bookmark_borderOn the despicable decision to destroy Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee statue

On Monday, the city council of Charlottesville, Virginia made the despicable decision to transfer ownership of the Robert E. Lee statue to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, an organization that plans to destroy the statue by melting it down.

To say that this news is heart-wrenching and infuriating is an understatement. There is little to say that I haven’t already said about other horrible things that have happened with regard to statues over the past year and a half. Like all acts of obliteration of the cultures and histories of unpopular groups, this decision is disgusting, grotesque, and morally wrong. How anyone could consider it a good idea to destroy a historic and beautiful piece of art is utterly incomprehensible. 

Andrea Douglas, the director of the center, said that the organization plans to “create something that transforms what was once toxic in our public space into something beautiful that can be more reflective of our entire community’s social values.”

In my perspective, Confederate statues are as far from toxic as it is possible for something to be. I love history, particularly the history of those with the courage to be different, to fight for unpopular causes, to rebel against authority, and to stand up for their beliefs even when the odds are against them. The Confederacy embodies all of these attributes, and as a result, people associated with the Confederacy are among my favorite historical figures. My love of rebellious, brave historical figures is my passion, it is my joy, and it is what makes my life worth living. Although these heroes will live on in my mind and heart for as long as I do, the obliteration of their physical presence in today’s world is a profound and unspeakable loss. As a result of actions such as those that have taken place in Charlottesville, the thing that I love more than anything else is increasingly ceasing to physically exist in the world. This makes the world a place that is devoid of goodness, happiness, and joy. It makes the world a place that is not worth living in.

It is truly incomprehensible that someone could consider the thing that is my passion, my joy, and my happiness, to be “toxic.” Literally nothing could be further from the truth.

With this decision, Charlottesville, along with most of the world, has taken another step towards transforming from a place that honors diversity, courage, freedom, liberty, and fighting back against authority, to a place that honors conformity, compliance, and submission to authority. Public art that embodies the latter set of attributes may very well be “more reflective of our entire community’s social values,” as Douglas claims, but that is not a reason to create such art; it is a sign that something is seriously wrong with the community’s social values. 

Douglas’s plan to turn something toxic into something beautiful in public space is actually a plan to turn something beautiful into something toxic.

As is the norm in today’s society, both Douglas’s sentiments and the city’s decision demonstrate a complete disregard for the viewpoints, perspectives, and feelings of others. As usual, the voices that align with whatever happens to be popular at the moment are the only ones that are acknowledged, while the voices of those who think for themselves are ignored. As usual, people like Douglas get everything that they want, while people like me get nothing. As usual, the majority, the mainstream, and the establishment get what they demand, no matter how severely this tramples on the happiness and rights of minorities. 

This decision also illustrates how in such a short amount of time, the conversation in our society has changed from a debate about what types of locations are suitable for displaying statues of anti-authority historical figures, to a debate about whether such statues should be allowed to exist at all. At first, anti-diversity, pro-authority bullies argued that Confederate statues should be moved from public parks, streets, and city squares to more “appropriate” locations such as battlefields, cemeteries, and museums. But then the bullies began vandalizing statues at battlefields and cemeteries, protesting against museums that dared to display Confederate statues, and demanding that the statues be removed from these locations as well. Additionally, cities have increasingly refused to give removed statues to private organizations that would cherish and care for them on private land, apparently believing that keeping the statues hidden in storage is the only acceptable option. But now, at least in Charlottesville, not even that is bad enough. Nothing short of completely and irreversibly destroying the poor statue will do.

Shame on the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, shame on the mayor and city council of Charlottesville, and shame on anyone who supports or agrees in any way with the decision to destroy the Robert E. Lee statue.

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_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.

bookmark_borderThoughts on Lee statue

Lately I’ve been finding it difficult to write about the ongoing destruction of all of the statues and monuments that make our world a worthwhile place in which to live. I certainly do not want to give the impression that I have ceased being outraged and upset about what is happening, for that is the opposite of the truth. Rather, my grief, despair, and rage are so strong that it is not always possible to translate them into words.

The magnificent statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia is scheduled to be dismantled tomorrow. For a year and three months, this work of art has endured disgraceful treatment at the hands of the city and state that ought to venerate both it and the man it represents. The statue has been abused, desecrated, insulted, and covered in profane, racist graffiti with no attempt made to protect, clean, or care for it.

