On Charlottesville and Freedom of Speech

As I said in my post on Charlottesville, the destruction of a statue is one I don’t agree with. I think that has a lot to do with my education in history, and perhaps also a general dislike for that sort of action. I suspect everyone here would agree with me that the burning of any book is wrong, and that’s what I equate it with. Also, to me its getting rid of a symptom, not the cause. I think all it does is drive the issue underground and doesn’t sole anything.

My knowledge of history isn’t, of course, universal, and US history is an area where my knowledge isn’t good. Although I know the basics, until reader “Historian” brought it up in a comment on my first post on Charlottesville, I didn’t know about The Lost Cause. (It was he who provided the link.) I also didn’t know that the erection of many of the statues was in rejection of Civil Rights rather than a commemoration of the war, which does make a difference. It is an issue that many of the statues were part of a reaction to a country that, at a federal level at least, was rejecting its racist past.

Racism KKK cartoonAt the moment, many of the statues are a representation of what is wrong with parts of the US in regards to racism. The victors write history and for decades in the South, that was the white supremacists. Now, things are finally starting to come right. States are removing confederate flags from government buildings, for example, which is the right thing to do.

However, I would like to see a different response to the statues. My preference would be the erection of statues to appropriate local or national heroes in the fight for Civil Rights alongside the monuments to Civil War icons.  There are plenty to choose from, but I suspect that many in the South couldn’t name them. Their lists would dwindle pretty quickly after the names of Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, and Frederick Douglas.

I think the erection of statues to Civil Rights heroes nearby Civil War heroes would be a better lesson for the future. Coming generations would see history advancing. It may be cathartic for some to destroy a statue today, but I’m not sure the action would have lasting value. For example, there are millions of people who have been abused by one church or another. What if they got together and went around destroying religious buildings or statues? I think a statue of Rosa Parks next to one of General Lee would be a better lesson. It would show how such people are finally taking their right and proper place as worthy of veneration by all.

One day, hopefully, hatred based on race (or anything else!) will be a thing of the past. Its previous existence will be a curiosity rather than trauma it is now for so many. That’s why I’d like to see the statues remain – so people in coming years can see that there was a time when the hate was there, but it was overcome. The new monuments alongside the old would represent that visually. Also, in most places, what has made the statues a problem is that white supremacist hate groups have adopted them as a cause. I’ll get back to that below.

Death of confederacy cartoon.Many are equating the  Civil War statues with statues of Hitler. I’m not sure that’s a valid comparison. For a start, as far as I know there never were many, if any, statues of Hitler. There were pictures, but other than that it was mostly symbols, especially the swastika. Following the downfall of the Third Reich there was a mass removal of Nazi symbols from public display in Germany. That was right and proper. The swastika was the symbol of a political party. Of course it has come to represent more than that because of the terror done under it, but at its core, that’s what it was. I equate its removal with that of the confederate flag.

The worst of the Nazi’s many atrocities was to murder millions, especially Jews, in concentration camps. However, those camps are not all gone. Some are still there to remind us of the horror. Everyone I know who has had the chance to visit a former concentration camp speaks of the deep emotional impact it had. And most of those I know had no relatives caught up in the savagery. I expect it’s even worse for those whose family members were amongst those who suffered. To raze Auschwitz-Birkenau to the ground would, I hope you agree, be the wrong thing to do. As it says on the website of the camp:

There is no way to understand postwar Europe and the world without an in-depth confrontation between our idea of mankind and the remains of Auschwitz.

See a virtual  tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau here.

Donald Trump’s Remarks on Charlottesville

One of the many horrifying things Donald Trump said was that at the protest the night before the violent clashes, there were “good people” there just to protest the removal of a statue.

Tweets of the "good people" at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942.

The “good people” at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942.

I reject that entirely. The white supremacists adopted the cause early on. The list of speakers they arranged to speak at the rally, which I posted here, shows that almost from the start it was about much more than the statue. It was a “Unite the Right” rally, and people came from all over the country to attend it with that understanding.

David DukeOf course, an innocent person could have turned up not knowing the plan. However, I know that if I had gone to the rally to protest as a supporter of history, and found my cause was now that of skinheads, neo-Nazis, fascists, and other white supremacists, I would have gone straight home. Whatever the cause, I would not not ally myself with people like Richard Spencer and David Duke. That the Nazi emblem, the Confederate flag, and other white supremacist symbols were being carried alongside the flag of my country – that would turn my stomach. There were no good people marching that night. Each and every one was at the very least prepared to tolerate racists and racist attitudes.

It should be noted too that at no point were the “Unite the Right” protestors chanting about protecting the statue. Among their chants were, “Jews will not replace us,” and “blood and soil”.  I cannot see how those relate to the protection of a statue of General Robert E Lee in any way. The Independent Journal Review notes that Elle Reeve, the reporter in the documentary below, was asked about the motives of the protestors on CBS‘s ‘Face the Nation’. She said:

Once they started marching, they didn’t talk about Robert E. Lee being a brilliant military tactician, they chanted about Jews. They wanted to be menacing, it’s not an accident.

The “Unite the Right” Protesters at Charlottesville

Check out this excellent short documentary from Vice News. (If you don’t have time to watch the full 22 minute video right now, just watch the interview with Christopher Cantwell from about 19:05.)

When he’s not surrounded by his bully-boys, Cantwell exposes himself for the coward he really is.

And incidentally …

A Note on Freedom of Speech

Winston Churchill on freedom of speechThe message of the white supremacists is repugnant, but we must allow them to voice it. Driving such talk underground is not the way to stop it. Countering it with the reasons why they are wrong is the way forward.

