bookmark_borderThis is what real privilege looks like

Today is December 1, which means that we have reached the end of Native American Heritage Month. Throughout November, various media outlets, companies, and brands acknowledged and celebrated Native American heritage in various ways.

For example, the Starbucks app had a section on its home page honoring indigenous employees.

The Microsoft Edge browser introduced an Indigenous Heritage Month theme.

And all month long, Comcast had a special section in the main menu on the TV dedicated entirely to Native American related programs.

What you wouldn’t have been able to tell from consuming mainstream media or going about your day in mainstream society is that the previous month, October, was Italian-American Heritage Month. Unlike with Native American Heritage Month, neither Starbucks nor Microsoft nor Comcast acknowledged Italian-Americans at all during our designated month. Nor, to my knowledge, did any mainstream media outlet, company, or brand. With the exception of an Italian flag being raised at Boston City Hall Plaza on October 1, I did not witness any recognition of Italian-American Heritage Month by any entity other than Italian-American organizations.

There is nothing wrong with the fact that so many companies and organizations celebrate Native American Heritage Month. But in my opinion, there is something wrong with the fact that they do this while ignoring Italian-American Heritage Month. To acknowledge one group’s month but not another’s is discriminatory. It sends the message that indigenous people are more important than Italian-Americans. Companies and organizations should treat all cultures and ethnicities equally. Either acknowledge and celebrate all cultures’ designated months, or none.

Making this inequity even worse is the fact that an increasing number of cities and states are abolishing the observance of Columbus Day on the second Monday of October and replacing it with Indigenous People’s Day. This in addition to the fact that the day after Thanksgiving is celebrated as Native American Heritage Day in the U.S., and August 9 is designated as International Day of the World’s Indigenous People by the United Nations.

I have heard it argued that Italian-Americans should be okay with the obliteration of Columbus Day because they still get the entire month of October. But indigenous people already have the entire month of November, as well as specific days in November and August. Why do they deserve a third holiday more than Italian-Americans deserve a single one?

It could also be argued that for all practical purposes, Italian-Americans don’t even have a month at all, given that our month is almost entirely ignored by mainstream society. Additionally, with Columbus Day – the reason for designating October as Italian-American Heritage Month in the first place – being obliterated throughout the country, it becomes hollow and meaningless to celebrate a month when one is no longer allowed to celebrate the reason for its existence.

Essentially, indigenous people get a month plus three holidays to celebrate their heritage, while Italians get nothing.

Adding insult to injury, indigenous people also receive additional benefits through government programs solely because of their ethnicity (for example, the Lifeline emergency broadband program provides an extra $34.25 per month for internet service to people living on tribal lands).

It is clear that our society values some cultures more than others, an inequity that has grown even worse in recent times. Privilege certainly exists in our society, but not in the way that most people believe.

bookmark_borderThanksgiving thoughts

It has been a dark and demoralizing couple of years. The things that I value most – individual rights, liberty, history, tolerance, and diversity – have been under attack in various ways across the country and world. But there are a few signs of hope, indicating that possibly, just maybe, the tide might have begun to turn. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few things that I am thankful for:

The Christopher Columbus statue in Fairfield, NJ

The vicious campaign against Christopher Columbus over the past year and a half has been nothing short of sickening. At the hands of intolerant mobs of protesters and equally intolerant politicians, statues of the brave explorer have been torn down and in some cases violently destroyed, his name has been erased from schools and other places, and his holiday has been obliterated. However, defying this horrible trend, the town of Fairfield, New Jersey unveiled a brand new statue of Columbus on October 9, 2021. The statue, located outside the Hollywood Avenue Recreation Center, was commissioned by the Fairfield chapter of UNICO and was unveiled at a ceremony featuring pro-Columbus speeches by the mayor and other Italian-American leaders. Recent events have been so demoralizing that I believed another Columbus statue would never again be created, and that the only possible outcome was for the number of statues to inevitably decrease bit by bit until it reached zero. The brave decision to create a new statue of Columbus gives me hope. 

