bookmark_borderSome good news from the election

The news from the election is not looking good, but there is at least one positive development arising from Tuesday’s vote. Or to be more specific, six positive developments. In Virginia, six counties held votes on whether or not to remove Confederate monuments. In all of these counties, residents voted not to remove the statues. 

The margins of victory are as follows:

  • Charles City County – 55% to 45%
  • Halifax County – 60% to 30%
  • Franklin County – 70% to 30%
  • Lunenburg County – 71% to 29%
  • Warren County – 76% to 24%
  • Tazwell County – 87% to 13%

According to the Virginia Mercury, the votes are not binding, but county leaders have said that they will respect the will of the voters. Full results can be found here

The reason why these votes took place to begin with is that earlier this year, the Virginia state legislature passed a law enabling county and local governments to remove Confederate statues. Prior to that, removing the monuments was not even an option. While I’m relieved that these six monuments – which are all located outside of courthouses – will be staying in place for the foreseeable future, I do not think that voters should have the power to get rid of them. It’s awesome and restores my faith in humanity that sizeable majorities voted to preserve these beautiful pieces of history. But it’s possible that some day in the future, if popular opinion changes, these statues could eventually be removed. That should not be a possibility. Something as important as preserving works of public art and treating rebel soldiers with the respect that they deserve should not be subject to majority rule. The voting results in these six counties are heartening indeed, but all statues across the world deserve a guarantee of protection no matter what the majority opinion happens to be.

bookmark_borderGood news and bad news on General Lee

Statue Robert E. Lee Richmond.JPG
Robert E. Lee Statue (photo by Martin Falbisoner via WikiMedia)

This past week a judge ruled that the state of Virginia can remove the huge, magnificent statue of General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond. A group of homeowners sued to stop Governor Ralph Northam’s plan to take down the beautiful statue, but the judge dismissed their lawsuit. Lee is currently the last Confederate statue standing on Monument Ave; the city tragically removed the rest of the sculptures that gave the street its name earlier this year.

The fact that people actually exist who want this statue to be removed remains incomprehensible. This is another step in the disgraceful quest to strip the world of everything beautiful, magnificent, unique, artistic, and distinctive, to create a society of conformity and nothingness, and to trample on anyone who does not share the majority view. Do these individuals think that all food should be required to undergo a process that removes its taste and texture and turns it into gruel? Do they think that Walt Disney World should be razed so that the land can be turned into a giant parking lot? Do they think that all clothing should be banned and people required to spend their entire lives naked? I believe that these things are analogous to removing Confederate statues, and equally senseless and wrong.

Northam called the ruling “one step closer to a more inclusive, equitable, and honest Virginia,” and Attorney General Mark Herring described it as “one step closer to finally bringing down this relic of our racist past and moving forward as a diverse, inclusive, welcoming community.” Nothing could be further from the truth than these statements. First of all, the statue is not racist. Second, condemning and erasing all historical figures not deemed to be perfect according to the prevailing norms of 2020 is the exact opposite of inclusion and diversity. And third, completely disregarding the preferences of those who admire and cherish this statue is the exact opposite of being equitable. 

1890 Lee statue unveiling.jpg
Unveiling of the Robert E. Lee statue, May 29, 1890

The statue of Robert E. Lee that all these bullies find so horrible and offensive was sculpted in France by acclaimed artist Antonin Mercie, who was known as the “unrivaled master of the chisel.” It was commissioned in 1876 by the Lee Monument Association and was based on a painting by German-American artist Adalbert Vlock. Several bronze pieces were cast separately before being assembled. The completed statue was exhibited in Paris and then shipped to Richmond, where 10,000 people helped to pull it to its final location: a traffic circle at the intersection of Monument Avenue and Allen Avenue. The statue was finally unveiled on May 29, 1890. In 2007, the statue was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The figure of Lee stands 14 feet tall, and the entire statue, including the horse and the base, is 60 feet tall. Interestingly, the horse does not represent Lee’s faithful steed, Traveller, but instead is a generic horse with “ideal” proportions. 

How could someone think that the city of Richmond, the state of Virginia, or the world would be improved by removing this statue? The actions of the governor, attorney general, and presiding judge, as well as all those who support the ruling, demonstrate a complete disregard for General Lee, those who honor his memory, the artist and sculptor of the statue, and all those who worked to create it and bring it to Richmond. 

