bookmark_border“Is it ever morally acceptable to visit a Confederate historical site?”

“Is it ever morally acceptable to visit a Confederate historical site?”

Such is the question that was asked in a recent New York Times ethics column.

It sickens and disgusts me that someone would even ask this question.

The Confederacy is my special interest.

It is everything that makes my life worth living.

It is beauty, it is joy, it is happiness, it is freedom.

The fact that I would even need to defend the moral acceptability of the thing that makes my life worth living is appalling and abhorrent, and makes me feel sick to my stomach.

But this very attitude – that the Confederacy is somehow immoral – is not new.

This is the first time that I have seen the question explicitly asked, the first time that I have seen the words “morally acceptable” printed in the same sentence as the words “Confederate historical site.” But the attitude that the Confederacy is somehow immoral is precisely the reason for the pain and trauma that I have experienced over the past three years. This attitude is exactly what motivates the countless atrocities that have been carried out against Confederate statues, monuments, and historical makers of all sorts all over the country and even the world. The atrocities that have been carried out against me.

And the attitude underlying these actions is precisely why they have been so painful and traumatizing, and why I characterize them as atrocities. It is not simply the loss of the statues and monuments – collectively the thing that makes my life worth living – that has inflicted such trauma and pain. It is the fact that their removal is a moral condemnation of the statues themselves, the ideas that they stand for, and the people who like them.

The removal of Confederate statues is a moral condemnation of me.

If statues had been destroyed accidentally – say by an earthquake or a tornado – it would be sad, and I would grieve their loss. But the destruction of the statues is not accidental. It is intentional, systematic, and pervasive. What has made the past three years so bad is that in addition to my grief – layered on top of an already agonizing experience – are the shame, anger, and rage of being almost unanimously rejected, repudiated, and morally condemned by our society.

This intentional destruction is a way of saying: who I am is immoral. Who I am is morally unacceptable.

That is why the removal of Confederate statues hurts so much. Because it is a moral condemnation of me. For being autistic. For being different. For being a rebel. For supporting the losing side. For liking something that most people do not like.

In a society where things that used to be considered immoral – abortion, homosexuality, having a baby out of wedlock – have become almost unanimously accepted, it hurts that the very essence of who I am is morally condemned.

It hurts that someone would even ask the question of whether the very essence of who I am is ever morally acceptable, let alone that someone would answer in the negative, or even think about answering in the negative. (I did not read the column itself, because I know that doing so would be too painful for me to be able to tolerate, but my guess is that the ethicist at the Times did not provide a positive answer.)

It hurts that the question would even be framed in this way.

I am a good person. Many people would likely disagree, but I genuinely believe that. I haven’t done anything wrong by being autistic, by being different, by being a rebel, by supporting the losing side, by liking something that most people do not like. I haven’t done anything to deserve moral condemnation.

So I affirm: not only is visiting a Confederate historical site perfectly morally acceptable; it is morally good. Always. All the time. In fact, it is the most morally good thing imaginable. There is nothing more morally good than Confederate history, the sites, artifacts, and public art associated with it, and the decision to support it by visiting those sites.

The real question that should be asked: is a world without Confederate historical sites morally acceptable?

The answer is no. Obviously not. I feel more strongly about that answer than I do anything else in the world.

bookmark_borderOne of the most offensive tweets ever written

Here is another contender for the most offensive tweet ever written. Earlier I wrote about the fact that people (and I use that term loosely) were offended by the existence of the Nao Santa Maria, a replica of the flagship of Christopher Columbus that travels around the world to educate people about history and sailing. In response to a completely innocuous tweet by the ship’s Twitter account, a despicable individual called Trevanion Grenfell wrote the following reply:

I don’t even know where to begin when explaining how offensive this is and how unacceptable it is that someone would think or write it. 

First of all, Columbus was neither genocidal nor a rapist. 

Second, the Nao Santa Maria is neither horrible, nor a glorification of genocide. It is a beautiful replica of a historical ship, which took immense skill, craftsmanship, and hard work to build. Its presence makes the world a better place.

Third, to suggest that a beautiful replica of a historical ship should be burned is utterly appalling and despicable. It is sickening, heartbreaking, and infuriating that a human being could see something so beautiful and good and want it to be destroyed.