Continue reading “Thanksgiving thoughts”

bookmark_border“No one needs an AR-15”

Proponents of gun control often point out that no one “needs” an AR-15 (or another type of gun, or a bump stock, or a pistol brace, or a gun in general). The argument seems to be that if a person does not need something, then they shouldn’t be allowed to have it.

This argument is, to put it bluntly, preposterous. Seeing it repeated ad nauseam by dozens and dozens of different people all over the TV, the newspaper, and the internet is one of my pet peeves.

When one applies this argument to other situations, it becomes obvious how wrong and illogical it is to argue that unless someone needs something, they shouldn’t be allowed to have it.

To name just a few examples, no one needs designer clothing, no one needs tattoos, and no one needs to get their ears pierced. Does it follow that designer clothing, tattoos, and earrings should be banned? Of course not.

No one needs 20 dresses, or 30 pairs of pants, or 40 sweaters. Does it follow that people should be banned from owning these amounts of clothing, and restricted to owning only the amount of clothing that they absolutely need? Of course not.

No one needs Beanie Babies, or Pokemon cards, or toy soldiers, or sports memorabilia, or video games. Should these things be banned? Of course not.

No one needs to get married, and no one needs to have a baby, because being single and being child-free are perfectly valid and acceptable ways of living. Does it follow that getting married and having children should be banned? Of course not. In fact, I’d bet that many people who argue passionately that marriage is a basic right also argue that AR-15s ought to be banned because no one “needs” them.

The list of things that people do not “need” could continue until this blog post became as long as a novel. When you think about it, the only things that people truly need in order to live are food, water, shelter, and perhaps medical services (if they have a life-threatening medical condition). But it would be insane to argue that because of this, these basic necessities are the only things that people should be allowed to have! Yet this is exactly the presumption that you are making if you point out that people do not “need” guns and think that this somehow proves that guns should be banned.

You don’t need to need something in order to be allowed to have it. The ability to have and do things that you like – whether that be clothing, body mods, toys, games, collectibles, relationships, or guns – is inherently valuable because it makes your life better. A world in which people are allowed to do anything they wish (as long as it doesn’t violate the rights of anyone else) is self-evidently better than a world in which people are allowed to have only the things that they need. Owning and possessing guns and related paraphernalia does not violate the rights of others. And for people who like such things, the ability to own and possess them makes their lives better. Therefore, guns and related paraphernalia should be available to anyone who wishes to have them. It really is that simple.

bookmark_borderRestrictions are imposed by the government, not by the virus

“Somehow, we have to keep convincing people that this is not something being imposed upon them by the government. It’s being imposed on them by the virus. And we don’t want the virus to win.”

These are the words of Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. This quote stood out to me when reading this article about the Covid pandemic and the possibility that it might finally be winding down. Collins is claiming that restrictions on individual liberty – such as stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, Covid testing requirements, and vaccine mandates – are not being imposed by the government but by the virus itself.

This sentiment is common. Since the pandemic first began, we have been told that if we just comply with the rules and diligently follow public health advice, then the number of positive cases will go down, allowing restrictions to be lifted. We have been told that vaccination is the way to get life back to normal, and that mask requirements allow schools to remain open for in-person learning. Until recently, signs at my local park implored people to maintain social distancing so that the park would be able to remain open.

But this way of thinking is false. The decision to impose restrictions on individual liberty in an effort to combat the virus is just that – a decision. When restrictions are imposed, they are imposed by governments (or whatever institution is imposing the restrictions, whether that be a university, employer, or other organization), not by the virus.

This might be a revolutionary concept to some people, but not imposing restrictions is always an option. The city government could have left the park open regardless of whether or not people were practicing social distancing. Stay-at-home orders could have been lifted regardless of the number of positive cases or, even better, could have not been imposed to begin with. Many people will say that abstaining from imposing restrictions is a bad option. Most likely this option would result in more people catching the virus, more people getting sick, and more people dying. And many people believe that preventing these outcomes is of paramount importance, no matter how badly people’s rights must be trampled on in order to achieve this.

