bookmark_borderColumbus Day 2020

Christopher Columbus statue in Boston’s North End (photo by yours truly)

Happy Columbus Day! Thanks to the politically correct, anti-history bullies who are in the process of taking over more and more of our society, Christopher Columbus has become unpopular and marginalized. Therefore, he deserves to be honored and celebrated now more than ever. I am in the process of developing a project to honor and celebrate all of the people from history who have become victims of “cancel culture.” For now, please enjoy this blog post about Christopher Columbus, an imperfect and still amazing explorer, navigator, visionary, and leader.

Fun facts:

  • Columbus was born in 1451 in the Republic of Genoa.
  • He was the son of a wool weaver and taught himself to read and write.
  • He was above-average height and had reddish hair and blue eyes.
  • Starting at age 10, he traveled widely, going as far north as Britain and as far south as Ghana.
  • He developed a plan to find a western route to the East Indies in hopes of making a fortune from the spice trade; this resulted in his accidental discovery of the Americas.
  • He landed in the Americas for the first time on October 12, 1492.
  • During one battle, Columbus and his crew rescued several women who were being held as sex slaves and children who were going to be eaten.
  • He made 4 total voyages between Europe and the Americas.
  • In 1504, he amazed natives in Jamaica by predicting a lunar eclipse.
  • His official military rank is Admiral of the Ocean Sea.
  • He died on May 20, 1506 at age 54. His remains are located in the Cathedral of Seville in Spain.
  • In 1937, October 12 became Columbus Day in the U.S. In 1971, Columbus Day changed to being celebrated on the first Monday in October.

Quotes:

“You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”

“Riches don’t make a man rich, they only make him busier.”

“Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. Those that are enlightened before the others are condemned to pursue that light in spite of the others.”

“Goals are simply tools to focus your energy in positive directions, these can be changed as your priorities change, new ones added, and others dropped.”

Continue reading “Columbus Day 2020”

bookmark_borderSacco & Vanzetti statue should be in addition to, not instead of, Columbus

In yesterday’s Boston Globe Magazine, I read an article proposing a new solution for Christopher Columbus Park in the North End after a despicable excuse for a human being decapitated the statue of the park’s namesake.

Megan Montgomery suggested that a statue of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti be created to replace the statue of Christopher Columbus. Sacco and Vanzetti were the two Italian-American immigrants convicted in 1921 of killing a paymaster and a guard and stealing $15,000 from the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company in Braintree, MA. They were executed in 1927. Many people believed at the time and still believe today that Sacco and Vanzetti were wrongfully convicted. Protests and riots took place, not unlike what has happened in response to the death of George Floyd. Montgomery argues that building a Sacco and Vanzetti statue would raise awareness of wrongful convictions and that their story is relevant to the issues of prejudice and classism facing America today. She also points out that Sacco, a shoemaker, and Vanzetti, a fish peddler, became friends after getting involved with workers’ rights and anti-World War I activism. She calls them heroes who fought for the rights of everyday people. 

This is all true, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting up a Sacco and Vanzetti statue. But this should be in addition to the Columbus statue, not instead of it. 

“Columbus symbolizes violence and unchecked power, and doesn’t deserve a statue any more than he deserves a federal holiday,” Montgomery writes. She claims that the Columbus statue symbolizes “historical oppression” and calls on Boston’s Italian-American community to “memorialize new heroes.” She points out the usual anti-Columbus arguments, which go essentially as follows: 

  • Columbus wasn’t really Italian-American, as Italy didn’t exist in 1492 (he was from Genoa, which is part of modern-day Italy).
  • Columbus didn’t exactly discover the Americas, because they were already inhabited.
  • Columbus and his supporters colonized the lands that they found, enslaved the native people, and caused many deaths.

Obviously, Christopher Columbus was not perfect. His story and deeds involved violence, and he and his supporters were not exactly respectful towards the native people that they encountered. But that does not mean that he symbolizes violence, unchecked power, or oppression. Nor does it mean that he deserves to have his statue decapitated and his holiday canceled. Every person is a mix of various qualities, some good and some bad. To some people, violent colonization is the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the name Columbus. To others, Columbus is fondly memorialized as a skilled navigator, charismatic leader, brave explorer, and the first Italian-American (as a native of Genoa, he comes close enough). After all, even though the so-called New World wasn’t new to all the people who had been living there for millennia, it is hard to deny that Columbus’s achievements required intelligence, determination, courage, and independence of thought. 