I could go on and on about the devastating psychological impact that these actions have had on me as an autistic person who used to love art and history. I could write about the fact that everything that gives me joy and gives the world beauty and richness has been destroyed. I could criticize the irrational and senseless statements issued by various political figures in praise of these destructive decisions. I could explain how the obliteration of everything honoring the losing side of a war is actually the opposite of diversity and inclusion.

But I am too beaten down and demoralized to do any of that, so instead I am going to share this Facebook post by radio host John Reid:

One of the things that has bothered me the most about the monument situation is the idea that a single sitting board or assembly (presumably elected for a variety of reasons besides being art or social critics) should be able to immediately execute the dismantling of commemorative statuary and art that existed long before they took office.
 
Monuments and immovable art are designed to inspire future generations to examine them- perhaps with admiration but more likely with curiosity and perhaps astonishment and occasionally scorn. The judgement can change as the decades and centuries pass. That’s exactly the point.
 
Reid perfectly explains something that I have always felt: the whole point of statues and monuments is that they are supposed to be permanent. The fact that the majority of people in a community, or the people who hold political power in that community, dislike a statue is no reason to remove it. No generation has the right to destroy the artistic or cultural achievements of previous generations. Statues are not supposed to reflect the viewpoints and ideologies that happen to be popular at the current moment. They are not supposed to change as the predominant values of the society change. If that were the case, there would be no point in building statues at all.
 
Check out his post in its entirety here.

bookmark_borderMemorializing the memorials

I recently came across an article about the removal of a Confederate monument in Isle of Wight, Virginia. Shortly after the monument was taken away from its location outside the county courthouse, someone left Confederate flags at the site, presumably to honor the monument and to express opposition to the removal. 

This idea of memorializing memorials is something I fully support, although it is sad that such a thing is even necessary because the whole point of a statue or monument is that it is supposed to be permanent. 

This reminds me of something similar that I did earlier this year. I paid a visit to the empty pedestal near the waterfront where a statue of Christopher Columbus once stood, before he was brutally beheaded and then heartlessly removed by the city of Boston. I left flowers and a note on top of the pedestal in memory of Columbus and the statue that was unjustly taken away.

I left these flowers on the empty pedestal of the Christopher Columbus statue in Boston.

Returning to the topic of the Confederate monument and the flags left in its place: naturally, government officials and black supremacist activists had criticism for even this small, modest gesture of dissent. 

County Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson said: “The flags were removed because they showed a negative point of view of the county.”

The comments of Isle of Wight NAACP President Valerie Butler were even more objectionable: “It disturbs me very much but I’m not surprised. Our only intention was to remove the monument from the courthouse. What was the purpose of putting the flags there? We hope the removal is a new beginning for the community to come together and have an open dialogue.”

As is frequently the case, these comments demonstrate a complete lack of empathy. After deliberately taking an action that inflicted harm and pain on innocent people, Jefferson will not even allow the people he harmed to express their pain or mourn their loss. And Butler, in addition to being unable to comprehend the idea that people might hold opinions that differ from hers, also contradicts herself. She expresses her hope that people will have an open dialogue at the same time as she calls it disturbing that someone had the audacity to express a dissenting point of view.

Just like with all statues, the removal of this monument is indeed a new beginning: the beginning of a world with nothing beautiful, nothing good, and nothing that makes life worth living. Why anyone would consider this a positive thing is the true mystery here.

bookmark_borderBLM activists threaten to turn memorial chair into toilet

One of the arguments frequently made by the intolerant bullies who oppose Confederate monuments is that battlefields, museums, and cemeteries are more appropriate locations for these statues than city parks and town squares. But now, the existence of anything Confederate-related, regardless of location, has become intolerable for BLM supporters. A group of them stole a Jefferson Davis memorial chair from a private section of the Old Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, Alabama. These idiots sent a letter to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, telling them that they would turn the chair into a toilet unless the organization displayed a banner with a quote by black supremacist terrorist Assata Shakur, who murdered a police officer. 

“The rulers of this country have always considered their property more important than our lives,” the banner read. Fortunately, the UDC did not display it, and police managed to recover the chair unharmed. Stanley Warnick, Kathryn Diionno, and Stanley Pate were charged with the theft. 

The thieves explained their actions as follows: “The common thread between now and then is the criminal justice system. That’s where the racial caste system is preserved today, much like these monuments. Why did we steal a chair? To make a point. To redirect the conversation back to what matters, people, not property.”

