Statues Are Not People and Not History

Our President seems to be looking out for every bright shiny object he can lay his distracting eyes on,  except for the American people. We have so many urgent situations right now, yet our President has taken up a crusade for….statues.

Trump and his enablers have decided that toppling statues is a line that we are not allowed to cross. Inanimate objects. Monuments to a time long ago. Or more bluntly, pigeon toilets.

Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, James Longstreet are certainly all part of our historical narrative but how we remember them is the essence of history…..but what is NOT history is the statues themselves that we put up in prominent areas to give a reminder of who they are and what they did.

Some of the things that they did we probably would just as soon forget. They supported an act of treason, the break up of the American union. They participated in battles that killed hundreds of thousands of American soldiers. And for that we need reminders?

That era was dominated by a debate over slavery. The original American sin. The deed that divided us then and still divides us now in its aftermath. When a white person gazes upon those statues they see a very different thing than what a black person sees. The white person thinks he sees a part of history, one sided though it may be…the black person sees hate, lynchings, slavery, family separation, struggles to survive.

So when those statues are toppled, especially in the wake of police killings and brutality against the African American community, it doesn’t feel like a law and order issue. It feels like retribution and a balancing of the scales.

Of course, when anger spreads and affects more people and prompts them to action, the swath of statues enveloped by that sea of anger can expand into questionable areas. For instance, I have a hard time figuring out why a statue of Frederick Douglass was removed.

But in the end, they are still statues. Inanimate objects. Representations of how we think and what we believe.

Statues are also not history. They may reflect history in some way, sometimes a distorted way. But the documentation of history should be left to historians and truth seekers. Certainly not by the people who put up the statues because they always have an agenda.

For example, Stone Mountain, Georgia was quite an achievement. Carvings that encompass the face of an entire mountain. But its origins are rooted in the Ku Klux Klan and meant to be a place for the KKK to congregate and hold their rallies of hate. Unless we make sure that that context is made clear to those who visit this place, the monument itself will only symbolize the hate that began it.

Trump has little sense of history. When he reads about these historical figures from the teleprompter, it feels like he, himself, is learning it all for the first time. And the only investigation he does into the background of these symbols comes from the extremist views of those that protect this “heritage” of hate.

After the Civil War, the South had to be dragged kicking and screaming back into the post civil war era. Not content to ever move on, they historically resisted the freedom of the black population and tried to suppress there rights by any means possible. And these statues were erected to symbolize an era they felt was stolen from them. And even as we move into the 21st century, that reverence for a time when only white people counted continues to hinder progress for moving into the future and that retrograde idea of “white power”.

Yeah, I do not mourn the statues coming down – even if some of the ones removed have questionable historical context. But statues are not teaching us any history. They do not speak to us in the present. They are a frozen moment in time.

And that time is most certainly over and must never be allowed to come back.

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