In the approximately two years since our society collectively decided to destroy the statues honoring the historical figures that I love, it has been difficult to put the way that I feel into words. The destruction of these statues has been, by far, the most painful thing that has ever happened to me. I feel, more strongly than I have ever felt anything in my life, that this destruction is wrong. But it is hard to form a logical argument that explains why this is so.
“They’re just statues,” people point out. “They aren’t alive. It’s not as if anyone has been killed.” I have been ridiculed for being so upset at the statue destruction. I have been called a racist and a white supremacist. Even those who agree with me that the taking down of Christopher Columbus statues and Confederate statues is wrong do not feel as strongly about this as I do. They don’t understand why these statues are so important to me that without them, I feel that the world is no longer worth living in.
I recently read an article in Psychology Today about the spirit and the soul. The article explains that what animates the soul varies from person to person: art, music, organized religion, or watching children learn and grow, to give just a few examples. The author, Bill Kavanagh, characterizes religion and spirituality as “the deepest values and meanings by which to live” or “one’s own inner dimension” or “connecting to an energy outside of oneself.” Once you discover the thing that speaks to your soul, you have found meaning and purpose.
For me, historical figures are that thing. They touch my soul. They capture my imagination. They fill me with emotion. The desire to honor them guides everything that I do. And by extension, statues of historical figures touch my soul as well. That is why their existence is so important to me, and that is why their destruction is so devastating.
Everyone’s soul is touched, or moved, by different things. If your soul isn’t moved by a statue of Christopher Columbus surrounded by flowers and a trellis near the waterfront, you probably won’t understand why I feel that the entire city is ruined with that statue gone. You won’t understand why I feel sick to my stomach and overwhelmed with grief and rage when thinking about the fact that someone intentionally ripped the statue’s head from his body and smashed it on the ground. You won’t understand why replacing the statue with a monument to a different Italian American historical figure does not even come close to being an acceptable solution.
Because everyone’s soul is moved by different things, everyone has incredibly different ideas of which things are important in life and which things are unimportant. If the things that provide you with meaning and purpose are your children, career, pets, friends, or religion, you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to relate to my grief and rage about statues. You will find it difficult to wrap your head around why the destruction of statues is so upsetting and painful. Similarly, there are numerous situations in which a certain thing provides someone else with meaning and purpose, and I have difficulty relating to the fact that someone’s soul could be so moved by something that I consider unimportant.
Perhaps the spirit and the soul explain why people feel so strongly that the statues that make my life worth living should be destroyed. Perhaps the statues’ existence threatens something that other people’s souls depend on for meaning and purpose, in a way that I cannot relate to because I do not share.
But I believe that what moves my soul, what provides me with meaning and purpose, is just as important as what provides these things to other people. My viewpoint is just as valid and just as important as anyone else’s. I believe that it is never okay to destroy the thing that moves another person’s soul. Whatever problems the world faces, we must find solutions that do not crush anyone’s soul into dust, the way that the brutal war on statues has done to mine. You might not consider Christopher Columbus or people from the Confederacy to be important, but I do. Your soul might not be moved by these historical figures, but mine is. Your soul is different from mine, but that does not give you the right to ridicule me, inflict pain on me, or dismiss my perspective.