There is a tiny shred of good news, however: the judge stayed the ruling pending appeal. This means that Lee will remain standing until the plaintiffs’ appeal is heard, which will happen at some point next year. With Virginia’s gubernatorial election happening next November, there is a chance that the statue will remain in place until there is a new governor, who might possibly allow it to stay.

bookmark_borderBoston Art Commission meeting 10/13/2020

On Tuesday, October 13, I attended a virtual meeting of the Boston Art Commission. One of the main topics of discussion at the meeting was the Christopher Columbus statue that was barbarically decapitated in June as part of the Black Lives Matter protests. As anyone who reads my blog can probably tell, that is a topic that I’ve been very interested in and passionate about. I learned some new things at the meeting and got an opportunity to share my views about the Columbus statue. 

One thing that I learned is that six works of public art in Boston are currently under review for potential removal, alteration, or addition of interpretive signage. In addition to the Columbus statue and a statue of Abraham Lincoln and a newly freed slave known as the Emancipation Group, the list also includes a statue of military historian Samuel Eliot Morison, the Founder’s Memorial on Boston Common, the Boston Common Tablet, and the Francis Parkman Memorial. The commission already voted unanimously to remove the Emancipation Group because the depiction of the freed slave was deemed to be patronizing. At today’s meeting the commission members discussed logistical details for the removal and storage of that statue. The commission recommends moving the statue to a museum, library, or school, as opposed to a public location. A series of “celebratory” online events involving music and dance are being planned for the days(s) the statue is put into a crate and removed. 

Then the meeting turned to the topic of the Columbus statue. The commission announced that they have received reports from two different conservators about repairing the statue. Both reports agreed that the statue’s head could be reattached, but the repairs would be visible. In terms of preventing future vandalism, the reports concluded that there is no practical way to do this. There are no known materials that can strengthen stone to make it more resistant to damage. Putting a longer pin inside the neck to hold the head in place would make it more difficult to decapitate the statue (the idea of someone deliberately attempting to do this is still incomprehensible to me), but even more damage would result if someone (God forbid) did. And the statue could be coated in a material to protect it from paint and graffiti, but this could change its appearance and might need to be routinely reapplied. As a result, the commission recommended not returning the statue to an outdoor public location once it is repaired. This fits with Mayor Marty Walsh’s recent announcement that the statue is too badly damaged to return to its old location, the waterfront park in the North End known as Christopher Columbus Park, and will instead be relocated to an affordable housing development being constructed by the Knights of Columbus. 

The commission plans to arrange for the construction of a new sculpture to take the place of the Columbus statue in the park. This sculpture will honor the Italian-American community and its subject will be determined with input from that community. Separately, the commission plans to put up a sculpture honoring the Indigenous community in a different location. “Both of these stories deserve to be told and should not by any means be in competition with one another,” Karin Goodfellow, the city’s Director of Public Art, said at the meeting.

Since the brutal beheading, the statue’s pedestal has been left in place, and the commission recommended keeping it there for now and adding interpretive signage. The pedestal is more than just a base for the statue; it is engraved with names of all the people and organizations who worked to commission it and bring it to Boston.

A variety of views were expressed during the public testimony portion of the meeting:

In the anti-Columbus camp, Jean-Luc Pierite of the North American Indian Center of Boston said that he and his organization oppose the maintenance and public display of any statue of Christopher Columbus and proceeded to list a litany of atrocities – mass rapes, drownings, hangings, hunting by dogs, smashing of infants’ heads against rocks – allegedly committed by the Genoese explorer and his associates. “Neither the statue nor the pedestal have any place in the City of Boston,” he said. 

Pierre Belanger of Open Systems complained about the “illegitimate placement” of the statue and the “illegitimate renaming” of the park to Christopher Columbus Park in the first place (it had originally been known simply as Waterfront Park). He even ridiculed the names on the pedestal, calling these individuals “so-called sponsors.”

Rev. Joe Rocha began talking about getting rid of all names of slave owners from the City of Boston, including that of historic meeting house and tourist destination Faneuil Hall. The commissioners pointed out that this topic was outside the scope of the meeting, as the Art Commission does not have any input on the names of public spaces, only the art displayed in them. 

