bookmark_borderSilent Sam: UNC Chapel Hill’s destroyed Confederate statue

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

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

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

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

Bailey also writes:

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

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

bookmark_borderJustice for Father Serra

An iota of good news from San Rafael, California: five despicable human beings are actually being held accountable for their decision to trespass on a Catholic church’s property and destroy a statue of Father Junipero Serra.

On Columbus Day, a group of intolerant bullies held a protest at the Mission San Rafael (I didn’t hear about this when it happened because I was too busy battling with people who were making insulting comments on my social media post about Christopher Columbus). Five of them attacked the statue, ripping off the duct tape that church employees had placed to protect it, spraying red paint all over it, writing the words “genocide” and “rape” on its pedestal, chipping at it with rocks, attaching ropes to it, and pulling it down. Police arrested these five bullies and charged them with felony vandalism. They submitted the case to the Marin County District Attorney’s Office and recommended additional charges of vandalism to a place of worship, which is a hate crime. The defendants’ names are as follows:

  • Ines Shiam Gardilcic, 40, of Oakland
  • Victoria Eva Montanopena, 29, of Oakland
  • Melissa Aguilar, 36, of Novato
  • Mayorgi Nadeska Delgadillo, 36, of San Rafael
  • Moira Cribben Van de Walker, 25, of San Anselmo

The San Francisco Archdiocese took a strong stance in defense of the statue and the Catholic community and urged the D.A. to prosecute the vandals to the fullest extent of the law. “This attack on a cherished religious symbol on our own church property is not a minor property crime, but an attack on Catholics as a people,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. “If the perpetrators of this crime are not brought to justice, small mobs will be able to decide what religious symbols all people of faith may display on their own property to further their faith, and they will continue to inflict considerable spiritual suffering on ordinary Catholic people who would see our sacred spaces as unprotected by law.” 

Protesters also demonstrated outside the D.A.’s office with signs reading “Save Our Statues” and “Vandalism is a Crime.” 

As a result of these efforts, D.A. Lori Frugoli announced on November 13 that she was bringing felony vandalism charges against the five defendants. 

Cordileone praised this decision, noting that it “represents the first time that any of the lawbreakers attacking statues of St. Junipero Serra and other acts of vandalism on Catholic Church property across California will be held accountable for their actions in a court of law.” He continued:

“The crime was caught on video. The lawbreakers came prepared with ropes, chisels and spray paint, clearly indicating forethought in committing this crime. If crimes like these are not punished, then the government is telling mobs they get to decide what symbols Catholics and other faiths may display. Given that this was vandalism at a house of worship, the San Rafael Police Department understandably recommended that the perpetrators be charged with a hate crime. Indeed, to vandalize a house of worship to express one’s views is not a mere property crime: it is an attack on the identity and rights of a whole faith community. In a diverse society we may debate and disagree about many things, including St. Junipero Serra’s legacy. But mobs do not get to trespass on other people’s holy grounds to destroy their sacred symbols. While a hate crime was not charged in this case, let us hope that this prosecution will nonetheless contribute to putting an end to attacks on all houses of worship.”

Father Luello Palacpac, the pastor of Mission San Rafael, described the act of vandalism as traumatic for his congregants and added, “Whether you agree or disagree with the historic record of St. Junipero, no one has a right to trespass on a faith community’s sacred grounds to destroy property and even more importantly the symbols of its faith.”

The San Rafael Police Department justifiably faced some criticism for the fact that officers made no attempt to actually stop the vandals from attacking the statue. According to the Marin Independent Journal, Police Chief Diana Bishop said, “It’s not last year. It’s not the year before, how police officers see something and they just run into it and take care of it. That’s how we are programmed. That’s what we want to do. We have to be more thoughtful when a property crime is occurring and a person is not being injured, and that’s what the plan was.” It would have been better if police had intervened to protect this statue before it was destroyed; in my opinion it is just as bad (if not worse) for a statue to be injured as for a person to be injured. But the police department is to be commended for charging the vandals. Far too many times, intolerant bullies have cruelly destroyed irreplaceable statues all over the world and faced no consequences whatsoever for their despicable behavior. 

Continue reading “Justice for Father Serra”

bookmark_borderThere are no words…

Repugnant. Repulsive. Despicable. Sickening. Reprehensible. Disgusting. Disgraceful. Abhorrent. Evil. None of these words, or any words available in the English language or any other language for that matter, even come close to accurately describing the act depicted in this video:

Protesters smash Confederate statue in Portsmouth VA | Charlotte Observer

This took place during what is described as a “remove the stain” protest in Portsmouth, Virginia on June 10, 2020. Characterizing another group’s ideology and/or heritage as a “stain” is itself the very essence of bigotry and intolerance, which says a lot about this despicable movement and the people who support it. 