As anyone who has visited my blog knows, I do not subscribe to this point of view. But regardless of what you believe about the relative importance of safety and liberty, the choice to prioritize one over the other is just that – a choice. When someone says that they have no choice but to impose restrictions because doing so is necessary to combat the virus, that person is unfairly avoiding responsibility for his/her actions. That person is also treating his/her opinion as fact and denying the possibility that alternative opinions might exist. The decision to impose Covid restrictions results from the belief that fighting the virus is more important than respecting individual rights. Even if you agree with this belief, you cannot just presume it as fact and then blame the restrictions on the virus.

When political leaders, and others who hold positions of authority, choose to prioritize safety over liberty, they must acknowledge that this is indeed a choice that they have made. Restrictions are not imposed by a virus. They are imposed by the government, and the government needs to take responsibility for this.

bookmark_border“It’s a contagion, stupid”

In the latest example of Twitter stupidity, meet someone who goes by the username “WiebeFuncke.” When I made a tweet pointing out that supporters of abortion rights should also, in order to be logically consistent, support the right to make one’s own choices about vaccination, this individual responded to me by writing, “A woman’s choice isn’t a contagion, Einstein.”

A quick glance at this individual’s Twitter page revealed that he/she regularly responds in this manner to people who oppose forcing people to get the Covid vaccine against their will (example below). 

WiebeFuncke apparently believes that the fact that the coronavirus is a contagion means that the entire concept of individual rights can automatically be thrown out the window. Not only does he/she believe this, but he/she apparently believes this to be so obvious that it does not even need to be explained. In other words, merely pointing out that the coronavirus is a contagion is enough to rebut any argument against mandates.

However, what WiebeFuncke believes about contagions and individual rights is not only not obvious; it’s not even true. The concept of individual rights applies regardless of whether or not a contagion is involved. So no, it does not rebut a person’s argument to simply point out, “it’s a contagion.” You need to make an actual counter-argument in order to do that.

Contrary to his/her assertion, WiebeFuncke is the one who truly needs to do better than to repeatedly (and rudely) blurt out “contagion” and act as if that automatically rebuts everyone else’s arguments.

bookmark_borderThe MA state house and “vaccination certainty”

Last month, the Massachusetts state legislature passed an order requiring all members and staff to receive Covid vaccines. 28 courageous representatives (all Republicans) stood up for individual rights and voted against this authoritarian requirement. Naturally, they have faced criticism for doing so.

This article from CommonWealth Magazine outlines the arguments that took place at the state house. I’ll go over some of the highlights and explain why I believe the Democrat-controlled legislature was wrong to institute the vaccine mandate.

“Vaccines are essential to fulfill our responsibility to care for our staff, each other and the public, and represent the quickest path to a full and safe reopening,” said Rep. William Galvin, according to the article. 

This statement reflects two false presumptions. First of all, people do not have a moral duty to care for each other; people have a moral duty simply to refrain from violating other people’s rights. By forcing state legislators and their staffs to get a vaccine, the mandate order violates this moral duty. Second, this statement presumes that safety is required in order for the state house to be allowed to open. This is also false. There is no requirement to ensure that something is safe before allowing it to happen. The best option is to simply open the state house. That way, people who feel that it is safe enough to go there in person should be welcome to do so, and those who feel that in-person attendance is too risky should be welcome to attend via zoom or some other type of video conferencing. 

Your vote against providing vaccination certainty is a vote that tells your friends, your colleagues, and our collective staff you value their health less than your political talking points,” said Rep. Michael Day.