If I had to choose who is more worthy of a statue, Columbus or Sacco and Vanzetti, I would choose Columbus. But we shouldn’t have to choose. There’s nothing wrong with having both. People are always going to have different opinions on the relative merits of various historical figures. The same individual can symbolize different things depending on who you ask. People have different ideas of right and wrong, weigh personal qualities differently, and simply are partial to different historical figures. An existing statue cannot be removed just because some people decide that the historical figure is not worthy of being honored. This demonstrates a complete disregard for the people who admire the historical figure and love the statue. Adding more statues to increase diversity and to include under-represented groups enriches our world. Taking down statues – let alone viciously beheading them – only impoverishes it. 

bookmark_borderMuseum of Fine Arts infiltrated by political correctness

With political correctness taking over the world to an increasing degree, it is not surprising that museums are being affected. Not only is the iconic Theodore Roosevelt statue being removed from the Museum of Natural History in New York, but the Museum of Fine Arts in my hometown of Boston has implemented negative changes in response to the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement.

When the MFA re-opens on September 26 after being closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, a magnificent portrait of King George IV will be missing. The portrait, by John Singleton Copley, was removed because, according to the MFA’s director, Matthew Teitelbaum, it was deemed inappropriate to emphasize America’s relationship with Great Britain. Additionally, visitors to the Art of the Americas wing will be greeted by a text on the wall explaining the museum’s efforts to “expand, contextualize, and diversify our holdings, and to consider the objects in our care from new and overlooked perspectives.” The works of art, the text notes, “ironically relied on oppressive economic systems, raising questions about the notions of ‘liberty’ that inspired their makers and patrons.” Portraits of Revolutionary War heroes will get explanatory text noting that they were slaveholders. Paul Revere’s Sons of Liberty bowl will get a text explaining that it is made from silver that was likely mined by slaves and therefore that “the material of the bowl belies the values it stood for.” According to the Boston Globe, these changes are being made so that the museum can be more inclusive and “expand its cultural embrace.”

However, like most actions taken in response to the BLM movement, these changes make the museum less inclusive. A beautiful, glorious painting of King George IV was needlessly removed. The new explanatory texts on various works of art cross the line from being neutral and factual to actually criticizing the art, its creators, and its subjects. It is unnecessary and inappropriate to add text that essentially calls Paul Revere and other leaders from the Revolutionary War era hypocrites. Worse, the museum’s explanatory text not only criticizes individuals from our nation’s history, it criticizes the very ideals upon which our nation was founded. There is no need to contemptuously put the word “liberty” in quotes while pointing out its alleged inconsistency with the economic systems that existed at the time.

Colonial-era American culture deserves to be celebrated just as much as any other culture, and our founding fathers deserve to be celebrated just as much as historical figures from other cultures do. Do the museum’s galleries of African, Asian, and Oceanian art contain explanatory text criticizing these cultures, their values, and their leaders from history? Works of art from all cultures should be accompanied by text that is neutral, factual, and educational, not negative, critical, or pushing any particular ideology.

I suppose I should be grateful that the Museum of Fine Arts did not go further by removing more paintings. But these changes are a step in the wrong direction and are demoralizing and upsetting given the sheer number of changes in this direction that are occurring in the world at the moment. I love art and history, and going to this museum has been one of my favorite outings since I was in preschool. Now I am not sure if I want to go back there ever again. Just another example of the BLM movement’s seeming determination to seek out all of the beautiful and good things in the world and ruin them.

bookmark_borderHorrendous legislation aims to remove Confederate statues from national parks and battlefields

Full of rage, grief, and devastation, I’ve read and watched news reports of the barbaric destruction of statues across America, beginning in 2015 and accelerating disturbingly over the past few months. Despite the senseless removal of statue after statue from our city streets and parks, there was one thing that I thought would always be safe: monuments at battlefields. But sadly, in this era of political correctness run amok, even that is no longer the case.

Last month, for example, someone vandalized the statue of Robert E. Lee at the Antietam battlefield in Maryland, writing messages such as “BLM,” “racist,” and “You lost the war.” (What do the results of a war have to do with the moral worth of a cause or the individuals associated with it?) Fortunately, the National Park Service, which manages the battlefield, cleaned off the graffiti.

More recently, two pieces of legislation were introduced that would – and it hurts to even type these words – order the removal of all Confederate monuments from the Gettysburg battlefield. The Battle of Gettysburg, which took place from July 1-3, 1863, was the deadliest battle in U.S. history. Approximately 50,000 people lost their lives in the brutal fighting between the Army of Northern Virginia, led by General Robert E. Lee, and the Army of the Potomac, led by General George Meade. Today 1,328 statues and plaques commemorate the individuals, regiments, and brigades who fought there.

Commemorating history being a foreign concept to many people today, the House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior, called HR-7608, on July 24. It would require the National Park Service, which manages dozens of battlefields and historical sites across the country, including Gettysburg and Antietam, to “remove from display all physical Confederate commemorative works, such as statues, monuments, sculptures, memorials, and plaques” within 180 days. Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), who authored this provision, said in a press release that “our public spaces must be open and inviting to all,” which is interesting because honoring only one side of a war does the exact opposite of this. Fortunately, according to the blog Emerging Civil War, this bill was referred to the Appropriations Committee in the Senate and is considered “dead on arrival.”  

