For anyone who truly loves art and history, the events that took place this week in Richmond, Virginia have been dismaying and demoralizing. Mayor Levar Stoney used his emergency powers to order the immediate removal of the city’s Confederate statues. Work crews promptly removed a statue of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on Wednesday. Then on Thursday morning, they removed a statue of Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury. There are a total of 11 magnificent statues that the mayor has ordered to be taken down.
Local news station 8News captured a heart-wrenching scene in which a lone individual ran to the Stonewall Jackson statue and stood in front of it, begging the work crews to let it stay. Nearby individuals swarmed around him, and officers led him away. Disgustingly, over the course of the day, thousands of people gathered to chant and cheer as the statue was taken down.
One member of this mob, Mac McLeob, said: “I’m just so proud. Proud that the city of Richmond, which was once the Capital of the Confederacy is now the Capital of Equality and people can be proud to be from this area.”
Another mob member, Jasmine Howell, said that she “literally had chills just watching it.”
Another, Janice Scagnelli, called the removal of the Maury statue “amazing.”
Senator Tim Kaine expressed similar sentiments, tweeting: “I am proud that my hometown is removing these painful symbols. No need to honor those who tried to destroy the USA so they could perpetuate slavery.”
As for the mayor himself, he said at a press conference: “Once we remove the remaining monuments, we can officially say that we were the former capital of the Confederacy.” Earlier in the day, at a city council meeting, he said: “It is time to fully embrace the righteous cause. Time to get rid of racist symbols. Frankly, it’s time to heal.”
Nothing could be further from the truth than these sentiments. I can think of no cause less righteous than the removal of Confederate statues. I can think of nothing less healing and nothing less worthy of pride.
The Confederacy fought against the United States government for the right to form their own country. They were rebels who fought against government overreach and tyranny. This is something that every person should admire and celebrate. Individuals who fought for the Confederacy absolutely deserve to be honored. The anger and hatred that people today demonstrate towards the Confederacy are particularly objectionable because the Confederacy was and is the ultimate underdog. To many people, it is not enough that this small, agricultural country was beaten into submission by the more industrialized and populous United States, its cities burned, its population decimated, and its rights taken away. Apparently, it is also necessary to ban its flag, desecrate the graves of its soldiers, destroy its statues and monuments, and completely obliterate its memory. In today’s United States, displays of admiration for the Union – whether in the form of statues, memorials, flags, or depictions in popular culture – are far more common and accepted in our society than those for the Confederacy. But apparently, when it comes to studying and memorializing the Civil War, even the tiniest amount of diversity cannot be tolerated. This is why those who call for banning the Confederate flag, re-naming things that are named for Confederate leaders, and tearing down Confederate statues, are the true bigots and bullies. Ironically, the Black Lives Matter movement, which claims to be motivated by concerns about diversity and inclusion, is in reality stamping out every last iota of diversity and inclusiveness in America.
In the same press conference at which he announced the removal of the statues, the mayor announced plans for a new school, saying: “This is the sort of monuments moving forward that we want to erect to our children here in the city of Richmond. This is a testament to what we can do when we all work together. Although you all know that we are removing monuments that, I think, exemplify hate, division and oppression, we’re going to build these monuments to opportunity right here. That’s our commitment.”
The mayor also promised to replace the Confederate monuments with “symbols that represent our city.”
These comments completely miss the point. Schools are not a replacement for Confederate statues. Statues are beautiful, amazing, glorious, and magnificent, particularly Confederate statues because of the values of rebelliousness and freedom that they represent. The sight of a statue of a brave leader or warrior from history stirs and inspires the soul. Schools are important, but there is nothing glorious, magnificent, or soul-stirring about them. They are simply a part of a city’s infrastructure. Every city has them. They do nothing to make a city unique or distinctive.
What symbols does the mayor plan to replace the Confederate statues with? No statue, monument, or symbol could be as good, or as fitting for the city of Richmond, as the beautiful Confederate statues that the mayor so cruelly ordered taken down. Being the capital of the Confederacy is part of what makes Richmond unique. The statues on Monument Avenue are essential to the city’s identity, and without them, Richmond is a city that stands for nothing and has no values, no culture, and no heritage. How could anyone think that a city without Confederate statues is better than a city with them?
Andrew Morehead, a spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, called this “a sad day for America.” He also said that his organization is reluctant to publicly protest against the removal of statues because of concerns that the protests could devolve into violence.
If I was asked to comment on this issue, I would not be so restrained. I believe that the removal of any Confederate statue, or any act of violence or vandalism against such a statue, is despicable, and I condemn it in the harshest possible terms. Thanks to the mayor’s order, Richmond has gone from a city filled with beautiful, glorious, and magnificent statues of brave individuals who fought for freedom to… nothing. It is incomprehensible that someone could be happy about this or consider it something to be proud of. Each and every person who cheered as these statues were removed is a bigot and a bully with no soul.
It also says a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement that organizations with dissenting views do not feel physically safe to voice those views publicly.
If Confederate statues do not represent the values of the people of Richmond anymore, then that is a poor reflection on the people of Richmond. It is difficult to think of any positives in this situation, but one tiny positive is that because so many people in Richmond have proven themselves to be intolerant bullies, then the people of Richmond were not worthy of having these magnificent statues. My hope is that the statues can be displayed on private land somewhere where the few people remaining on Earth who still have souls can give them the admiration they deserve.