This statement rubs me the wrong way for a couple of reasons. It is wrong of Day to reduce standing up for individual rights, bodily autonomy, and medical privacy to “political talking points.” This denies any possibility that the dissenting representatives genuinely believe in the stand that they are taking, which is insulting both to them and to everyone who shares their opposition to vaccine mandates. Additionally, I found it somewhat disturbing that Day spoke of “vaccination certainty” as something that is important for people to have. Essentially, Day is implying that people have a right to be certain that the people around them have gotten the vaccine. This is not true at all. What medical procedures the people around you have or have not gotten is, quite frankly, none of your business. No one has a right to control, or know about, other people’s medical decisions.

The CommonWealth Magazine article also says, “Democrats portrayed votes against the policy as a vote against vaccine acceptance.” This argument is off-base as well. Votes against the policy are votes in favor of the right to choose whether to get the vaccine or not. Both options are acceptable and should be treated as such. Voting against vaccine acceptance would be voting for a policy banning state representatives from getting the vaccine, something that (obviously) is not under consideration. Instead, votes for the policy are votes against allowing the option of declining the vaccine, which is tyrannical and authoritarian. Votes against the policy are votes in favor of maintaining both options as acceptable, which is exactly the way it should be. 

Adding insult to injury, Rep. Mindy Domb posted the below tweet, in which she presumes that if something is effective at preventing transmission, illness, and/or death, then everyone needs to be forced to do it. This is completely wrong. No person or government has any right to force people to do things against their will, regardless of how effective those things are at preventing virus transmission, illness, or death. Additionally, by calling for “education,” Domb is equating holding a different opinion than hers with lack of education. Believe it or not, it is possible for someone to have the same amount of knowledge and education as Domb does, but to hold different moral and political views. What a revolutionary concept.

Adding further insult to injury, the order also allows representatives who do not get the vaccine to be cited for an ethics violation. This is the exact opposite of what they deserve. Choosing not to get the vaccine, given the amount of bullying, pressure, and coercion in the current political environment, demonstrates courage and the ability to think for oneself. Anyone who makes this choice should be lauded for his/her bravery and good character, not penalized with an ethics violation. 

Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, who shared that she is immunocompromised due to treatment for pancreatic cancer, argued that violating individual rights is justified in order to protect vulnerable people. But But Rep. Michael Soter made a good counter-point. Noting that he is immunocompromised as well, he participated in the debate via zoom because “I know what my limitations are.” 

This is the right way of looking at things. I don’t want to sound un-empathetic towards people who are battling cancer or other medical conditions that affect the immune system, but the fact is that being immunocompromised does not give you the right to take away the freedom and privacy of other people. If you are immunocompromised, it is your responsibility to avoid situations that are too dangerous for you (or to incur the risk that the situation poses). It is not other people’s responsibility to undergo a medical procedure for your benefit, and it is not your right to require them to do so.

bookmark_borderNY gov claims vaccine mandates are “self-defense”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul recently defended her decision to enact vaccine mandates by claiming that they constitute “self-defense.” This is, simply, wrong. To claim that it is self-defense to force other people to undergo medical procedures against their will is preposterous, and it is disturbing that anyone would make this claim.

As I’ve written numerous times on this blog, each person has the right to do anything he or she pleases, as long as he or she is not violating the rights of anyone else. Rights include the ability to control what happens to one’s body, one’s time, one’s energy, and one’s property; in other words the things in one’s immediate sphere. If a person violates the rights of another person by interfering in that person’s sphere, the victim has the right to use physical force to defend him/herself. 

As the saying goes, your right to swing your fist ends where my face begins. If someone was about to punch me in the face, I would have the right to put up my hands to defend myself, or even punch the person back, because punching me in the face would violate my rights.

The argument that vaccine mandates are self-defense fails because, unlike punching someone, opting not to get a vaccine does not violate anyone’s rights. The decision not to get a vaccine does not involve touching another person, physically harming another person, or invading another person’s personal space in any way. It does not take away another person’s time or energy or damage another person’s property. In short, it does not interfere in another person’s sphere in any way.