Fourth, the Nao Santa Maria does not constitute “rape-apologizing, genocide-excusing, whitewashing colonial bullshit.” It is a ship replica, and literally none of those terms accurately describe it. The ship has nothing to do with rape, as Columbus did not rape anyone. Nor does it excuse genocide, as Columbus did not commit genocide. 

But more importantly, even if Columbus had committed rape and genocide, that still would not make a replica of his ship bad in any way. People have a right to admire, honor, glorify, and commemorate any historical figures they want to. Every historical figure, every culture, every civilization has good points and bad points. People weigh and evaluate factors differently in determining which historical figures they deem worthy of honor and commemoration. Yet Grenfell is presuming that his opinions about which historical figures are honorable are the only opinions that should ever be taken into account. To him, the feelings, ideas, and viewpoints of others do not matter. Anything that he personally dislikes, he argues, should not be allowed to exist. What right does he have to say that a ship is not welcome in the state where he lives?

The Nao Santa Maria presents a mostly positive depiction of Columbus and his crew. That is not “whitewashing,” nor is it “bullshit.” It is a version of history different from the version that prevails in today’s society. This is something that the world needs more of, not less.

Fifth, the use of the term “sic semper tyrannis” is nonsensical and bizarre. This Latin phrase, made famous as the Virginia state motto and also by John Wilkes Booth, means “thus always to tyrants.” But neither a replica of a historical ship, nor the organization that created it, are tyrants. Grenfell and those who share his ideology are the real tyrants here, as they are the ones who are attempting to obliterate all cultures and perspectives other than their own.

Other than all that, this tweet makes perfect sense.

In conclusion, Grenfell is the one who is truly horrible in this situation. He is an intolerant bigot and a cruel, vicious bully who deserves to be expelled from planet earth. It is heartbreaking that a beautiful, educational ship replica is not allowed to exist in our society without being subjected to this type of cruel, evil, racist abuse.

Ironically, Grenfell claims in his Twitter biography to be a “supporter of… wellness for all people.” This is obviously false. If he cared one iota about the wellness of people of European descent, he would not advocate for their culture and history to be erased. If he cared one iota about the wellness of people such as myself, who love Columbus, he would not advocate for everything that makes us happy to be obliterated from the world. Like so many people in today’s society, Grenfell cares only about the well-being of people like him. So much for diversity and inclusion.

bookmark_borderThe statue genocide in New Hampshire

The statue genocide that has been perpetrated by the Black Lives Matter movement is such a painful topic for me that it is often too difficult for me to read about it. But on occasions when I feel able to do so, I try to research this topic, both for a website that I am working on that memorializes its victims, as well as for the purpose of determining if there are any states in the U.S. that have been untouched by the genocide and therefore are possible places where I could live. Unfortunately, there do not seem to be any. When researching the possibility of moving to New Hampshire, I came across an article from the New Hampshire Union Leader outlining the efforts of the politically correct bullies to ruin everything in the state. There are numerous problems with the article and with the people quoted in it, which I will outline below:

First of all, the entire premise of the article is wrong. The author, Shawne Wickham, characterizes the destruction of everything good in the world as a “soul-searching” motivated by learning more about monuments and the historical figures they represent. It is assumed that everything from getting rid of Aunt Jemima from the pancake mix, to taking down a weathervane depicting a Native American at Dartmouth College, to renaming Franklin Pierce University, to renaming the city of Keene, to altering the Hannah Duston Memorial, is a good thing. But these are bad things which eliminate the richness, beauty, and diversity of our world and move us closer to a society in which every person thinks the same and every place looks the same. We should be aiming to add more beautiful, amazing, wonderful, distinctive, glorious, unique, and diverse things to our world, not to eliminate the few existing ones. New Hampshire has never had any statues of Christopher Columbus or of any Confederate generals, and the article presumes that this is a good thing, but it is not. What would actually make the world a better place is to add more Confederate statues and more Columbus statues to our public spaces, but, as is the case with almost all of the media coverage over the past year about the topic of statues, this is not even presented as an option.

