The Civil War was a pivotal moment in our nation’s history, and should not be forgotten. But it’s not the only pivotal moment. I’d like to suggest some other pivotal moments to which we should erect statues honoring the participants, lest we forget.
We should erect a statue honoring Senator Joseph McCarthy in front of the Capitol, so we remember there was a time Communists were everywhere, trying to infiltrate our society. Sure, he ruined people’s lives for political gain. But it’s an important part of our history that, quite frankly, I’m surprised we still remember, given the utter lack of statuary.
We should have a statue honoring Governor George Wallace. Build it right in the doorway to the University of Alabama. Every student and professor there will have to squeeze past it to get in. We cannot afford to forget this important part of our history, when a champion of states’ rights did everything in his power to keep his state the way it had been for generations. Sure, the university itself is full of books and entire classes are taught on this specific event, but in the absence of a statue of Governor Wallace, how can we really remember?
We need to remember that the Buffalo Bills lost Super Bowl XXV in 1991 when Scott Norwood missed what would have been the game-winning field goal. We need to remember that they lost that game by one point, made it back to the Super Bowl the following three years, and lost all three of those times, too. We can’t risk Bills fans forgetting this. The statue honoring Scott Norwood should be placed to the right of the entrance to the stadium in Buffalo. Wide right.
Let’s sculpt an enormous likeness of Edward Snowden to honor the man who flung wide the doors of secretive government. Without a graven image of this whistleblower/traitor, we run the risk of forgetting this vital part of our nation’s recent history. Place the statue in the National Security Agency HQ, so the statue can teach all future NSA operatives the history of what happened. Maybe put a smart ushanka hat on the statue just to remind us all that he’s living in Russia under Putin’s mocking protection.
We definitely need a statue honoring Richard Nixon. He resigned in disgrace after knowingly orchestrating illegal surveillance of his political opponents. His statue could be at the Department of Justice, in remembrance of the multiple DOJ lifers whose careers he ruined. Without a statue honoring him, how will we ever remember what Nixonian overreach is?
There should be a statue honoring Steve Bartman. Place it in left field foul territory in Wrigley, just behind third base. We can’t afford to forget the history of a random fan costing the Cubs a World Series after what had been a 95-year drought at that time. Maybe we could put up a statue of Moises Alou throwing a fit at an umpire right next to it.
There should be a statue of Jane Fonda erected right next to the Vietnam Memorial. Sure, most Vietnam veterans view Ms. Fonda as a traitor to the United States, but it’s important that we honor her and never forget there was violence on many sides. On many sides.
Why isn’t there a statue honoring Osama bin Laden? How else are we going to remember the horrors he ushered into the world if we don’t have his image carved in stone, looming over us? We could put it right outside of the Pentagon. Every highly ranked member of the military could walk by the statue on the way into work each day and remember this vital part of our collective history. Without the statue, we run the risk of forgetting 9/11 happened.
Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, these are all stupid examples and none of these cases make sense. We’re all going to remember 9/11 and certainly don’t want a statue of that worthless son of a bitch on our soil. We’re going to remember Joseph McCarthy because there have been countless books and essays written about him, and he was a jerkwad hardly worthy of our collective honor. And the same could be said for every one of these cases.
That’s a major reason why the argument that we have to keep statues of Confederate generals and leaders in order to “preserve history” falls so very flat.
Just like every one of these situations, we’re already going to remember the Civil War via books and other media, universities, museums, documentaries, and from watching Glory. And statues are perhaps the least effective means of teaching the lessons.
And further, if we did want to commemorate the Civil War with a statue, erecting a statue of a leader of the losing side makes absolutely no sense.
So if it doesn’t pass the smell test, why do folks run with “preservation of history” as the reason for protecting these statues?
Simple: because the real reason—racism—is a lot harder to sell in 2017.
Statues of Confederate “heroes” weren’t constructed in 1866 by grateful but defeated Southerners who wanted to honor their generals and leaders. Rather, they were mostly erected in the South (1) after Jim Crow laws started being enacted around 1900 and (2) during the Civil Rights Era of the 1960’s. Many of these statues were mass produced, placed in front of courthouses and schools and city halls throughout the South.
As the government chipped away at the legal aftereffects of the end of centuries of slavery, whites were desperately clinging to an ever-diminishing role of superiority in society. They needed new ways to assert their dominance over people of other races. Erecting a statue of the general who led the Rebel Army in an effort to keep the slaves enslaved was an overt demonstration of the state and local government’s stance on the outcome of the Civil War. We can’t enslave you anymore, but we don’t have to be happy about it.
In other words, the white sheriff, the white mayor, the white judge, and General Robert E. Lee himself would all like you to know (wink wink), oh son of former slaves, that everything’s going to be totally fair for you and your family (wink wink) here in Bumbledick, Alabama. Totally fair (wink wink nudge nudge).
The statues were erected in order to oppress members of a minority race. And today, the people that fight to keep them up aren’t doing so because they want to preserve history. That is the answer they give, because it’s easier to defend than saying, “we are protecting statues because we want to keep overt symbols of government-sanctioned racism in the public square so Black folks know, I say, so Black folks know who’s really in chaaahge ‘round heeyah, boy.” Little known fact: Southerners all turn into Foghorn Leghorn when they’re being particularly racist.
They’re defending the statues because the perks of membership in the forever-in-charge majority race are getting watered down as the arc of the moral universe keeps bending further toward justice. They’re feeling like victims because life isn’t going as “well” as it always has gone, given their general lack of melanin, and it has to be somebody else’s fault. And Black folk have ALWAYS been a good scapegoat for racist white people.
The statues aren’t really the point anymore. The fact that people of other races and liberal elites want the statues taken down is the point.
It’s just another erosion of the “mountain” upon which white people used to be kings.
They’re defending the statue, because they know they can’t look the rest of us in the eye and honestly defend the mountain of institutional racism itself, upon which their shitty, mass-produced statue is standing.