Sadly, there was also a resolution introduced in the General Assembly of Pennsylvania on August 6 calling for the removal of all Confederate statues and monuments in the state. Known as Resolution 954, it does not specifically mention Gettysburg, but given that Gettysburg is in Pennsylvania, its monuments presumably would be included. The resolution, which alleges that Confederate ideals “were on the wrong side of history” and “comprise treason and traitors to this nation,” was referred to the Committee on Rules.

Making things even worse, just this week, Representative Bobby Rush (D-Illinois) introduced a bill calling for the removal of Confederate monuments across the country, not-so-cleverly called the Rejecting and Eliminating the Foul Use of Symbols Exulting (REFUSE) Confederate Principles Act. This bill would create a grant program called the Emancipation Historic Preservation Program to pay for the removal of the statues. “It’s past time that we eradicate these totems of treason and replace them with symbols that represent the true promise of America, such as the emancipation of Black Americans,” Rush said. He also called Confederate statues “abhorrent” and demanded that they be replaced with art that “we can actually be proud of.”

Like so many people associated with the Black Lives Matter movement and its accompanying cult of political correctness, Rush demonstrates no acknowledgement of, or consideration for, opinions that differ from his own. News flash: some people are actually proud of Confederate statues. Just because you are not proud of something does not mean that no one is. And even those who do not admire the Confederacy or its leaders must acknowledge that monuments at battlefields are priceless historical artifacts and crucial parts of what makes these sites so important.

To its credit, the National Park Service has stood up for statues, calling those at Gettysburg “an important part of the cultural landscape.” On a webpage about Confederate monuments, the NPS writes:

Across the country, the National Park Service maintains and interprets monuments, markers, and plaques that commemorate and memorialize those who fought during the Civil War. These memorials represent an important, if controversial, chapter in our Nation’s history. The National Park Service is committed to preserving these memorials while simultaneously educating visitors holistically about the actions, motivations, and causes of the soldiers and states they commemorate. A hallmark of American progress is our ability to learn from our history….

Still other monuments, while lacking legislative authorization, may have existed in parks long enough to qualify as historic features. A key aspect of their historical interest is that they reflect the knowledge, attitudes, and tastes of the people who designed and placed them. Unless directed by legislation, it is the policy of the National Park Service that these works and their inscriptions will not be altered, relocated, obscured, or removed, even when they are deemed inaccurate or incompatible with prevailing present-day values… The NPS will continue to provide historical context and interpretation for all of our sites and monuments in order to reflect a fuller view of past events and the values under which they occurred.

Additionally, the NPS reiterated their support for preserving statues in a statement to Newsweek. They correctly called the removal attempts “part of a sustained effort to erase from the history of the Nation those who do not meet an ever-shifting standard of conduct.”

Guides who work at Gettysburg and other battlefields have also expressed opposition to the attempts to remove the monuments. “We urge the U.S. Senate to strip out this provision that would destroy the unequaled collection of monuments, Union and Confederate, that set Gettysburg apart as a great battlefield park and a top visitor destination,” Les Fowler, the president of the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides, said in a press release in response to HR-7608. “The monuments representing all of the soldiers who fought here are a critical component of interpreting these sacred grounds.”

Fowler also wrote an excellent opinion piece for the York Daily Record in which he explains exactly what the legislation would do:

If enacted into law, the House bill would mean a visit to any of these battlefield parks would be immeasurably diminished… It would mean removing the five-figure sculpture group at Gettysburg’s North Carolina Memorial, a masterpiece that depicts the emotions of men facing a desperate attack. It would mean the loss of the emotional “Angel of Marye’s Heights” sculpture at Fredericksburg depicting Confederate Richard Kirkland coming to the aid of a fallen Union soldier. It would mean taking down Shiloh’s Mississippi Memorial just five years after it was put up.

Gary Gallagher also wrote an editorial in defense of Gettysburg’s monuments for the Civil War Times. “No education of any value depends on selective erasure of troubling dimensions of America’s story,” he writes. “History should not be turned into a simplistic morality play juxtaposing good and evil, heroes and villains, and contrived to serve current political goals.”