A major topic of the article is the statue of Hannah Duston in Boscawen, NH. Duston is a woman who was captured by Native Americans in 1697. The Native Americans killed her baby, and she eventually escaped and killed 10 of them in revenge. University of New Hampshire Professor Meghan Howey and Abenaki leader Denise Pouliot joined forces to “address” the statue (there again is the false assumption that the existence of statues that are at all different, distinctive, or controversial is a problem that needs to be solved, as opposed to a good thing that the world needs more of). Their plan is to create a park called “Unity Park N’dakinna” around the statue, including interpretive signage as well as a statue of an Abenaki family. The project will involve various experts such as artists, historians, and landscape designers, and a statewide fundraising campaign is planned. My question is… what is the point of all this? Without Columbus statues and Confederate statues, the world is not a place worth living in. There is no point in expending resources on any statues, parks, or public spaces until all of the Columbus statues and Confederate statues have been put back up. It is not fair that one group of people gets to design a park that represents their history and values, while other people are forced to live in a world where everything that represents their history and values has been destroyed. It is a slap in the face to read about all the thought, effort, expertise, and money being used to create this park, while I am no longer able to enjoy any parks in my hometown of Boston because they remind me of the fact that the statue of my hero, Christopher Columbus, was brutally beheaded and the city has made no effort to hold the perpetrators accountable. To focus resources on this park, while everything that makes my life worth living has been destroyed, is to tell me that my pain does not matter, that my feelings do not matter, and that my happiness does not matter. It is to tell the Italian-American community and the Confederate community that our lives, and the lives of our ancestors, do not matter.

Another topic of the article is Confederate statues. Ellen Townes-Anderson, a professor at Rutgers, argues in the article that obliterating statues of Confederate leaders does not amount to erasing history, because battlefields, museums, and books still exist and are still available to those who wish to learn. This is true, but what makes Confederate statues so important is not just their educational value but also the fact that Confederate leaders deserve to be honored and glorified. They fought bravely for the cause of individual liberty and self-determination. The existence of beautiful statues honoring deserving people and causes is an essential part of what gives cities, towns, statues, and countries their identities. It is a crucial part of having a world that is worth living in. Elizabeth Dubrulle at the New Hampshire Historical Society argues that Confederate statues are particularly bad because “they did commit treason… Where in the world would you put up statues to people who committed treason?” Anyone who uses the “treason” argument to criticize the Confederacy reveals him/herself to be an authoritarian and a bully. Every person and/or group of people has a fundamental right to leave his/her country and form a new one, and that is exactly what the Confederates fought to be able to do. Anyone who thinks that the Confederates committed “treason” by forming their own country is an authoritarian who tramples on individual rights. Dubrulle also mentions that Confederate statues were allegedly created to promote a racist agenda and that the Confederacy has come to symbolize white supremacy in modern times. But the motivations behind a statue’s creation, as well as people’s perceptions of the statue today, are not the deciding factors in evaluating the statue. What truly matters is who the statue depicts and what that person stood for, which may or may not match up with popular perception.

It’s horrific enough that magnificent statues of Columbus and of Confederate generals have been viciously destroyed across the country, but the ideas suggested by the people quoted in the article – such as renaming the city of Keene because its namesake participated in the slave trade and stripping President Franklin Pierce’s name from a university and law school because he had the audacity to compromise with the South on the issue of slavery – are downright ridiculous. Howey, the professor at UNH, suggests that this new way of looking at history is “much more interesting and nuanced,” but I see it as the opposite. The so-called experts quoted in the article, and many people in general, are essentially attempting to get rid of everything that honors anyone who is not considered 100% perfect according to the social norms of 2021. This makes history, and by extension the world, bland, boring, conformist, and soulless. History has been my passion since I was 10, and there is nothing interesting or appealing about this way of commemorating and studying history. 

Rutgers professor Townes-Anderson says in the article that it feels for the first time “like real change is possible… we have the best chance we’ve had in a long time.” But the change of which she speaks – the eradication of Confederate statues from public spaces – is a negative change, not a positive one. The BLM movement is turning the world from a place that is mostly bad, with a few beautiful and good things still left, to a world that is 100% bad, in which the few remaining beautiful and good things have been destroyed. Media coverage of this topic needs to recognize this. Instead of being presented as something neutral or even positive, the statue genocide must be treated as the horrific injustice that it is.

bookmark_borderGood news for a change: young Jeb Stuart monument

In the demoralizing wasteland of 2021, good news is difficult to come by. But a small piece of this rare commodity came into existence on February 9, when Laurel Hill, the birthplace and boyhood home of General James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart, erected a monument to the young cavalryman.