These statements make no sense. First of all, I’m not sure what any alleged racial caste system has to do with Confederate monuments. Second, the BLM movement and those who share their politically correct, intolerant way of thinking are the rulers of this country, while those who support the Confederacy are an unpopular minority with no power, so the vandals have that completely backwards. Additionally, statues and monuments are what matters, yet they are being treated as if they are completely worthless, so the vandals have that completely backwards as well. Technically, memorials are property, but they are essential parts of a world in which life is worth living. Without beautiful statues and monuments honoring a wide range of viewpoints and causes, the world is dull, bland, and empty and there is no point in people being alive. Statues and monuments are also the physical representations of now-dead historical figures, and harming them is an attack on those heroes’ lives and legacies, just as harming a living person is an attack on that person. Historical statues and artifacts are what matters, they are what it is important, and they are what the conversation should be about. They deserve far more respect and protection than they have been given.

Comments on Twitter about this unfortunate incident are, as usual, infuriating:

In the one instance in which someone actually made a reasonable comment, another individual, apparently thinking he/she was being clever, made a completely nonsensical reference to Mein Kampf. What does Hitler’s autobiography / manifesto have to do with a memorial chair to Jefferson Davis? 

Also, they did nothing wrong? Seriously? The thieves most definitely did so something wrong.

As for the call to get the sledgehammer… really? The fact that someone would take delight in the prospect of a historical artifact being smashed to pieces with a sledgehammer is beyond reprehensible. I cannot understand how someone could be so filled with hate and cruelty that he/she would demand the violent destruction of another person’s property that is located on private land and not hurting anyone, merely because it is related to the Confederacy.

These people, and their vicious hatred for anyone who is different from them, are sickening. 

bookmark_borderPossible justice for statues in Arizona

In Arizona, there is hope that some semblance of justice may finally be meted out for those who have brutally destroyed statues. State Rep. John Kavanagh introduced a bill that would make it a felony – punishable in some cases by more than 3 years in prison – to damage any statue or monument.

“A statue to somebody, a gravestone of a relative, a statue to an event, is an edifice that either one person or for most of these now an entire community put up,” said Kavanagh. “It’s a statement by the community… and that is what is being desecrated.”

In Arizona, a Confederate memorial at the state capitol building was tragically removed, as was a statue of Jefferson Davis near the Jefferson Davis Highway. 

The AP article on this topic characterizes the statue destroyers as “civil rights protesters,” a characterization with which I strongly disagree. By physically destroying irreplaceable works of art that memorialize people from history, these protesters are not standing up for rights but trampling on the rights of not only the people who love the statues, but also the people whom the statues represent. 

Naturally, these “civil rights protesters” and their ideological allies have expressed opposition to the bill that would represent a small step towards justice. “Instead of targeting the community who want these statues gone, who have watched their ancestors’ perpetrators be admired for centuries, let’s work with them and create an America we all can celebrate,” said Shelby Young of the Arizona Coalition for Change. 

But an America without Confederate statues is not an America that I could ever celebrate. History is my passion, and the Confederacy is a crucial part of that. What I love about history is its diversity. I love to learn about and celebrate people from a wide range of time periods, nationalities, and cultures, with varied ideologies, personalities, and viewpoints. Honoring only one side in a war is not diversity. An America without Confederate statues is an America stripped of its diversity, beauty, and character, a soulless expanse of land with a mindless, conformist populace and no national identity. Watching America turn into such a place breaks my heart, makes my blood boil, and makes me feel sick each and every day. That anyone would consider this an America worthy of celebrating is incomprehensible. To consider this an America that everyone can celebrate is not only incomprehensible but utterly lacking in empathy. 

The destruction of Confederate statues is the destruction of what makes life worth living. Those who destroy statues are trampling on the rights of people who feel differently than they do. These intolerant bullies do not deserve cooperation; they deserve punishment. They deserve to be targeted, because their actions are despicable. 

“A lot of these monuments are ones that have a very bad history and those are the only ones that are being targeted right now,” said Sen. Martin Quezada. “What this does is it further criminalizes the efforts of a community to make a better statement, a counterstatement, to say that we no longer celebrate those types of values. We no longer celebrate slavery, we no longer celebrate veterans of Confederate history. We have multiple monuments in the state of Arizona that do continue to celebrate that, and my preference is that we all join together to tear those things down.”