The fact that opinion pieces would even need to be written in defense of Gettysburg’s monuments is heartbreaking. This issue should not even be up for debate. To say that I oppose these bills that would order the removal of Confederate statues from battlefields and national parks is a gross understatement. Every single person on earth should be against these pieces of legislation, and there is no reason whatsoever for anyone to support them. The fact that members of the House of Representatives actually voted in favor of requiring battlefield monuments to be removed is disgusting. What makes Gettysburg an important historic site is the fact that it was the location of a momentous battle fought by two sides. Soldiers on both sides bravely fought, and in many cases sacrificed their lives, for what they believed in. To remove the monuments to the losing side of this battle and war is not only bigoted, intolerant, and authoritarian; it also completely defeats the entire purpose of the Gettysburg battlefield.

bookmark_borderMaryland considering getting rid of state song

Naturally, in this era of political-correctness-motivated war against everything to do with the Confederacy, various people are demanding that Maryland replace its state song, “Maryland, My Maryland.” The song was written by James Ryder Randall in 1861 in response to riots that took place as Union soldiers passed through Baltimore on their way to Washington, D.C. The lyrics criticize Abraham Lincoln and the North and express support for secession. It became the state song in 1939, but starting in 1974 there have been 9 unsuccessful attempts to repeal it.

The full lyrics are as follows:

Continue reading “Maryland considering getting rid of state song”

bookmark_border“It’s not vandalism,” says man who helped tear down Jefferson statue

I recently came across an interview that Willamette Week did with one of the people (and I use that term loosely) who tore down a statue of Thomas Jefferson in Portland, Oregon. According to this account, a group of about 15 people tied ropes around the statue of our third president outside Jefferson High School and used a car to pull it off of its base and cause it to come crashing down. People then chopped at the statue with axes.

This man, who bravely chose to remain anonymous, described the destruction of the statue as necessary and morally correct. “It felt like the community just spontaneously got together to do this thing that needed to be done in that moment,” he said in the interview. “We were doing this thing that should’ve been done, that people in charge aren’t doing. It’s direct action. We need to not have this statue sitting here. It’s not right.”

I vehemently disagree with the claim that the destruction of a magnificent statue is something that “needs to be done.” Statues are beautiful works of art that give cities and towns character and identity. Their existence is a good thing. Taking them down is not only unnecessary; it is morally wrong and makes the world a worse place.

In a dubious stretch of logic, the anonymous protester denied that the destruction of the Jefferson statue constituted vandalism: “It’s not vandalism, you’re doing something by taking down this image. There wasn’t rage… We can’t just watch and let people call them vandals. That’s not vandalism.” I wasn’t aware that rage was a requirement for an act to be considered vandalism. Nor did I know that an action was exempt from being called vandalism if its perpetrators believe they are “doing something.” Destroying property that does not belong to you – and statues certainly qualify because they belong to the people as a whole – is vandalism. You can argue that vandalism is morally right in this case (and I would disagree with you wholeheartedly), but you can’t really deny that what happened was vandalism.

This man also expressed support for the destruction of Portland’s George Washington statue, which occurred in a separate incident. “We no longer want to let those things just exist out in the open,” he said of the statue of our first president. He also condemned Mt. Rushmore, one of the most iconic outdoor sculptures in the United States, calling it a “travesty” and a “shitty thing.”

He even questioned the idea of building monuments at all: “Should we be making statues of people? Is anybody worth having their figure being a permanent presence somewhere? It’s a powerful thing to think about. It’s a bit magical to have a lifelike body of an individual being a permanent presence. That’s a high school. It shouldn’t exist there.” And he characterized support for statues as a “fantasy about these figures that we were trained to have so much respect and admiration for.”

I could not feel more differently. We absolutely should be making statues of people, and the fact that they are permanent, and somewhat magical, is exactly why! A person does not need to be perfect in order to deserve having their statue become a permanent presence. They do not even need to be respected and admired by the majority of people. There is something beautiful and inherently enriching about having monuments to historical figures dotting the urban landscape. Remembering and learning about notable people from the past is intrinsically valuable. As people learn about history, they will come to a variety of different conclusions about which historical figures are and are not worthy of admiration. No person, group of people, or even society as a whole, has the right to get rid of a statue merely because they don’t find the subject admirable. Believing that statues should exist is not a “fantasy.” It does not mean that one thinks that the people depicted in the statues are perfect. It is, ironically, a matter of respect for diversity. Instead of creating a homogenized society in which everyone conforms unquestioningly to the social mores of the present, we should acknowledge and value the wide range of different ways of thinking that have existed in the past and exist today.

Maybe it’s because I have loved history since I was ten, but I find it incomprehensible that so many people prefer a world without statues of historical figures. A world in which the only thing that anyone cares about is the present might function okay, but it would be a world without culture, without identity, without joy, and without meaning. Why would anyone want that? Statues of historical figures absolutely should exist, not only at high schools but everywhere.

bookmark_borderExcellent explanation of what the Confederate flag stands for

On Facebook, I came across an excellent post explaining the history of the Confederate flag and what it truly symbolizes and represents. It would be hard to say it any better than this. You can read the entire post at this link or below:

The South and the Confederate States of America have been harshly discriminated against and positive historical facts and figures have intentionally been suppressed. Dishonest Northern historians have unfairly caused Southern and Confederate history and its heroes, monuments, memorials, and flags to be regulated to a role of less importance than deserved in American history and to be viewed in a negative perspective by much of the American public.