Seeing the pictures on Facebook brought a smile to my face and a little bit of much-needed joy to my heart.

Although the monument is relatively modest in size, it’s heartwarming to see a Confederate statue actually being put up instead of taken down.

Check out the Jeb Stuart Preservation Trust’s Facebook page for more excellent content.

Additionally, more information and pictures can be found at Laurel Hill’s official website.

bookmark_borderColumbus Day 2020

Christopher Columbus statue in Boston’s North End (photo by yours truly)

Happy Columbus Day! Thanks to the politically correct, anti-history bullies who are in the process of taking over more and more of our society, Christopher Columbus has become unpopular and marginalized. Therefore, he deserves to be honored and celebrated now more than ever. I am in the process of developing a project to honor and celebrate all of the people from history who have become victims of “cancel culture.” For now, please enjoy this blog post about Christopher Columbus, an imperfect and still amazing explorer, navigator, visionary, and leader.

Fun facts:

  • Columbus was born in 1451 in the Republic of Genoa.
  • He was the son of a wool weaver and taught himself to read and write.
  • He was above-average height and had reddish hair and blue eyes.
  • Starting at age 10, he traveled widely, going as far north as Britain and as far south as Ghana.
  • He developed a plan to find a western route to the East Indies in hopes of making a fortune from the spice trade; this resulted in his accidental discovery of the Americas.
  • He landed in the Americas for the first time on October 12, 1492.
  • During one battle, Columbus and his crew rescued several women who were being held as sex slaves and children who were going to be eaten.
  • He made 4 total voyages between Europe and the Americas.
  • In 1504, he amazed natives in Jamaica by predicting a lunar eclipse.
  • His official military rank is Admiral of the Ocean Sea.
  • He died on May 20, 1506 at age 54. His remains are located in the Cathedral of Seville in Spain.
  • In 1937, October 12 became Columbus Day in the U.S. In 1971, Columbus Day changed to being celebrated on the first Monday in October.

Quotes:

“You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”

“Riches don’t make a man rich, they only make him busier.”

“Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. Those that are enlightened before the others are condemned to pursue that light in spite of the others.”

“Goals are simply tools to focus your energy in positive directions, these can be changed as your priorities change, new ones added, and others dropped.”

Continue reading “Columbus Day 2020”

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_borderMuseum of Fine Arts infiltrated by political correctness

With political correctness taking over the world to an increasing degree, it is not surprising that museums are being affected. Not only is the iconic Theodore Roosevelt statue being removed from the Museum of Natural History in New York, but the Museum of Fine Arts in my hometown of Boston has implemented negative changes in response to the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement.

When the MFA re-opens on September 26 after being closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, a magnificent portrait of King George IV will be missing. The portrait, by John Singleton Copley, was removed because, according to the MFA’s director, Matthew Teitelbaum, it was deemed inappropriate to emphasize America’s relationship with Great Britain. Additionally, visitors to the Art of the Americas wing will be greeted by a text on the wall explaining the museum’s efforts to “expand, contextualize, and diversify our holdings, and to consider the objects in our care from new and overlooked perspectives.” The works of art, the text notes, “ironically relied on oppressive economic systems, raising questions about the notions of ‘liberty’ that inspired their makers and patrons.” Portraits of Revolutionary War heroes will get explanatory text noting that they were slaveholders. Paul Revere’s Sons of Liberty bowl will get a text explaining that it is made from silver that was likely mined by slaves and therefore that “the material of the bowl belies the values it stood for.” According to the Boston Globe, these changes are being made so that the museum can be more inclusive and “expand its cultural embrace.”

However, like most actions taken in response to the BLM movement, these changes make the museum less inclusive. A beautiful, glorious painting of King George IV was needlessly removed. The new explanatory texts on various works of art cross the line from being neutral and factual to actually criticizing the art, its creators, and its subjects. It is unnecessary and inappropriate to add text that essentially calls Paul Revere and other leaders from the Revolutionary War era hypocrites. Worse, the museum’s explanatory text not only criticizes individuals from our nation’s history, it criticizes the very ideals upon which our nation was founded. There is no need to contemptuously put the word “liberty” in quotes while pointing out its alleged inconsistency with the economic systems that existed at the time.