The act depicted in the video is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen in my life. I nearly threw up upon watching it. How someone could do this to an innocent statue, that did nothing wrong, that was bothering no one, and that was painstakingly sculpted by a talented artist, is utterly incomprehensible. It is beyond dismaying that so many people, and society as a whole, unquestioningly support and embrace a movement whose members do this. Nothing justifies this. I don’t care if your ancestors were kept as slaves in the most brutal conditions imaginable; I don’t care if every member of your family was murdered by cops; I don’t care how much discrimination you’ve experienced in your life; nothing makes it okay to do this. Nothing. 

The video of what happened to George Floyd is nowhere near being even a tenth as horrible as this. If you added together all the incidents of people being killed by cops from the very beginning of this country through today, it wouldn’t come anywhere close to the awfulness and brutality of what was done to this statue. There is no punishment that is even close to being commensurate with this crime. The death penalty is not harsh enough. Any person who participated in this act of destruction, cheered for it, or expressed support for it in any way, is a bully, an authoritarian, and a bigot who deserves a slow, torturous death. There is no place for actions like this anywhere on this earth, and I am ashamed to live in a country where actions like this are allowed to happen. I condemn this in the strongest possible terms. 

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_borderConfederate lives matter

It is horrible enough that supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have brutally and mercilessly attacked, both physically and verbally, statues of historical figures in public places. What is even more disturbing is that these acts of vandalism and destruction are not limited to monuments on city streets and in public parks but have extended even to the graves of fallen soldiers.

For example, back in June, someone “tarred and feathered” several Confederate soldiers’ grave stones at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana. The area of the cemetery that the vandal(s) targeted is known as the Confederate Mound and contains the remains of 1,600 prisoners of war who died at Camp Morton. Tarring and feathering was a form of public humiliation popular during the 18th century that was often used by angry mobs against British tax collectors. 

In another incident, someone pulled down Confederate flags that had adorned graves at the Resaca Confederate Cemetery in Georgia. Some of the flags were arranged to spell out “stop racism” and others were scattered on the ground. Over 450 Confederate soldiers who died in the Battle of Resaca are buried in the cemetery. 

Additionally, at the Confederate Cemetery in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, someone defaced an obelisk honoring known Confederate soldiers as well as unknown Confederate soldiers who were discovered in a mass grave nearby. A swastika was spray-painted on the obelisk and the names of the soldiers crossed out. 

In Little Rock, Arkansas, vandals beat, attempted to pull down, and graffitied an obelisk in Oakland Cemetery that honored 900 mostly unknown Confederate soldiers who died in various hospitals in the area. “They destroyed one of our obelisks and wrote all over it with spray paint, and chipped it very badly beyond repair,” said cemetery employee John Raines, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “They wrote a bunch of racial slurs and f this, f that.” The vandals also desecrated nine nearby wooden grave markers, gouging the word “Confederate” out of them. To their credit, cemetery staff reported the incident to law enforcement as a hate crime, and a man named Mujera Benjamin Lungaho was recently arrested and charged with vandalizing the graves and obelisk.

In Silver Spring, Maryland, someone knocked down a grave marker in the Grace Episcopal Church cemetery that honored 17 Confederate soldiers who died in the Battle of Fort Stevens. A note left on the scene read: “Here lies 17 dead white supremacists who died fighting to keep black people enslaved. The Confederacy was and always will be racist. Let this marker be a more accurate depiction of history because the last one was a disgrace.” The original grave marker, which the vandal(s) characterized as “disgraceful,” simply read, “in memory of seventeen unknown Confederate dead” and provided additional factual details about them. 

The behavior demonstrated in these and similar incidents is beyond despicable. It is wrong to argue that Confederate statues should not be displayed in city squares, but to deny fallen soldiers a dignified and peaceful rest is an entirely new level of wrongness. The fact that people would take it upon themselves to go into a cemetery and desecrate soldiers’ graves, in some cases bringing spray paint or even a strap with which to pull down a memorial, is disgusting. It takes a truly cruel, nasty, and mean-spirited person to demonstrate such hatred towards someone who died over 150 years ago. Yes, the South had slavery, but it is ignorant to view that as the single defining attribute of the Confederacy and of the soldiers who fought for it. Confederate soldiers were people, just like you or me, each with different motivations for joining the Confederacy and each with an individual story. (See this Facebook post for an eloquent example of this.) One does not need to agree with or support the cause that these soldiers fought for in order to acknowledge their personhood and show them basic respect.  