U.S president Woodrow Wilson is quoted as saying “the role of slavery became the proclaimed cause of the Civil War because it was necessary to put the South at a moral disadvantage by transforming the contest from a war for Independence into a war waged for the maintenance and extension of slavery.” If slavery was all the Southern states wanted they could have kept it without a war or firing a shot. The North offered the South the Corwin Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in March 1861 that would have made slavery permanently legal in America if they would rejoin the union. The South refused and the Constitution of the Confederate States of America banned the international slave trade. Most educated Southerners were in favor of gradual orderly emancipation which would have prevented segregation and Jim Crow laws which were based on Northern black codes.

The words of Confederate General Patrick R. Cleburne who was killed at the battle of Franklin Tennessee on November 30, 1864 are becoming true:

“Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late. It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern school teachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision.”

Political correctness and Socialist Marxist Revisionism are attacking everything Southern and Confederate on national, state, and local levels all across America.

The Confederate flag represents honor, faith, courage, dignity, integrity, chivalry, Christian values, respect for womanhood, strong family ties, patriotism, self- reliance, limited constitutional federal government, states rights, and belief in the free enterprise system. It symbolizes the noble spirit of the Southern people, the rich heritage, the traditions of the South and the dynamic and vigorous Southern culture. No other symbol so proudly says “Dixie” as the Cross of St. Andrew (Confederate Battle Flag) waving in the breeze. Liberals have falsely indoctrinated many black Americans to believe it represents racism, bigotry, and a painful reminder of slavery, but white Christian Southerners who fly the Confederate Battle Flag are not the enemy of responsible Black Americans who are working to better themselves.

The Confederate flag is the last flag to represent the concept of local control of ones’ life in America. In a larger sense it represents the same values and principles as the original U.S. Betsy Ross Flag: Limited Constitutional Federal Government, States Rights, Resistance to Tyranny, and Christian Principles and Values. Thus it represents “government of the people, by the people, and for the people with the consent of the governed.”

The Confederate flag is an internationally recognized symbol of resistance to tyranny. That is why it was flying over the Berlin Wall when it was being torn down in 1989 and has been flown by numerous countries or provinces seeking independence.

It reminds knowledgeable Americans that government is to be held accountable for its actions, and if those actions are viewed as not being in the best interest of the people, there is a price to be paid for it. This fact has not been lost upon the Socialist, Communist, liberal left and that is why they have spent inordinate amounts of money and energy trying to suppress this powerful symbol of freedom. The Confederate battle flag is a Christian symbol and that is why proponents of Secular Humanism (the belief that there is no God and man, science, and government can solve all problems) oppose it.

The flag also represents the valor and sacrifice of our Southern ancestors in their quest to gain independence and recognition as a sovereign nation. Confederate soldiers displayed tremendous bravery in the face of overwhelming odds and blatant tyranny and aggression on behalf of the Yankee government that invaded the Southern homeland. It was, is, and will continue to be the flag of the region Southerners call home, the Southland. We are Americans, true, but we are also proud Southerners.

bookmark_borderEvaluating various options on statues (part 3)

A recent Boston Globe article discusses historians’ opinions in favor of and against removing statues of controversial historical figures. This is a category that includes not only Confederate leaders but in the era of the Black Lives Matter movement has come to include founding fathers such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as well.

Catherine Allgor, the President of the Massachusetts Historical Society, argued that it is appropriate to take down statues of the founding fathers if they do not fit the values held by most people today. “What were the questions and the issues that these monuments were an answer to?” she asked. “And then you have to say, is it useful for us?… Maybe the answer is we don’t put up statues to people because the problem with people is they’re very complicated. We’re asked to venerate and adore this person, but this person is a person. There is good stuff and bad stuff.”

But in my opinion, this is exactly why we should have statues of people and why these statues should not be removed, even if the majority of people today dislike them. Historical figures are complicated, with good stuff and bad, and that is part of why I love history and why I love statues. I love learning about people from the past and discovering their quirks and eccentricities, their good points and bad points. It is entirely appropriate to have statues of important people from the past, even if they were deeply flawed and even if the majority of people today consider them bad! The existence of a statue in a public place does not necessarily mean people are being asked to venerate and adore the person (and no historical figure is going to be venerated and adored by everyone); it just means that those who do venerate and adore the person have an awesome statue to enjoy. Because everyone admires different historical figures, it’s important for cities and towns to display a wide variety of statues so that everyone, and not just those who share the views of the majority, can find a statue that they like and admire. To completely give up on having statues of historical figures, just because these people were not perfect, is not the answer.

