we have got to get away from all of this nonsense of revering people. This is not a nation based on people. Most nations are based on people and groups and ethnicities. They’re based on one conquering ass coming in, taking over, and putting themselves as a ruler and their subordinates as nobility, and they get statues made of their glory and conquests. That’s the history of most nations, they’re about people and the ethnicities that are associated with them.
We’re not. This nation is about ideas and ideals. We are about concepts. We are about the supremacy of law. This is why statues or days honoring any individual. And this applies in every case. There shouldn’t be a day or statue to honor Martin Luther King Jr., not just because as history goes on we find out more and more that the man was far from a saint or the pinnacle of ethics that his speeches would have you think, but because it limits the idea of civil rights to one person, and a person can always be attacked. Instead of a day for King, there should be a day for Civil Rights which can acknowledge, honor and teach about the struggles of not just one man but of Medger Evers and Rosa Parks and The Freedom Riders and Thurgood Marshall and of everyone who marched and worked to achieve and is still working to achieve equality under the law. If you have a statue to one person, if you find anything that is flawed (as most human beings tend to be) it taints the causes for which they fought and makes their quest seemed imperfect because it was taken up by a human being. Let’s not forget that most of those hated Columbus statues that are getting so much justified hate, were originally put up to honor what was at the time another ethnic minority, Italians. We shouldn’t have a president’s day, because less than a quarter of the people who have held that office have been competent or even decent human beings…rather have a day to the just execution of law and how all are equal under it, and how those who are entrusted to enforce should bear the highest scrutiny.
The Fourth of July is the model you should focus on. There are many individuals we talk about with that day, but the day is a day of celebration of an idea, possibly the most important idea—liberty. But it is not about one person. It is encapsulated in a document, not in a person. Yes, Thomas Jefferson was an asshole and bastard from every possible perspective you can find (personally wouldn’t mind seeing his statute go, but he monument with the words of the Declaration on the walls needs to stay).
If we want to move forward as a country, what we should probably do is admit that all human beings are flawed. Yes, we should never condemn someone for not being ahead of their time (god knows what future generations will think even the most inclusive of us were backwards for in a thousand years, not because we are bigoted but because we never even considered something). But we can, and should always condemn people for being behind their times.
And I realize my dream of taking down every statue and replacing them, if at all, with monuments to ideals like Liberty, Justice, Freedom, Rule of Law, Limited Government, Classical Liberalism, Capitalism, Reason, Logic, and Virtue…you know the things that actually make this country great…is a pipe dream. I know it’s not going to happen. But maybe what we should do is the following:
First, any statue of anyone associated with the Confederacy gets destroyed. They were traitors, Johnson’s pardon of them was beyond unforgivable, as was his not being removed, and not a single one of those slaveholding assholes should be honored unless you want to show them boiling in the fires of Hell as they deserve. There is no excuse, no justification, no reason for any soul of the confederacy to be honored in a statue. As for the rest, namely, the every complicated Founding Fathers, maybe in addition to the monument that marks what they did that was good, which it was, we can put up large signs of that list all of their less than spectacular actions (again, with Jefferson it might be easier to take the monument down because to list everything that asshole did might require the building of another monument), but most Founding Fathers and other historical figures it will be easier to list their mistakes. For instance, if we put up the sins of General Sherman it would be a simple little sign: he didn’t burn nearly enough (kidding aside, and even though they did have it coming, yes we probably should list some of his actions as being what we would now consider war crimes).
This would allow all the non-confederate statues to stand and still not be accused of whitewashing history or ignoring the ignorances and flaws of the past.
Of course, it’s probably too logical to ever get buy-in from all sides, as solutions aren’t the goal anymore, making sure the other side loses is all anyone seems to care about anymore.