The BLM movement is based on the presumption that most people believe that black lives do not matter. But essentially no one holds this view. Instead, it is rebel soldiers who are treated as if their lives did not matter. In our politically correct society, it is considered “disgraceful” to provide a Confederate soldier with a simple, factual grave marker, while an “accurate depiction of history” requires these soldiers to be reduced to “white supremacists” and their cause reduced to “fighting to keep black people enslaved.” Acknowledging those who fought for the Confederacy as individual people is no longer acceptable; instead they must be posthumously sworn at, insulted, beaten, thrown on the ground, stomped on, tarred and feathered, their very names violently obliterated. This is true bigotry, and this is true intolerance. And it is not limited to a handful of vandals but extends to prominent politicians as well. 

An attempt by Congress to replace Confederate-inspired military base names has received a lot of publicity, but what is even worse about Section 377 of the National Defense Authorization Act is that it would actually require Confederate soldiers’ graves in Arlington National Cemetery to be desecrated. This amendment would require that the government “remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America or any person who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America from all assets of the Department of Defense.” The website Conservative Daily points out that there is a large Confederate monument at Arlington that is surrounded by the graves of 482 soldiers. The amendment would presumably require the removal of the monument, which would be logistically impossible to do without disturbing the graves. And even if somehow the Confederate graves were allowed to remain, the amendment would ban any sort of signage or plaques pertaining to them. “Just think about how small of a person someone would have to be to write an amendment in 2020 that could force the exhumation of 482 Civil War soldiers because they disagree with the cause they fought for,” the Conservative Daily article continues. “The GOP is so spineless, they actually believe that posthumously punishing Civil War dead is a reasonable ‘compromise’… Three years ago, this started as a debate over whether cities should have statues honoring Confederate officers like Stonewall Jackson or Robert E. Lee. Today, it has transformed into a debate over whether Civil War grave sites should be exhumed so that the dead can be posthumously punished.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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. 

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_borderHypocrisy and overreaction to Portland arrests

In response to aggressive and destructive protests in Portland, Oregon the federal government sent law enforcement officers from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and Customs and Border Protection to restore order. “Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14,” explained Oregon Public Broadcasting. “Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off.” These federal officers have come and gone, but their actions and the response to them still merit discussion.

Those on the left-hand side of the political spectrum have predictably erupted in outrage, describing these arrests as authoritarian and unconstitutional. “It sounds more like abduction,” said Juan Chavez, director of the civil rights project at the Oregon Justice Resource Center. “It sounds like they’re kidnapping people off the streets.” Oregon Governor Kate Brown called the deployment of federal officers “a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.” Senator Jeff Merkley tweeted, “authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters.” An opinion piece by Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post proclaims, “This is not America… There is a more important symbol of justice than a brick-and-mortar building. It is called the Constitution. To ignore it is to attack America.”

If Marcus cares so much about the Constitution, where was she when governors around the country implemented executive orders requiring businesses to close and people to stay in their homes? When has she stood up for people’s Second Amendment rights, or the First Amendment rights of those who have protested against lockdown orders?

It is hypocritical that so many people who have not only failed to object to but actively cheered on blatantly authoritarian and unconstitutional policies are up in arms about the arrests of protesters associated with Antfa and the Black Lives Matter movement. The Portland arrests are not an attack on America. The protesters’ actions are an attack on America, and criticism of the federal officers who were deployed to defend people and property is off-base.

First of all, as even the Washington Post opinion piece admits, the law enforcement officers are wearing patches that say “police.” As an article by Law Enforcement Today accurately points out, “The irony is that the ‘unmarked authorities’ that Senator Merkley is complaining about… clearly have the words ‘police’ on their chest plate. That usually means they’re marked.”

More importantly, the actions of the protesters more than justify a forceful response. What has been happening in Portland is nothing short of atrocious. For weeks and months on end, mobs have been barbarically destroying both private and public property and assaulting innocent people. Night after night they have repeatedly firebombed, graffiti’d, smashed the windows of, and thrown fireworks, pipes, and rocks at a variety of courthouses and federal buildings. The damages have totaled over $23 million. Rioters have thrown ball bearings, glass bottles, cans, rocks, feces, and animal seed at police officers, deliberately shined laser pointers in officers’ eyes, and attacked them with hammers. They threw fireworks at construction workers who were attempting to repair the damage to a courthouse. Additionally, they have destroyed priceless statues and monuments. The city was forced to remove the iconic elk statue after rioters climbed on top of it, graffiti’d the phrase “oink oink” on it, set it on fire, and damaged its foundation. Previously, rioters tore down a statue of George Washington after covering it in graffiti and setting it on fire, and used ropes and an ax to tear down a statue of Thomas Jefferson. Journalist Andy Ngo has been diligently chronicling the Portland chaos minute by minute on Twitter since the beginning, documenting new acts of destruction every day.