Colonial-era American culture deserves to be celebrated just as much as any other culture, and our founding fathers deserve to be celebrated just as much as historical figures from other cultures do. Do the museum’s galleries of African, Asian, and Oceanian art contain explanatory text criticizing these cultures, their values, and their leaders from history? Works of art from all cultures should be accompanied by text that is neutral, factual, and educational, not negative, critical, or pushing any particular ideology.

I suppose I should be grateful that the Museum of Fine Arts did not go further by removing more paintings. But these changes are a step in the wrong direction and are demoralizing and upsetting given the sheer number of changes in this direction that are occurring in the world at the moment. I love art and history, and going to this museum has been one of my favorite outings since I was in preschool. Now I am not sure if I want to go back there ever again. Just another example of the BLM movement’s seeming determination to seek out all of the beautiful and good things in the world and ruin them.

bookmark_borderHorrendous legislation aims to remove Confederate statues from national parks and battlefields

Full of rage, grief, and devastation, I’ve read and watched news reports of the barbaric destruction of statues across America, beginning in 2015 and accelerating disturbingly over the past few months. Despite the senseless removal of statue after statue from our city streets and parks, there was one thing that I thought would always be safe: monuments at battlefields. But sadly, in this era of political correctness run amok, even that is no longer the case.

Last month, for example, someone vandalized the statue of Robert E. Lee at the Antietam battlefield in Maryland, writing messages such as “BLM,” “racist,” and “You lost the war.” (What do the results of a war have to do with the moral worth of a cause or the individuals associated with it?) Fortunately, the National Park Service, which manages the battlefield, cleaned off the graffiti.

More recently, two pieces of legislation were introduced that would – and it hurts to even type these words – order the removal of all Confederate monuments from the Gettysburg battlefield. The Battle of Gettysburg, which took place from July 1-3, 1863, was the deadliest battle in U.S. history. Approximately 50,000 people lost their lives in the brutal fighting between the Army of Northern Virginia, led by General Robert E. Lee, and the Army of the Potomac, led by General George Meade. Today 1,328 statues and plaques commemorate the individuals, regiments, and brigades who fought there.

Commemorating history being a foreign concept to many people today, the House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior, called HR-7608, on July 24. It would require the National Park Service, which manages dozens of battlefields and historical sites across the country, including Gettysburg and Antietam, to “remove from display all physical Confederate commemorative works, such as statues, monuments, sculptures, memorials, and plaques” within 180 days. Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), who authored this provision, said in a press release that “our public spaces must be open and inviting to all,” which is interesting because honoring only one side of a war does the exact opposite of this. Fortunately, according to the blog Emerging Civil War, this bill was referred to the Appropriations Committee in the Senate and is considered “dead on arrival.”  

Sadly, there was also a resolution introduced in the General Assembly of Pennsylvania on August 6 calling for the removal of all Confederate statues and monuments in the state. Known as Resolution 954, it does not specifically mention Gettysburg, but given that Gettysburg is in Pennsylvania, its monuments presumably would be included. The resolution, which alleges that Confederate ideals “were on the wrong side of history” and “comprise treason and traitors to this nation,” was referred to the Committee on Rules.

Making things even worse, just this week, Representative Bobby Rush (D-Illinois) introduced a bill calling for the removal of Confederate monuments across the country, not-so-cleverly called the Rejecting and Eliminating the Foul Use of Symbols Exulting (REFUSE) Confederate Principles Act. This bill would create a grant program called the Emancipation Historic Preservation Program to pay for the removal of the statues. “It’s past time that we eradicate these totems of treason and replace them with symbols that represent the true promise of America, such as the emancipation of Black Americans,” Rush said. He also called Confederate statues “abhorrent” and demanded that they be replaced with art that “we can actually be proud of.”

Like so many people associated with the Black Lives Matter movement and its accompanying cult of political correctness, Rush demonstrates no acknowledgement of, or consideration for, opinions that differ from his own. News flash: some people are actually proud of Confederate statues. Just because you are not proud of something does not mean that no one is. And even those who do not admire the Confederacy or its leaders must acknowledge that monuments at battlefields are priceless historical artifacts and crucial parts of what makes these sites so important.