On the other hand, several people spoke out in defense of Columbus, describing the statue as an important symbol for the Italian-American community and expressing dismay that the act of vandalism and the possibility of future vandalism are essentially being allowed to decide the fate of the statue. Importantly, the idea of commissioning a new statue of Columbus to take the place of the old one was proposed by several speakers, something that I did not realize was a possibility but strongly support.

For example, Diane Modica of the Sons and Daughters of Italy accused the Art Commission of being biased towards anti-Columbus groups and failing to reach out to the Italian-American community. She criticized society’s maligning of Columbus and of Italian-Americans in general. “Our position in society has been erased,” she said

The next speaker, Laurie Stivaletta, is the granddaughter of an Italian immigrant who landed at Ellis Island and settled in Boston, and whose name is on the pedestal of the Columbus statue. “I am greatly disappointed that an act of violence on our city could change the fabric of our lives,” she said. She argued that Columbus, although flawed, was not the villain he has recently been portrayed as. She called his 1492 voyage “one of the most significant impact points in our civilization” and added, “no one since has impacted the Americas in the same way.” And she made the excellent point that because of its location on the waterfront, the park is the perfect location for a statue of the great explorer and navigator. 

Harry Johnston, a North End business owner, said that both Bostonians and tourists love the Columbus statue. “You don’t have to be Italian-American to love Christopher Columbus,” he said. “His statue is beautiful, his story is beautiful.” He called whoever vandalized the statue a terrorist and an extortionist and urged the city not to give in, as doing so might encourage the vandal(s) to attack other statues, such as those of George Washington and Sam Adams. He also mentioned the horrific events in Portland in which statues of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt were destroyed. “You don’t negotiate with terrorists,” he said. “What about the diversity of Italian-Americans?”

Nadia DiCarlo said that Columbus symbolizes immigration and the idea of cultures colliding, and that relocating the statue to a location inside a building would simply not be the same. “Not all historical figures were perfect,” she pointed out. 

Commission member Camilo Alvarez called the act of vandalism, although not a good thing, a form of communication. Ekua Holmes, the Vice-Chair of the Art Commission, reassured everyone that no matter what is ultimately decided, the commission does not support brutalizing any work of art. 

It heartened me to hear so many people speaking out in defense of the Columbus statue (the pro-Columbus speakers outnumbered the anti-Columbus speakers by about two to one), and it gave me a sense of hope to learn that although far from a certainty, commissioning a new Columbus statue is at least a possibility. The Boston Art Commission meets once a month, and meetings are open to the public. I will likely attend next month’s meeting as well to keep informed of any new developments.

bookmark_borderPortland’s intolerant “Day of Rage”

On Sunday, the day before Columbus Day, about 300 evil excuses for human beings held what they described as a “Day of Rage” in Portland, Oregon to protest against the Italian explorer. Disgustingly, they tore down statues of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, fired bullets through the window of a restaurant, and smashed the windows of numerous buildings, including restaurants, a jewelry store, a bank, and a coffee shop. They also attempted to burn down the Oregon Historical Society, breaking windows and throwing flares inside, and stole and damaged a historic quilt made by 15 African-American women to celebrate America’s bicentennial. 

According to CNN, flyers for the Day of Rage warned that photography and videography would not be allowed. Apparently whoever organized this event is unaware that in America, there is this thing called the First Amendment. In addition to providing evidence that the protesters intended to commit criminal actions, it is obnoxious that someone would believe they have the right to tell other people that they are not allowed to take photos or videos in public places.

At least two people have been arrested to far, according to local news station KGW. Brandon Bartells, 38, of Pasco, Washington was charged with first-degree criminal mischief and riot for tearing down the Roosevelt statue. He allegedly chained his van to the statue and used the vehicle to pull it down. Malik Fard Muhamad, 23, of Indiana was charged with first-degree criminal mischief, riot, and unlawful possession of a firearm. He allegedly smashed the windows of the Historical Society and other buildings with a metal baton.