I also think that Allgor is overcomplicating things. Monuments do not need to be an answer to any question or issue. Perhaps they simply signify that the sculptor, or the person or organization that commissioned the statue, thought that the historical figure was cool. What’s wrong with that? Nor do monuments need to be useful, per se, to people today. Monuments are inherently valuable as historical artifacts and works of art. That is reason enough for them to be left in place. A city’s statues are part of its character and its identity, and a community that tears down monuments and builds new ones based on what is popular in the moment is a community without any character or identity.

Robert Allison, a professor of American history at Suffolk University, expressed different sentiments. “The Founders are always fair game for reassessment,” he said. “But that is not what is happening now. We are watching a concerted effort to remove history, not to reinterpret it… It does seem we have reached a moment where we want to remove historical figures because they do not live up to our high standards.”

I completely agree with these observations. Instead of thoughtfully considering the good and bad points of various historical figures, too many of today’s protesters are aggressively and mindlessly destroying statues for the sake of destroying statues. Their automatic response to any depiction of a white person in old-fashioned clothing seems to be to tear it down and burn it, regardless of the story behind the statue or even the identity of the person it depicts. For example, mobs in Madison, Wisconsin tore apart a statue of Union soldier and abolitionist Hans Christian Heg as well as a statue called Forward, which was a tribute to women’s suffrage. There is no logical reason why either statue would be objectionable to the Black Lives Matter movement; the barbaric mobs must have just seen a Civil War soldier and a woman in an ancient Greek style robe, and decided to destroy them.

Allison suggested building new statues, for example to abolitionists Lewis Hayden, Harriet Hayden, and Prince Hall, as opposed to destroying existing ones. And he pointed out that if the current trend of anti-statue violence continues, the only statue that will be left in Boston is the statue of a pear in Everett Square.

This is spot-on. And who knows, perhaps someone who hates pears will come along and deem the pear statue offensive as well. After all, mobs in Portland, Oregon set that city’s elk statue on fire, demonstrating that not even statues without political or ideological associations are safe.

Miranda ADEkoje, who is writing a play about Crispus Attucks, suggested that society “put these figures in a Museum of Painful History. What will we put back in place of these statues? Fill that space with a balm of equity and empowerment.”

I’m not sure what type of art this balm of equity and empowerment would be. But, as is often the case with people who advocate removing statues, this statement ignores the rights and feelings of people with opposing views. To those who like Robert E. Lee, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Christopher Columbus, the removal of these statues inflicts tremendous harm and pain. To take away something that people cherish, because it is disliked by whatever group happens to hold the most political power, is the opposite of equity and empowerment. No replacement could possibly be adequate to heal the wounds of those whose favorite statues have been torn down in the name of political correctness.

Limiting statues to those historical figures admired by everyone will result in no statues except, possibly, for a giant piece of fruit. And only allowing monuments to those historical figures approved of by the majority of people is no better. This will result in statues constantly being torn down and replaced and is unfair to those with minority views, who will be deprived of the chance to visit and admire statues of their favorite historical figures. Leave statues be, and add more if some groups are not adequately represented.

bookmark_borderStatues matter

All across the country and world, statues have been under attack. Statues of explorers, saints, Confederate leaders, founding fathers, generals, and pretty much any historical figure who does not meet today’s strict standards of political correctness. And occasionally statues that do not represent historical figures at all but were targeted for no apparent reason other than that someone wanted to destroy a statue. Sometimes, the attacks on statues are carried out by lawless mobs who spatter paint and graffiti all over them, tear them down, and/or set them on fire. Sometimes the attacks are carried out by state and local governments that hire work crews to remove them and put them in storage. Some of these anti-statue actions are more barbaric than others, but they are all morally wrong.

As someone who loves both history and art, I love statues. I love studying historical figures and learning cool facts about them. Statues are essentially the physical manifestation of historical figures in today’s world, and as such, I cherish them. I love to visit and photograph statues in my native Boston and everywhere I travel. Every statue represents a person who walked this earth at some point in time, a person with both positive and negative attributes. Each one is a beautiful work of art. In short, statues make the world a better place.