The decision of whether or not to get a substance injected into one’s body is soundly within one’s own personal sphere. Therefore, any attempt to interfere in another person’s vaccine decision violates that person’s rights and is an act of aggression.

Why, then, would anyone argue that such an obvious example of aggression is actually self-defense?

The most likely answer is that the decision not to get a vaccine does, admittedly, have indirect effects on other people. When one does not get a vaccine, there is a higher likelihood that one will catch a virus, and therefore a higher likelihood that the virus will subsequently infect a nearby person. In other words, decisions about whether or not to get a vaccine do, in aggregate, affect the risk level for everyone in the community.

But unlike punching someone in the face, which directly invades the person’s space and impacts their body, the effects of abstaining from vaccination are indirect. Unlike one’s face, which is squarely within one’s own sphere and which one therefore has a right to protect from being punched, one’s risk level for catching a virus is not within one’s sphere at all. There simply is not a right to have a zero percent risk of catching a virus. Nor is there a right to have a risk level below any particular amount. This is because securing these things would require interfering in the spheres of other people.

People have a right to manage their risk level through various actions that are within their spheres, such as by getting a vaccine, wearing a mask, wearing a face shield, avoiding activities, or maintaining physical distance from other people. People do not, however, have a right to manage their risk level by forcing other people to take or abstain from actions. That would constitute interference in other people’s spheres and would therefore violate other people’s rights.

Vaccine mandates are not self-defense. They are aggression.

bookmark_borderThe difference between action and omission

Majoring in philosophy in college, one of the first things I learned is the difference between action and omission. There is a fundamental difference between actively doing a bad thing, and merely failing to do a good thing. The first is morally wrong; the second is not.

Unfortunately, this distinction is lost on the mindless authoritarians whose goal is to force everyone on earth to get the Covid vaccine. Again and again, everyone is constantly bombarded by the claim that people who don’t get the vaccine are driving the pandemic, that they are causing hospitals to become overwhelmed, that they are putting their co-workers’ health at risk, that they are causing illness and death to other people, et cetera. These mean-spirited and philosophically unsound messages even infiltrate the comics section of the newspaper: while hoping to find some lighthearted humor, I recently came across a comic in which a cartoon version of “Covid” appeared at a party, the guests told him to go away because they hadn’t invited him, and Covid responded, “Well, by not getting vaccinated, you kinda did.”

No offense to Mr. Covid, but this way of thinking is wrong. Not getting vaccinated is not the same as “inviting” Covid to your party, because failing to prevent something is not the same as causing it. It’s true that by opting against the vaccine, people are not doing everything within their power to stop the spread of Covid. But failing to stop the spread of Covid is not the same as causing the virus to spread.

People are not morally obligated to take preventative measures to protect themselves or others. People are not obligated to get a vaccine, no matter how safe, harmless, or convenient you may consider the vaccine to be. People are not obligated to care for others or demonstrate love for their neighbors. People are not obligated to work to end the pandemic, to “do their part,” or to make any sacrifices for the sake of the common good. 

People are obligated to abstain from actively harming others, and that’s it. As long as they are not deliberately coughing on someone with the express purpose of giving them the virus, non-vaccinated people are not doing anything wrong.

For those who think that this is merely a philosophical distinction with no practical significance, allow me to point out that as a result of the widespread failure to distinguish between action and omission, people who have not gotten the vaccine have wrongfully been subjected to all sorts of discriminatory and punitive treatment. First of all, falsely accusing someone of causing sickness and death is harmful in itself. Non-vaccinated people have been called idiotic, irresponsible, selfish, and nearly every insult and criticism imaginable. Real harm is inflicted by treating people this way. Additionally, non-vaccinated people have suffered significant material harms as well. Increasingly, they are not allowed to work, enroll in college, attend sports games, concerts, plays, or events, visit restaurants, gyms, bars, casinos, or malls, or even get medical services. There are plans afoot to charge them more for health insurance and possibly even to bar them from interstate travel. Because non-vaccinated people are not doing anything wrong, all of this is completely unjustified and undeserved