To its credit, the National Park Service has stood up for statues, calling those at Gettysburg “an important part of the cultural landscape.” On a webpage about Confederate monuments, the NPS writes:

Across the country, the National Park Service maintains and interprets monuments, markers, and plaques that commemorate and memorialize those who fought during the Civil War. These memorials represent an important, if controversial, chapter in our Nation’s history. The National Park Service is committed to preserving these memorials while simultaneously educating visitors holistically about the actions, motivations, and causes of the soldiers and states they commemorate. A hallmark of American progress is our ability to learn from our history….

Still other monuments, while lacking legislative authorization, may have existed in parks long enough to qualify as historic features. A key aspect of their historical interest is that they reflect the knowledge, attitudes, and tastes of the people who designed and placed them. Unless directed by legislation, it is the policy of the National Park Service that these works and their inscriptions will not be altered, relocated, obscured, or removed, even when they are deemed inaccurate or incompatible with prevailing present-day values… The NPS will continue to provide historical context and interpretation for all of our sites and monuments in order to reflect a fuller view of past events and the values under which they occurred.

Additionally, the NPS reiterated their support for preserving statues in a statement to Newsweek. They correctly called the removal attempts “part of a sustained effort to erase from the history of the Nation those who do not meet an ever-shifting standard of conduct.”

Guides who work at Gettysburg and other battlefields have also expressed opposition to the attempts to remove the monuments. “We urge the U.S. Senate to strip out this provision that would destroy the unequaled collection of monuments, Union and Confederate, that set Gettysburg apart as a great battlefield park and a top visitor destination,” Les Fowler, the president of the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides, said in a press release in response to HR-7608. “The monuments representing all of the soldiers who fought here are a critical component of interpreting these sacred grounds.”

Fowler also wrote an excellent opinion piece for the York Daily Record in which he explains exactly what the legislation would do:

If enacted into law, the House bill would mean a visit to any of these battlefield parks would be immeasurably diminished… It would mean removing the five-figure sculpture group at Gettysburg’s North Carolina Memorial, a masterpiece that depicts the emotions of men facing a desperate attack. It would mean the loss of the emotional “Angel of Marye’s Heights” sculpture at Fredericksburg depicting Confederate Richard Kirkland coming to the aid of a fallen Union soldier. It would mean taking down Shiloh’s Mississippi Memorial just five years after it was put up.

Gary Gallagher also wrote an editorial in defense of Gettysburg’s monuments for the Civil War Times. “No education of any value depends on selective erasure of troubling dimensions of America’s story,” he writes. “History should not be turned into a simplistic morality play juxtaposing good and evil, heroes and villains, and contrived to serve current political goals.”

The fact that opinion pieces would even need to be written in defense of Gettysburg’s monuments is heartbreaking. This issue should not even be up for debate. To say that I oppose these bills that would order the removal of Confederate statues from battlefields and national parks is a gross understatement. Every single person on earth should be against these pieces of legislation, and there is no reason whatsoever for anyone to support them. The fact that members of the House of Representatives actually voted in favor of requiring battlefield monuments to be removed is disgusting. What makes Gettysburg an important historic site is the fact that it was the location of a momentous battle fought by two sides. Soldiers on both sides bravely fought, and in many cases sacrificed their lives, for what they believed in. To remove the monuments to the losing side of this battle and war is not only bigoted, intolerant, and authoritarian; it also completely defeats the entire purpose of the Gettysburg battlefield.

bookmark_borderMaryland considering getting rid of state song

Naturally, in this era of political-correctness-motivated war against everything to do with the Confederacy, various people are demanding that Maryland replace its state song, “Maryland, My Maryland.” The song was written by James Ryder Randall in 1861 in response to riots that took place as Union soldiers passed through Baltimore on their way to Washington, D.C. The lyrics criticize Abraham Lincoln and the North and express support for secession. It became the state song in 1939, but starting in 1974 there have been 9 unsuccessful attempts to repeal it.

The full lyrics are as follows:

Continue reading “Maryland considering getting rid of state song”

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.