According to journalist Andy Ngo, one of the rioters, Amanda Siebe, is running for Congress. “It was so f***ing wet tonight,” she tweeted. “But still, we brought down 2 statues. It was an amazing thing to see those statues fall!” The prospect that someone who thinks like this and writes publicly in such an unprofessional manner might hold public office is disturbing. 

Ngo also reported that the restaurant that was shot at, Heroes American Cafe, was targeted because it was decorated with photos of first responders.

The City of Portland said that the damage to the statues will cost $30,000 to repair. This is after rioters already destroyed statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and an elk in the same city.

District Attorney Mike Schmidt called this weekend’s vandalism “sickening,” “inexcusable,” and “without purpose and justification.”

I could not agree more. I condemn these destructive actions in the strongest of terms. Contrary to the sentiments expressed by congressional candidate Amanda Siebe, the destruction of statues is the exact opposite of “amazing.” It is repugnant and despicable. The fact that someone would deliberately pull down a beautiful, magnificent piece of art, and then be happy about this accomplishment, is completely incomprehensible. Every time a monument is torn down, my soul feels like it has been stabbed. Every loss of a statue makes the world a worse place. How could someone do such a thing or express joy about it?

It is also completely illogical that supporters of Antifa and Black Lives Matter would have such a thing as a “Day of Rage.” Those who support these movements have absolutely nothing to be angry about. They have gotten their way on everything. All four major sports leagues and countless celebrities vigorously support their movement. Any person or institution that dares to express dissenting views is immediately condemned, boycotted, and/or fired. Members of these movements have already destroyed hundreds upon hundreds of businesses, buildings, and priceless statues, as well as assaulting and killing innocent people. They have succeeded in causing the Confederate States of America and its iconography to be almost completely obliterated from our society, Christopher Columbus to be slandered as a mass murderer and his holiday replaced with Indigenous Peoples Day in many states, and even founding fathers such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to become controversial.

It is those on the opposite side – those who admire the Confederacy and/or Columbus and/or the founding fathers – who have the right to be enraged. Our statues have been brutally destroyed and our culture and history mercilessly attacked. And now, bizarrely, those who have been trampling on our rights have the audacity to claim to be “enraged” by us, the people on whom they have been trampling. The “Day of Rage” participants and all those who share their beliefs are bullies with no tolerance for any cultures, opinions, or values other than their own. Christopher Columbus is a hero and a cultural symbol to many Italian-Americans, including myself. To hold an event whose sole purpose is to demonstrate rage towards a holiday that celebrates Italian heritage is an act of bigotry. Everyone who participated in this event deserves to be charged with a hate crime. 

bookmark_borderUpdate on Christopher Columbus statue

After being brutally decapitated, Boston’s Christopher Columbus statue will have a new home. On Monday, according to Boston.com, Mayor Marty Walsh announced that Columbus will be moving to an affordable housing development that is being built in the North End by (appropriately) the Knights of Columbus.

“It will be visible for everyone who wants to see it,” said Walsh. “It will still be an important part of the fabric of the neighborhood.”

Ever since the disgraceful act of vandalism took place in June as Black Lives Matter protests were gathering steam around the country, the statue has been in a city storage facility being repaired. Sadly, it will be impossible to completely return the statue to its former condition; the head was broken into multiple pieces and signs of the damage will still be visible even once the pieces are put back together. But once the repairs are complete, the statue will be turned over to the Knights of Columbus for placement in its new home. 

I would have preferred the statue to return to its old home in Christopher Columbus Park. This beautiful park, with a trellis, many types of flowers, and a beautiful view of the ocean, is situated at the edge of the North End, Boston’s Italian neighborhood. The Columbus statue was a perfect symbol of Italian-American heritage, welcoming visitors to the North End. But at least the statue will still be publicly displayed, just in a less prominent place than before. And, as Frank Mazzaglia, chairman of the Italian American Alliance, pointed out, even supporters of the statue had concerns about returning it to the park because of the likelihood of future vandalism.

Christopher Columbus Park in happier days

“Vandalism and destruction in our neighborhood is never okay,” said Mayor Walsh. But it’s difficult not to see the decision to relocate the statue as contradicting these sentiments. If vandalism is not okay, it shouldn’t be allowed to decide the fate of the statue. If vandalism is not okay, the city should not reward the vandal(s) by giving them what they want, namely the removal of the statue from the park. I am looking forward to going to see Columbus in his new home… but it still does not sit right that the city of Boston essentially gave in to the bullies instead of standing up to them. As a proud Italian-American who loves history, I will no longer feel welcome in the waterfront park knowing that a hateful, intolerant, and despicable bully was allowed to erase my heritage.