Non-vaccinated people are not driving the pandemic; the virus is. Therefore, to punish any person in any way for opting against the vaccine is morally wrong. It really is that simple.

bookmark_borderJustin Trudeau’s totalitarianism

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently gave a disturbing speech justifying his decision to implement vaccine passport systems. Here’s an excerpt (via Turning Point USA):

“We’re paying for the provincial vaccine passports to make sure that when someone comes into a restaurant, they’ll know they won’t be sitting beside a table of people who are unvaccinated. When you go into a gym, when you go to a movie theater, you need to know that if you’ve done the right things, you get to be safe, you get to be rewarded, for having done the right things. That’s what it’s all about. And those people who still hesitate, who still resist, well, they won’t get to enjoy the same things as those who’ve done their part for others. It seems like a very logical thing. It seems like a very obvious thing.”

It is deeply wrong to treat basic activities such as going to restaurants, movies, and gyms as privileges reserved for people who have done some allegedly virtuous deed to earn them. Trudeau’s reasoning on vaccine passports is wrong for several reasons:

  1. Getting the Covid vaccine does not equal “doing the right thing.” It is morally neutral. Getting the vaccine and not getting the vaccine are both perfectly valid and acceptable choices; both are equally right. People who get the Covid vaccine are no more deserving of being rewarded than people who opt not to get it.
  2. People do not have a moral obligation to “do their part for others;” in fact there is no such thing as “their part for others.” No one is morally obligated to actively contribute to the health of others or to the greater good. The only moral obligation that people have is to refrain from violating other people’s rights. Simply doing nothing, and minding one’s own business, is a perfectly morally acceptable option. 
  3. Because no one is morally obligated to take any actions for the benefit of others, people have a fundamental right to “hesitate” or “resist” getting the vaccine. Those who “hesitate” or “resist” getting the vaccine are not doing anything wrong at all, and Trudeau has no right to speak about them in a critical or disparaging manner. 
  4. No one has a right to know about the vaccine status of the people around them. Trudeau seems to be implying that it’s important for people, when going to a restaurant, to know that the people at nearby tables have gotten the vaccine. But actually, the vaccine status of people at nearby tables (or even at your own table) is none of your business. The right to make one’s own medical decisions, and to keep those decisions private, outweighs any desire to minimize the Covid risk that is present in one’s environment. In other words, an inherent part of going out in public is that one may come into contact with people of varying health statuses and vaccine statuses. If this poses a level of risk that is unacceptable to you, then stay home. 
  5. Basic, everyday activities such as going to restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters are rights, not privileges. Being allowed to do these things is not a “reward” for (allegedly) good behavior; it is a fundamental right. It is beyond disturbing that activities nearly universally considered rights two years ago have morphed into privileges.

In conclusion, contrary to what Trudeau claims, requiring people to undergo a medical procedure in order to participate in life is not a logical thing, nor is it an obvious thing. It is logically unsound, morally wrong, and totalitarian.

bookmark_borderOn generals, diversity, and real patriotism

On September 11, a new monument called the Generals Bridge and Park was officially unveiled in Quincy, MA. The park contains approximately life-sized statues of three generals from Quincy: General Joseph F. Dunford, General James C. McConville, and General Gordon R. Sullivan. There are bronze busts of four additional generals and stone carvings honoring eleven other generals, all from Quincy, dating back to the Revolutionary War. The sculptures were made by Sergey Eylanbekov, who also sculpted the statues of John Hancock and John Adams at the nearby Hancock-Adams Common.