Like everyone in the world, I like and admire some historical figures more than others. Therefore, I like some statues more than others. I would never tear down, vandalize, or ask my local government to remove a statue depicting a historical figure I do not like, and I do not understand why so many people feel that they have the right to do this when it comes to the historical figures they do not like. Each person has his or her own opinions about what makes a historical figure admirable, or not admirable. Each person has his or her own ideas about which flaws are forgivable and which flaws make a historical figure unworthy of being celebrated or honored. What is so disturbing about the recent trend of vandalizing and removing statues is that it prioritizes one set of views above others. Those on the left-hand side of the political spectrum and those aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement are allowed to destroy statues that they dislike with relative impunity, and local officials are bending over backwards to remove any remaining offending statues that have somehow managed to escape destruction. The feelings, wishes, and opinions of those who like these statues are not taken into account at all. In other words, in today’s society, one group of people enjoys the ability to have its preferences with respect to historical figures and statues enacted into public policy, while the preferences of other people are completely ignored. To say that this is unjust is an understatement.

The mobs that destroy statues have been referred to as protesters, rioters, anarchists, and even domestic terrorists. Senator Ted Cruz called them the “American Taliban.” I don’t think any of these terms are harsh enough to fully convey how morally repugnant these attacks on statues are. The mentality of these excuses for human beings seems to be that only things that they personally like should be allowed to exist. Their goal seems to be to destroy for the sake of destroying, to obliterate everything that is beautiful or glorious, and to make the world as bad a place as possible. Those who destroy statues are bigots and bullies. They practice complete intolerance for anyone different from them. It would not be inaccurate to say that they have no souls.

Some people consider statues unimportant. They argue that statues are just stone or metal objects, and we should focus on protecting and improving people’s lives. They do not care one way or the other about whether the world and its cities and towns have beautiful statues. I do not feel this way. As someone on the autism spectrum, I tend to be drawn to inanimate objects more than to people. Because I love historical figures, I love statues. I have a visceral reaction when reading about or watching a video of the destruction of a statue, more than I do when reading about bad things happening to living people. Fighting back against the destruction of statues is incredibly important to me. Statues may not be necessary to have a functioning world. People can go about their daily lives and have their basic needs met without the existence of any statues in public spaces. But the world would be immeasurably worse. The feeling that I get when I see a statue of a brave general on a horse, or an explorer from a long-ago era, is difficult to put into words. The inherent value that statues and monuments bring to our public spaces is difficult to quantify or explain with logical reasoning, but that does not make it any less real.

Without a doubt, every time a statue is destroyed or removed, the world is made worse. Every act of destruction against a statue is disgusting, disgraceful, dishonorable, repugnant, reprehensible, and any other negative adjective that can be imagined. Every news report of a statue being vandalized, torn down, or removed is painful and heartbreaking. The videos of workers removing the statues of Stonewall Jackson, Matthew Fontaine Maury, and J.E.B. Stuart from Monument Avenue in Richmond. The images of graffiti covering the magnificent statue of Robert E. Lee. The Christopher Columbus statue in Boston, a statue that I walk past almost every day, with its head brutally knocked to the ground. The footage of mobs pulling down a Columbus statue in Baltimore, causing it to smash into pieces as it hit the ground. The Junipero Serra statue in San Francisco toppled, brutalized with a jackhammer, its hands severed. The statue of philanthropist Edward Colston in Bristol, England being dragged through the streets and thrown into the harbor. Statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson splattered with red paint. The iconic elk statue in Portland (yes, an elk) set on fire.

I could keep listing examples until this blog post became as long as a novel, but the bottom line is that actions like these are among the most morally wrong things someone could do. Therefore, they need to be punished severely. Police departments need to prioritize arresting those who vandalize statues, and district attorneys need to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Laws should be changed to make punishments harsher; life in prison is not an excessive punishment, in my opinion. At the absolute least, cities and towns should never, ever take down statues that have been the targets of vandalism. This condones vandalism and rewards its perpetrators. Every statue that is vandalized needs to be repaired and then guarded around the clock. In some cases it will be impossible to catch the culprits who destroy statues – sometimes these acts take place in the middle of the night with no witnesses or cameras nearby – but restoring and protecting the vandalized statues punishes the culprits without even needing to know their identities. Even better, whenever a statue is vandalized, local governments should build ten more statues of the same historical figure. A message needs to be sent that intentionally damaging statues is unacceptable. Those who do this cannot be allowed to win under any circumstances.

Unfortunately, contrary to what is depicted in the above picture, statues cannot defend themselves. It is up to governments and if needed, private citizens, to protect them. One of the few pieces of good news that has happened in the world recently is that unlike most mayors and governors, President Trump is taking a stand in defense of statues. On June 26, he signed an executive order directing the Department of Justice to enforce federal laws that authorize up to 10 years in prison for anyone who vandalizes a statue or monument on federal property. On July 3, during his speech at Mt. Rushmore, he condemned the “merciless campaign to wipe out our history.” And on the same date, he signed another executive order creating a task force for building and rebuilding monuments and ordering the creation of a national statue park. It is for this reason that unless something drastically changes between now and November, I will vote for Trump. This will be the first time that I have not voted for a third-party candidate. I have considered the Libertarian Party to be the party that comes closest to matching my beliefs, and I agree with its presidential nominee, Jo Jorgensen, on most issues. However, Jorgensen has not, as far as I know, expressed any outrage about the destruction of statues. The statue issue is so important to me that I will support the candidate who most agrees with me on this topic, and right now that’s Trump.