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_borderWhat part of “preserved and protected for all time” do you not understand?

As I wrote about earlier, during this summer of political correctness run amok, the beautiful Confederate carving at Stone Mountain has become a target of anti-Confederate intolerance. Now, a group of politically-correct, intolerant people have formed an organization called the Stone Mountain Action Coalition and have presented their demands to the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, the group in charge of maintaining the mountain and its surrounding park.

For those who have never seen Stone Mountain, it is a huge mountain near Atlanta, Georgia with an enormous image of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson carved into the side for all to see. Near the base of the mountain are various statues, flags, and plaques honoring people from each of the 13 states of the Confederacy. Stone Mountain is, in my opinion, a truly unique, amazing, and awe-inspiring sight.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Stone Mountain Action Coalition is demanding that the carving no longer be maintained, that the nearby Confederate flags be removed, that Confederate-related names of streets and buildings in the park be replaced, and that the park focus on themes such as “nature, racial reconciliation and justice.”

One of the co-chairs of the coalition, Ryan Gravel, said, “We don’t believe that taking a piecemeal, token kind of approach to adding little trinkets here and there is going to be good enough to really resolve the history of the mountain and the way that people see it.” Meymoona Freeman, another co-chair, said, “It’s time for transformation, it’s time for healing, and it’s time for progress.” Other members of the coalition stressed the need to make the park “more welcoming.” 

But what exactly needs to be “resolved” about Stone Mountain? The carving is an incredible feat of engineering and art honoring three historical leaders. The fact that some people dislike those historical leaders, and by extension the carving, is not a problem that needs to be solved. Every single thing in the world has people who like it and people who do not like it. No one has the right to demand that everything they do not like be obliterated from the world, particularly when the thing in question is a unique, magnificent, and beautiful landmark that took years of creativity, craftsmanship, and hard work to create. There is nothing hateful or racist about honoring the Confederacy and its leaders. As the Confederate point of view falls further out of favor among the mainstream media, political establishment, and society as a whole, it is even more important that sites like Stone Mountain be preserved. Even if the carving is not actually removed, to cease maintaining it and to get rid of the Confederate flags and street names would be to strip the park of its uniqueness and identity. It would be to make Stone Mountain, and the world, a more bland, homogenous, and character-less place. For those who admire the Confederacy and enjoy this memorial park, getting rid of the Confederate features would be the exact opposite of healing, the exact opposite of progress, and the exact opposite of making the park more welcoming. And to actually destroy the carving would be so unfathomably awful that it hurts to even consider the possibility. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked several geologists for their thoughts on how such a thing could be achieved. Their ideas, which involve explosives, disfigurement, years of dangerous work, and millions of dollars, are sickening when one considers that these measures would be employed with the goal of destroying a priceless work of art.)

The reason the Stone Mountain Action Coalition is not demanding removal outright is that Georgia law currently protects the Confederate memorial carving. This law was enacted as part of a compromise in 2001 when the state legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag from the Georgia state flag. The law reads: “The memorial to the heroes of the Confederate States of America graven upon the face of Stone Mountain shall never be altered, removed, concealed, or obscured in any fashion and shall be preserved and protected for all time as a tribute to the bravery and heroism of the citizens of this state who suffered and died in their cause.” The fact that some people are even mentioning the possibility of changing this law demonstrates the intolerance of the politically-correct crowd. What part of “preserved and protected for all time” do they not understand? First, Georgia’s flag was changed, with the assurance that Stone Mountain would remain. Less than 20 years later, those who seek to destroy Confederate history have broken their promise and are trying to get rid of Stone Mountain as well. Attempts at compromise have done nothing to stop the inexorable progression towards a complete erasure of Confederate heritage. There can be no compromise, there can be no moderation, and there can be no “pushing the limits” of the law by ceasing maintenance of the carving and hoping that nature and the elements gradually erode it. Stone Mountain must be preserved and protected for all time, just as the law says. And given that the anti-Confederate bullies have reneged on their part of the compromise, advocating for a return of the old state flag wouldn’t hurt either. 

bookmark_borderConfederate statue removed in Charlottesville, Virginia

Yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia, a statue of a Confederate soldier known as “At Ready” was removed from outside the county courthouse. The statue had stood since 1909, but county supervisors voted to get rid of it in August after Governor Ralph Northam signed a law giving local governments the power to more easily get rid of statues.

