Every time a statue is removed or destroyed, it is heartbreaking and infuriating. A recent example of this is the horrific destruction of the statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The statues stood outside the legislature building until July 1, when a mob of people (and I use that term loosely) tore them down and ripped the head off of the Victoria statue and threw it into a river.
One tiny encouraging piece of news in this horrible situation is that Premier Brian Pallister strongly criticized these despicable actions, as anyone with any soul and any sense of morality would do:
“I want to be very clear: the statues will go back up. The people who came here to this country before it was a country, and since, didn’t come here to destroy anything — they came here to build. There are good and bad aspects to Canada’s heritage, as there are to any country’s heritage.… We’ve had good times and we’ve had bad moments. And Canada Day was one of those bad moments. We need to respect our heritage just as we need to respect one another. Not to find fault. Not to tear down, not to highlight every failure, but rather to realize that we’re a complex country as we are made up of complex people.”
Pallister added, “Nobody who was involved in the destruction of those statues or the damage to the grounds is going to have any place at the table around how we arrive at solutions.” And he called the destructive acts “failures of character on display.”
That is 100% correct. In fact, to say that the people who destroyed these statues lack character is an understatement. These people are bullies. They are bigots. They have zero tolerance for different cultures, different viewpoints, or anyone who is different from them in any way. They have no regard for other people’s rights or feelings, and only care about themselves. They deserve zero empathy, because they have zero empathy for anyone else.
This article by CBC demonstrates more sympathy for the statue destroyers than is warranted, in my opinion. The article notes that “many Canadians are grieving over the discovery of hundreds of Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves at residential schools across the country.” And the article mentions that the statue destroyers had been participating in an event called the “Every Child Matters” walk.
But what about the grief caused by their actions? Does no one see that for people such as myself who love statues, excruciating and unbearable pain is inflicted each time a statue is removed or destroyed, as the mob of protesters did on July 1? I don’t understand how someone could be “grieving” about something that happened before they were born, but regardless, no amount of grief gives someone the right to rip down a beautiful statue of a remarkable leader from history, desecrate it with hateful graffiti, hack its head off, and throw the head into a river. No amount of grief gives someone the right to inflict grief on another person who did nothing wrong.
Plus, when the protest organizers say that “every child matters,” apparently they are not including children who love statues in this statement. Or children who love learning about history and/or who might admire Queen Elizabeth or Queen Victoria. I am now a grown-up, but this would definitely have described me as a child. People like me, whether young or old, do not matter to the protesters. When they say that every child matters, they mean only children who share their skin color, culture, and ideology.
These actions are not really about children and whether they matter. If they were, instead of destroying statues, the protesters would be doing something to actually commemorate and honor the children who died. These actions are about inflicting pain for the sake of inflicting pain. They are about destruction for the sake of destruction. Regardless of how the children in the graves died (and there is no evidence that they died of anything other than natural causes), their deaths are not Queen Victoria’s fault, they are not Queen Elizabeth’s fault, they are certainly not the statues’ fault, and they are certainly not my fault. Yet statues, and by extension myself, are the ones being punished.
Naturally, because the premier actually had something reasonable to say on the topic of statues and their destruction, numerous people have criticized him. For example, Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said: “Right now, we are in a time when our country is grappling with the disclosure of just how many children died during the attempted destruction of Indigenous cultures and civilizations, so for the premier to say that, it shows that not only is he unaware of Manitoba’s actual history, but he’s also out of touch with our current reality. How can a leader make a comment right now that doesn’t really focus on those children? That should really be the focus of these conversations going forward.”
Actually, Kinew is the one who is out of touch with reality. Of course, it is sad that children died a long time ago. But what has been happening to statues around the world is far more horrific. These protesters, and all those who share their ideology, are inflicting excruciating and unbearable pain on people right now. They are destroying something the entire purpose of which is to be permanent, something that by its very nature should never, ever be destroyed. Destroying statues is not okay. Inflicting excruciating and unbearable pain on other people is not okay. This is what people should truly be outraged about, and this is what needs to be the focus of all conversations going forward.