These comments completely miss the point. What constitutes a “very bad history” is a matter of opinion, as it what constitutes a “better” statement. The claim that “we no longer celebrate those types of values” is bigoted and intolerant. Different people have different values, and that is exactly the way it should be. There is no requirement that everyone celebrate the same values, and the world would be a far worse place if there was such a requirement. To some people, Confederate monuments are a good thing, and the actions of the BLM movement are a step in the wrong direction. Those who destroy Confederate statues are attempting to impose their own values on everyone. They are attempting to eradicate from the earth anything that represents any set of values other than their own. This is bigotry, this is intolerance, this is bullying, and this is trampling on the underdog. These actions demonstrate a complete disregard for the rights of minorities. These efforts deserve to be further criminalized, because they are despicable. 

As for Quezada’s preference that we “all join together to tear those things down”… forgive me if I don’t care one iota what his preference is. Quezada’s preference is that the world be stripped of everything that makes life worth living and that people who love Confederate history be sentenced to a lifetime of heartbreak and agony. And then, adding insult to injury, he has the gall to express his hope that we join together with him to make this happen. Obviously, Quezada does not care a whit about my preferences, so why should I care about his? Call me crazy, but I prefer a world that actually contains goodness, beauty, and diversity, a world in which life is worth living. That’s why I strongly support this bill and pray that it becomes law.

bookmark_borderGood news for a change: young Jeb Stuart monument

In the demoralizing wasteland of 2021, good news is difficult to come by. But a small piece of this rare commodity came into existence on February 9, when Laurel Hill, the birthplace and boyhood home of General James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart, erected a monument to the young cavalryman.

Seeing the pictures on Facebook brought a smile to my face and a little bit of much-needed joy to my heart.

Although the monument is relatively modest in size, it’s heartwarming to see a Confederate statue actually being put up instead of taken down.

Check out the Jeb Stuart Preservation Trust’s Facebook page for more excellent content.

Additionally, more information and pictures can be found at Laurel Hill’s official website.

bookmark_borderAlabama votes to save statues

In this era of all-out assault against everything Confederate, statues will remain relatively safe in Alabama, at least for the time being. This week, Alabama’s House Judiciary Committee voted down legislation that would weaken the protections in the the 2017 Memorial Preservation Act, which forbids cities and towns from taking down monuments over 40 years old and fines them $25,000 for doing so. 

Rep. Juandalynn Givan, who sponsored the legislation, characterized it as a “reasonable compromise” and said that opposition was motivated by racism, according to the Associated Press. “We are in the state of Alabama and there is still much to be done with regards to the issues of the Confederacy and the beliefs of those individuals who believe in the Confederate monuments, in the Confederate flag,” she said. “Dr. Maya Angelou once said, ‘When people show you who they are, believe them.’ They have shown who they are.”

These sentiments are deeply wrong for numerous reasons. First of all, opposition to removing statues is not motivated by racism. It is motivated by the fact that a world without statues honoring a wide variety of historical figures, including Confederate ones, is not a world worth living in. As someone on the autism spectrum who loves historical figures more than anything else in the world, I have spent more days than I can count over the past year crying, screaming, and being completely overcome by grief and despair because of the devastating destruction that has taken place. The enormity of the damage that Givan and those who share her beliefs have inflicted is impossible to convey in words. There is nothing racist about opposing the complete destruction of everything good in the world.

With respect to Givan’s claim that her legislation is a reasonable compromise: when a person or group of people is attempting to obliterate from the world everything that makes life worth living, compromise is not the appropriate response. The only reasonable option is to restore all of the Confederate statues and symbols that have been taken away. Opening up the possibility for removing even more statues should not even be considered an option.

Additionally, it is disturbing to read Givan’s comments about “the beliefs of those individuals who believe in the Confederate monuments, in the Confederate flag” and how “there is still much to be done” about this. What kind of person views the existence of people with dissenting opinions as a problem to be solved? This is totalitarian and is the ultimate in bigotry and intolerance.

Finally, it is true that opponents of Givan’s legislation “have shown who they are.” They have shown that, unlike Givan and supporters of the legislation, they believe in tolerance and inclusion. They believe in honoring a diverse array of historical figures. They believe in a world that actually contains beauty, goodness, and things that make life worth living. I’m not sure why Givan considers this a bad thing. 

According to the AP article, Rep. Mike Holmes, a brave defender of statues, was asked about “the feelings of slave descendants” and replied that there is no proof the Civil War was about slavery or white supremacy. He is 100% right. I would add an additional response of my own: the feelings of slave defendants matter the same amount as the feelings of anyone else. The fact that someone was descended from slaves does not give that person the right to inflict unbearable agony on other people. The fact that someone was descended from slaves does not give that person the right to obliterate all beauty, all goodness, all uniqueness, all diversity, and all hope from the world. It does not give a person the right to trample on the rights of those with different backgrounds, values, and beliefs.