As someone who used to love history and public art, this is something that the old me would have thought was really cool. I might even have decided to take the T to Quincy to watch the unveiling ceremony and take photos of the statues. But I don’t love history or public art anymore. Over the past year and a half, our society made the decision to destroy the public art that I love most. This destruction has been so hurtful to me that I can no longer enjoy the statues and monuments that still exist. Instead of being awe-inspiring and beautiful, they serve only as reminders of the brutal and unjust losses that have been inflicted. My pain has been made even worse by the decision of Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen to frame the unveiling of the general statues as a fitting complement to the destruction of the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia, which took place the same week. After reading Cullen’s column, I will forever associate the Generals Bridge and Park with what happened to the Lee statue and with the harm that this action caused.

“In the same week that the biggest monument to an American traitor came down, a new monument to genuine American patriots will be unveiled,” Cullen wrote. “In the same week that a monument in the capital of the Confederacy dedicated to an American traitor, General Robert E. Lee, came tumbling down, Boston is hosting Medal of Honor recipients at their annual convention, and Quincy will unveil a monument honoring military leaders who never dishonored the Constitution. In a year that has tested American constitutional democracy, and as other reckonings take place, real patriots are being recognized and traitors shunned. It’s a monumental, welcome change.”

I could not disagree more strongly with these sentiments. Lee was not a “traitor,” and anyone who calls him one is an authoritarian and a bully with no concept of moral right and wrong. Lee was a genuine American patriot, and he did not “dishonor the Constitution” as Cullen implies, but actually honored it far more than any of the people Cullen cites. The mean-spirited destruction of the Lee statue, as well as the destruction of the statues of countless other historical figures who fought for the Confederacy, has inflicted enormous damage on me and on others who love Confederate history. Cullen chose to respond to this situation by compounding my suffering and rubbing salt in my wounds.

Nothing against Medal of Honor recipients, generals from Quincy, or those lost on 9/11/2001, but Robert E. Lee is more remarkable and more worthy of being honored than any of them. Lee demonstrated true courage by rebelling against a powerful government and fighting for an unpopular cause against overwhelming odds, something that cannot be said of any of those cited by Cullen as allegedly more worthy of celebration. The statue of Lee that the mayor of Richmond and governor of Virginia chose to destroy was more beautiful and more glorious than any 9/11 memorial or any statue of a general from Quincy could ever be.

But in today’s America, everything that is beautiful and glorious has been obliterated. Americans used to recognize the fact that rebellion and resistance to authority are virtues that deserve to be celebrated. But now, any historical figure associated with these attributes is condemned as a “traitor” or a “seditionist” and is symbolically murdered by having his name stripped from buildings, streets, and holidays and his statues and monuments torn down, smashed to pieces, urinated upon, kicked, hanged, and/or set on fire. The only personal qualities that are valued are compliance, conformity, and obedience to authority. Everything that is unique or different in any way has been violently destroyed, leaving only the blandest historical figures to be honored with statues and monuments. The art in our public spaces no longer lends distinct identities to cities, towns, and states, nor does it reflect a wide range of cultures or viewpoints. Instead of a country in which a variety of perspectives are embraced, America has become a nation of conformity, in which the majority has imposed its values on everyone else and stifled all dissent. Those with unpopular views, such as myself, are no longer allowed to have anything that we find beautiful, anything that resonates with us, anything that brings us joy, in the public spaces around us. What Cullen characterizes as a “reckoning” is in reality an eradication of diversity. To say that this is a demoralizing, hope-destroying turn of events is an understatement, and it’s despicable that anyone would treat it as something positive to crow about. Contrary to Cullen’s claim, no change could be less welcome.

The Generals Bridge and Park is something that would have brought a smile to the face of my old self, but thanks to Cullen, it is nothing but a painful reminder of all the statues that should be here, but aren’t. Every Confederate statue and Christopher Columbus statue that used to exist should still exist today. Without them, there is no point in creating new public art. Given the horrific events that have taken place, the unveiling of new statues is not an occasion for celebration but an insult to the statues that have been cruelly taken away, the amazing historical figurers that they represent, and the people who love them.