People around the world need to take a stand against the destruction of and removal of statues. Enough is enough. Every time a statue is destroyed or removed, the world becomes a worse place. No statue should ever be removed, unless for the purpose of replacing it with an even more magnificent statue of the same historical figure. If there are concerns about the racial and gender diversity of statues, the way to address those concerns is to build additional statues, not to take down existing ones.

Statues matter. All statues.

bookmark_borderTrump orders creation of National Garden of American Heroes

President Trump continues to fight back in the war on statues. Yesterday he signed an executive order creating a task force for building and rebuilding monuments and ordering the creation of a statuary park called the National Garden of American Heroes.

The executive order reads as follows:

America owes its present greatness to its past sacrifices. Because the past is always at risk of being forgotten, monuments will always be needed to honor those who came before. Since the time of our founding, Americans have raised monuments to our greatest citizens… In our public parks and plazas, we have erected statues of great Americans who, through acts of wisdom and daring, built and preserved for us a republic of ordered liberty.

These statues are silent teachers in solid form of stone and metal. They preserve the memory of our American story and stir in us a spirit of responsibility for the chapters yet unwritten. These works of art call forth gratitude for the accomplishments and sacrifices of our exceptional fellow citizens who, despite their flaws, placed their virtues, their talents, and their lives in the service of our Nation. These monuments express our noblest ideals: respect for our ancestors, love of freedom, and striving for a more perfect union. They are works of beauty, created as enduring tributes. In preserving them, we show reverence for our past, we dignify our present, and we inspire those who are to come. To build a monument is to ratify our shared national project.

To destroy a monument is to desecrate our common inheritance. In recent weeks, in the midst of protests across America, many monuments have been vandalized or destroyed. Some local governments have responded by taking their monuments down. Among others, monuments to Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Francis Scott Key, Ulysses S. Grant, leaders of the abolitionist movement, the first all-volunteer African-American regiment of the Union Army in the Civil War, and American soldiers killed in the First and Second World Wars have been vandalized, destroyed, or removed.

These statues are not ours alone, to be discarded at the whim of those inflamed by fashionable political passions; they belong to generations that have come before us and to generations yet unborn. My Administration will not abide an assault on our collective national memory. In the face of such acts of destruction, it is our responsibility as Americans to stand strong against this violence, and to peacefully transmit our great national story to future generations through newly commissioned monuments to American heroes.

It is not yet clear where the National Garden of American Heroes will be located or when it will open, although Trump’s goal is to have it opened before July 4, 2026. Funding and administrative support for the garden will be provided by the Department of the Interior. The garden will enable the public to enjoy nature, walk among the statues, and learn about history. Trump specifies in his order that the statues should be realistic, as opposed to abstract.

Trump provides the following list of specific people to be included in the garden: “John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Daniel Boone, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Henry Clay, Davy Crockett, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Benjamin Franklin, Billy Graham, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Douglas MacArthur, Dolley Madison, James Madison, Christa McAuliffe, Audie Murphy, George S. Patton, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson, Betsy Ross, Antonin Scalia, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, George Washington, and Orville and Wilbur Wright.”

He also provides the following list of more general categories of people who should be considered for inclusion: “the Founding Fathers, those who fought for the abolition of slavery or participated in the underground railroad, heroes of the United States Armed Forces, recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor or Presidential Medal of Freedom, scientists and inventors, entrepreneurs, civil rights leaders, missionaries and religious leaders, pioneers and explorers, police officers and firefighters killed or injured in the line of duty, labor leaders, advocates for the poor and disadvantaged, opponents of national socialism or international socialism, former Presidents of the United States and other elected officials, judges and justices, astronauts, authors, intellectuals, artists, and teachers.”

And importantly, he points out: “None will have lived perfect lives, but all will be worth honoring, remembering, and studying.” Amen to that.

In addition to the garden, this executive order also directs funding towards the commissioning of new statues to be installed in cities and towns where statues of historically significant Americans have recently been removed or destroyed.

My only criticism is that no Confederate historical figures are included in the list. Hopefully a few of them will make it into the garden as well. Interestingly, the executive order mentions the possibility that the task force might “encourage and accept the donation or loan of statues by States, localities, civic organizations, businesses, religious organizations, and individuals.” Does this mean that statues that cities and towns have decided to remove might find a new home in the garden? I hope so, because it is a shame for beautiful, magnificent statues to languish in storage instead of being on display where the public can appreciate them.