The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a statement complaining that “these dehumanizing symbols of pain and oppression continue to serve as backdrops to important government buildings, halls of justice, public parks, and U.S. military properties.” They also complained that “preservation laws prohibit communities from making their own decisions about what they want to see in their public spaces.”

To call Confederate statues “dehumanizing” is the farthest thing possible from the truth. Confederate statues are beautiful, wonderful, amazing, glorious, and inspiring. It is their destruction that is truly dehumanizing. Removing statues divests the world of everything that makes life worth living. It destroys hope. It treats people like me, who love history, as if our feelings do not matter, as if our wishes do not matter, and as if our happiness does not matter. Anyone who does not see this has no soul.

On the SPLC’s other point, prohibiting communities from making decisions about which statues should be allowed to exist is actually precisely what the law should do. No one should be able to remove any statue, ever, because that violates the rights of the people who like the statue. Once a statue is built, it should remain forever, and no one should be able to take it down. Therefore, Alabama’s Memorial Preservation Act is morally right, and all states should enact similar laws. It is excellent news that this law is staying in place. 

bookmark_borderSilent Sam: UNC Chapel Hill’s destroyed Confederate statue

The amount of destruction of historic statues that has taken place over the past months and years has been absolutely overwhelming. As a result, I admittedly haven’t been able to read and absorb all of the news as it’s been happening. As painful as it is, I’ve been spending the past couple of weeks catching up on old news stories about various incidents of statue vandalism and removal. One article that I came across is about Silent Sam, a Confederate statue that called University of North Carolina Chapel Hill home until August 20, 2018, when he was destroyed by protesters. As with all acts of destruction committed against statues, I condemn this despicable action in the strongest possible terms.

In the article, history professor Anne Bailey describes Silent Sam as a “powerful symbol of white supremacy” and “a divisive symbol of white supremacy” who “was meant to pay tribute to those who wanted to maintain slavery.” She also writes that “Confederate statues, therefore, represent a step backwards – a symbol of what the United States once was – not what it is now.”

In my opinion, Confederate statues are not symbols of white supremacy; they are simply symbols of the Confederacy, a short-lived nation that, like all nations, had various attributes, some admirable and some less so. And representing a step backwards is not necessarily a bad thing; there’s no reason why the way the country used to be is necessarily inferior to the way the country is today. (The pervasiveness and widespread acceptance of attacks on statues such as Silent Sam weighs heavily in favor of the argument that the U.S. was a better place in the past than it is now.)

As for the claim about being divisive, those who use this term seem to be assuming that it’s a bad thing to display any kind of symbol that is liked by some people and not others; in other words that only universally liked symbols should be displayed. But this is a recipe for a uniform, bland, sterile, conformist society containing nothing interesting or distinctive and no diversity. Not every monument or memorial, not every piece of public art is going to be liked by everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s why tearing down statues is so wrong. Perpetrators claim to be carrying out this destruction in the name of diversity and inclusion, but what they are doing is contrary to these ideals. Destroying works of art because you do not like them violates the rights of those who do and demonstrates a complete disregard for their preferences and viewpoints.

Bailey also writes:

Today, the nation is experiencing what some call a civil war over statues. The only way to avert this new civil war – in some ways a symbolic one over the outcome of the original Civil War – is to have dialogue. And after dialogue, actions must follow. It could be that protesters who toppled Silent Sam acted out of a sense that dialogue had reached a standstill after years of debate. Communities may decide to take the statues down or replace them with monuments that honor abolitionists like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, William H. Seward or Thaddeus Stephens. They may also choose to keep the Confederate statues intact with a plaque that gives a more balanced view of the causes of the war.

While dialogue is always a good thing, Bailey seems to be assuming that the only options to be discussed are getting rid of Confederate statues or adding plaques that profess a negative view towards the Confederacy (Bailey’s idea of a more balanced view of the causes of the war isn’t necessarily everyone’s). The option of leaving the statues completely as they are isn’t mentioned, let alone the option of adding more Confederate statues in places that do not currently have them. In this way, Bailey is presuming the truth of what she is trying to prove, namely that Confederate statues are bad. The idea that someone might consider the statues just fine as they are, or even want new ones to be built, isn’t even acknowledged as a possibility.