These actions – particularly the attacks on statues and innocent construction workers – are repugnant and despicable. Anyone who has participated in these acts of vandalism and aggression needs to be severely punished. It is true that in situations involving large groups of people protesting, not every protester is involved in or even aware of the immoral actions committed by fellow protesters. For example, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting, two individuals arrested by “unmarked” officers, Conner O’Shea and Mark Pettibone, claim not to have been engaged in criminal activity. However, they did admit that they regularly attend protests. There is nothing wrong with attending protests, per se. It is protected by the First Amendment. But given the atrocious acts committed by protesters aligned with Antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement, both in Portland and around the world, anyone who chooses to participate in demonstrations supporting these causes is implicitly expressing support for the atrocious acts. In other words, even those individual protesters who have not personally destroyed statues or assaulted construction crews are standing in solidarity with those who have. Anyone who expresses support for these atrocities, whether implicitly or explicitly, is a bad person and deserves anything that he or she gets.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf had it right when he said: “Portland has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob while local political leaders refuse to restore order to protect their city. Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it.” As part of his statement, Wolf provided a disturbing litany of the acts of destruction carried out by protesters. In her Washington Post opinion piece, however, Ruth Marcus describes this list as “less than convincing” and disingenuously quotes the entries from one particular day as evidence for this claim. But reading the list in its entirety provides a completely different picture. How anyone could read this list of despicable actions and not find it a convincing justification for a federal crackdown is beyond me.

As Law Enforcement Today puts it, “So long as protests turn into riots, these ‘activists’ can count on getting arrested or detained.” By punishing those who have either carried out or expressed support for attacks on innocent people and property, law enforcement officers are standing up for the rights of the people of Portland. There is nothing authoritarian or unconstitutional about that.

bookmark_borderHate crime charges for painting over Black Lives Matter mural

A California couple have been charged with a hate crime after painting over a Black Lives Matter mural that had been painted on the street. Nicole Anderson and David Nelson could face up to a year in jail.

The police department in Martinez, CA, said in a statement: “The community spent a considerable amount of time putting the mural together only to have it painted over in a hateful and senseless manner.”

When one considers the brutal series of assaults against statues that have taken place over the past weeks and months, which have largely gone unpunished, it is ridiculous that Anderson and Nelson are being punished this severely.

First of all, the motivation for painting over the mural does not rise to the level of a hate crime. In a video of the incident, Nelson allegedly said, “There is no racism. It’s a leftist lie… We’re sick of this narrative, that’s what’s wrong. The narrative of police brutality, the narrative of oppression, the narrative of racism. It’s a lie.” Neither he nor Anderson ever voiced any racist sentiments. Neither of them made any negative generalizations about anyone based on their race. They simply think that racism does not exist to the extent that the Black Lives Matter movement claims it does, which is a very reasonable opinion that I happen to agree with. Disagreeing with the message of the Black Lives Matter movement should not be considered a hate crime.

Additionally, I would not describe painting over the mural as either hateful or senseless, as the police department does. Disagreeing with a message is not hateful; it is simply disagreement. Nor was painting over the mural senseless; Nelson clearly explains the reasoning behind this action in the video.

You know what is both hateful and senseless? The wave of violence against statues that has swept over the country. It was hateful and senseless when someone beheaded the beautiful statue of Christopher Columbus in Boston. It was hateful and senseless when someone tore down the statue of St. Junipero Serra in San Francisco, California, set it on fire, and struck it with a sledgehammer. It was hateful and senseless when someone tore down and hanged a statue of a Confederate soldier in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was hateful and senseless when a mob tore down, urinated on, and sprayed graffiti on a statue of Confederate General Williams Carter Wickham in Richmond, Virginia. It is hateful and senseless that the magnificent Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond continues to be graffiti’d with Black Lives Matter slogans every day. I could go on and on; the list of statues that have recently been dismembered, set on fire, destroyed, and/or defaced is nearly endless.

Think of the immense amounts of time, effort, dedication, and talent that sculptors put into these statues. Yet none of the people responsible for any of these acts of vandalism have been arrested, charged, fined, or punished in any way. These barbarians all need to be held accountable for their disgraceful actions before anyone even thinks about punishing someone for painting over a Black Lives Matter mural on the street.