Disgustingly, crowds of people celebrated this erasure of history by cheering, dancing, and playing music, according to the Washington Post. They voiced their happiness and satisfaction with the removal of the statue and expressed how offensive they found the statue and its pedestal to be. “This is a magnificent moment,” said community organizer Don Gathers. “Now we’re moving the needle in a positive way.” State Delegate Sally Hudson said, “These statues have been haunting the community for decades… Taking down this statue is one step in reclaiming these public spaces.”

Nothing could be further than the truth. As I’ve written numerous times on this blog, the removal of Confederate statues and other Confederate symbols is intolerant and bigoted. This politically correct assault on the Confederacy and its iconography is essentially the winning side of a war beating up on the losing side. The removal of the “At Ready” statue, like all instances in which Confederate statues are taken down, is a mean-spirited act of bullying, and every person who supports it is a bully. It is the furthest thing possible from a magnificent moment, and it is moving the needle in a negative way, not a positive one. As for Hudson’s comments that Confederate statues have been “haunting” the community… speak for yourself. People who like Confederate statues would not characterize themselves as being “haunted” by them. Similarly, the statue’s removal does not reclaim public spaces for everyone. Those who like the statue will now feel less, nor more, welcome in the public space around the courthouse. But as usual, opinions and wishes that do not conform with the current requirements of political correctness are completely disregarded.

One silver lining to this demoralizing moment is that the statue was given to the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, which is figuring out a plan for a new location. But naturally, even that tiny piece of good news was intolerable to some anti-Confederate bigots. “We feel like it’s just basically toxic waste disposal in another community,” said Jalane Schmidt, an associate professor at the University of Virginia.

To call a beautiful statue “toxic waste” is not merely incorrect, but despicable and reprehensible. Schmidt’s comment is beyond disrespectful to the brave soldiers represented by the statue, as well as to the artist who painstakingly sculpted it. Confederate statues belong not only on battlefields, but in front of courthouses, in parks, on city streets, and everywhere. The fact that Schmidt and those who share her views unjustly got their way is bad enough, but for them not to accept even one tiny consolation for their defeated opponents demonstrates the depths of their intolerance. Confederate statues, flags, and names are being removed all across the country, and it’s not okay for the minority of people who like this statue to have a place where they can go to admire it? It is disturbing that such a nasty, thoughtless bully was able to get a job as an associate professor. Jalane Schmidt is a piece of toxic waste who deserves to be fired.

bookmark_borderBoston City Councilors on preserving public art

Boston City Council President Kim Janey had some interesting comments on public art this week, after a mural called “Roxbury Love” was destroyed during the process of building a new housing complex.

“There was a missed opportunity in terms of residents being able to come and say goodbye to the mural,” Janey said. Although Cruz Companies, which is building the complex, had told the city that the mural would need to be demolished and is considering incorporating elements of the mural into the building, citizens did not know ahead of time that it would be demolished on that particular day. Even the mural’s creator, Deme5, said in an Instagram post that he was saddened at the loss and would have appreciated a heads up about the demolition.

Janey called on her fellow council members to discuss “strategies for ensuring intentionality when it comes to preserving murals and public art.” She expressed admiration for the murals that she grew up around in Roxbury and the South End during the 1970s and 1980s. “It was an important part of what it meant to live in the community that I lived in,” she said. Another city councilor, Liz Breadon, described public art as “a wonderful, vibrant expression of the community that lives in that place.”

I wholeheartedly agree with these comments. Art is an essential part of the identity of a place. But when reading them, I can’t help but think of the beautiful statues across the country that have been destroyed by mobs or taken down by local governments. These statues were just as crucial to the identity of their communities as the Roxbury mural was, and their removal just as damaging. Rampaging, politically correct protesters have also deprived people of the opportunity to say goodbye to beloved works of art, as have cowardly public officials who have ordered statues removed under cover of night. Boston’s Italian-American community did not get the chance to say farewell to the statue of Christopher Columbus that was brutally beheaded by a despicable excuse for a human being. Richmond residents who are proud of their Southern heritage weren’t able to bid adieu to the magnificent statues of Confederate generals that Mayor Levar Stoney abruptly ordered removed. So while I completely share the sentiments of these city councilors with respect to the importance of preserving public art, the same consideration needs to be extended to all works of art, not only those that happen to be favored by the political establishment.

bookmark_borderState Senator and others charged with felonies for destroying Confederate monument

Finally, a small step towards some semblance of justice. On Monday, various people, including a state senator, were charged with felonies for destroying a Confederate monument in Portsmouth, Virginia. On June 10, a mob surrounded the monument, covered it in profane and insulting graffiti, decapitated the four soldier statues standing on the monument’s base, and pulled down one of them. (If you have a strong stomach, photos of the destruction can be seen here.)

According to local news station WAVY News 10, the following people were charged with conspiracy to commit a felony, as well as injury to a monument in excess of $1,000 (also a felony):

  • LaKeesha Atkinson, Portsmouth School Board member
  • Amira Bethea
  • James Boyd, Portsmouth NAACP Representative
  • Louie Gibbs, Portsmouth NAACP Representative
  • LaKesha Hicks, Portsmouth NAACP Representative
  • State Senator Louise Lucas
  • Kimberly Wimbish
  • Dana Worthington

And the following people were charged with injury to a monument in excess of $1,000:

  • Raymond J. Brothers
  • Meredith Cramer, public defender
  • Hanah Renae Rivera
  • Brenda Spry, public defender
  • Alexandra Stephens, public defender
  • Brandon Woodard

The Portsmouth Police Department is asking for help identifying 13 additional people involved in the destruction of the statue, and they are asking for anyone who recorded video during the incident to share it with them.

Lucas’s attorney, Don Scott, accused the police department of “doing what they always do which is they weaponize the criminal justice system against black leadership.” The ACLU of Virginia demanded that the charges be dismissed because the police department directly asked a magistrate to charge the defendants instead of going through the Commonwealth Attorney’s office. (Police Chief Angela Greene said that her department did this because discussions with Commonwealth Attorney Stephanie Morales “did not yield any action.”) Governor Ralph Northam called the charges “deeply troubling.” Former Governor Terry McAuliffe described Lucas as “a trailblazing public servant who isn’t afraid to do and say what she believes is right” and praised her “opposition to a racist monument.”

I could not disagree more strongly with these comments. The felony charges are 100% justified. Destroying a monument to the outgunned, outnumbered, losing side of a war is an act of bullying, bigotry, intolerance, and authoritarianism. Anyone who participates in such a despicable action is a bad person and deserves to be severely punished. A Confederate monument is not racist, nor is the decision to hold people accountable for vandalizing it. For Lucas’s attorney to accuse the police department of racism is deeply wrong – any person who damages a statue deserves to be criminally charged, regardless of his or her race. Does he think that his client should be able to destroy statues with impunity because she is black? As for the decision to bypass the Commonwealth Attorney’s office, the police department should be saluted, not criticized, for its determination to seek justice. Does the ACLU believe that people should be able to destroy statues with impunity because the Commonwealth Attorney refused to do her job?

It is particularly disturbing that people in positions of leadership  – a state senator and members of the school board, NAACP, and public defender’s office – would vandalize a statue. As Jazz Shaw at Hot Air points out: “When your average citizen does something like this it’s bad enough. But when an elected official such as a state senator is caught red-handed, you’re talking about someone who was placed in a position of trust by the public to uphold the law.”

Lucas might be a person who is not afraid to do what she believes is right, as McAuliffe claims, but in this case, what she allegedly did was 100% wrong. There is nothing honorable about openly and unabashedly doing a morally repugnant action. There is nothing brave about being an intolerant bully who tramples on the underdog. And that is exactly what Lucas, and all the other individuals who were charged, allegedly did. Assuming that these defendants were actually part of the mob that destroyed the statue and this is not a case of mistaken identity, every one of these individuals deserves the harshest possible punishment.