Some of the arguments that white supremacists proffer may sound good to people who don’t have the capacity to work out it’s wrong themselves, or don’t access to accurate facts. Further, forbidding what they say leads to belief in conspiracy theories. In the Vice News documentary, one of the things Richard Spencer says is that people want to shut him and his supporters up because they know they (Spencer’s supporters) are right.

I suspect there are more people in Germany who believe that the Holocaust never happened than in the US, New Zealand, Canada, or Great Britain for example. Why? Because in Germany denial of the Holocaust is a crime. Thus, people want to know why denying it would be illegal. The original reason was, of course, to suppress Nazi sympathies immediately following World War II. But most of the original Nazis are dead now, and that reason is not valid any longer in my opinion. Now, some young people are listening to those who tell them conspiracy theories in relation to denial of the Holocaust. In the absence of open dialogue, there’s no one countering the lies. Thus they believe those who whisper in their ears that there was no Holocaust.

It’s the same with the ideas of white supremacists. Many of them, for example, believe that white people are more intelligent than those who aren’t. White supremacists say no one can talk about it because it’s not “politically correct”. Forbidding people from talking about it publicly means no one’s countering the lies with the truth in the public forum. It’s better for some idiot to be able to say such things, then show that they’re wrong.

Make no mistake – what the white supremacists are saying is hate speech. The mere fact that it is hate speech is not reason enough to ban it though. The way to stop the perpetuation of hate and ignorance by these people is to make sure everyone knows they’re wrong. More and more people are realizing that. Once upon a time racism was common. The Ku Klux Klan could parade through the streets of the South to cheers of support. Now their attitudes belong to only a very few on the margins of society. The majority support those who take part in counter protests, and the counter protestors are far larger in number.


Native American proverb



If you enjoyed reading this, please consider donating a dollar or two to help keep the site going. Thank you.



37 Responses to “On Charlottesville and Freedom of Speech”

  1. Diana MacPherson says:

    I too don’t like the destruction of statues & maybe it’s my Classics background that makes me this way because it was always so frustrating when you wish you could see some artifact but some doofus brother got in a fight with his sibling & erased him from history by destroying all monuments or frescos or whatever of him. At the same time, some people say that seeing those statues makes them feel like second class citizens in their own country and I think we should listen to them too. People in Quebec have to be surrounded by references to the queen in Canada all the time (even in the money) & I’d be willing to change all that to make them feel more comfortable as citizens in their own country. I’d hope others would too and I’d hope Americans would want all their citizens to feel equal.

    I actually thought the monuments could be removed but not destroyed and instead placed in a museum that put them in their correct context (both by being in a museum & by explaining their place while at the museum).

    I think the difference with churches is they don’t have the obligation to all citizens that the state does. The church is obliged to its parishioners and represents only them. The state is obliged to all citizens. Perhaps that is why the state should do something about statues while we don’t expect the same from churches. I know, my very liberal side is showing – the part where I think government has a greater role to play in protecting its citizens, which includes universal healthcare, pharmacare, and free education. I would come off as a real pinko in the US. In Canada I’m just seen as unrealistic on a couple items.

    • Sticking them in museums is a good option too, and I agree with a lot of what you write. .

      The first time I wrote about this in a religious context somewhere else, I asked how people would feel if atheists went around destroying statues of Jesus and Mary. Other examples, of course, are the Taliban destroying the giant Buddhas and DAESH destroying countless pre-Islamic artefacts.

      I have no wish to prolong or induce suffering in anyone. I think that without the fact that there is clearly still significant racism and other bad treatment going on, the statues would make no difference. They’ve become a symbol of the real problem. Many were put up because some white people felt like they were the ones losing out which, of course is ridiculous. It’s like claiming your marriage is diminished because same-sex marriage is allowed.

      Different places have been discussing different ways to handle this for a long time, and some have come up with solutions. (Most continue to argue.) The statues are usually relocated to Civil War cemeteries.

      This has become a problem because of the white supremacist a$$holes. Them adopting this as a cause has all but guaranteed the statues will be destroyed.

    • Robert Ladley says:

      Diana, are you saying that people in Quebec should have special treatment viz the images of the queen everywhere? There are images of the queen (and other royalty) all over Canada and like it or not Quebec is a province of Canada.
      I am not by the way disagreeing with your sentiments regarding images of “monarchs appointed by divine decree”.

      • Diana MacPherson says:

        No, I’m saying that as Canadians, none of us should not be subjected to the pseudo rule of a foreign monarchy – one that defeated the French who are now our fellow Canadian citizens. If I were French speaking, I’d grow tired of this English monarchy always in my face and I’m will ing to give up such a thing because I care more about my fellow Canadians feeling they belong in Canada than I do allegiance to a foreign monarch.

  2. Ken says:

    I also don’t like the idea of destroying statues. On the other hand, while I don’t know how true it is, I read that the majority of the statues in question were erected in the 20th century. The one I’m most familiar with, of Lee and Jackson in Baltimore, I visited in 1998. Having driven by it regularly for several decades, I decided to go see it close up and discovered it was erected in 1948! This was a time when the post war civil rights movement was just starting. Tell me a statue of those two in a city that wasn’t even part of the Confederacy wasn’t meant as a message to uppity darkies!

    It’s a lovely statue and the first double equestrian statue in the US, so has historical significance. I’d be fine with this and others being put in very clear context in their current location. I’m also fine with them being relocated as Baltimore is doing with the four that were removed. But honestly, this statue should never have been erected in the first place and I could accept it being destroyed too. It is absurd that they would be left any longer, unmodified, to preserve history. No one is going to forget that they were erected or why. I’m glad some cities are being shaken out of their inaction, because it widens the options before crowds take matters into their own hands. And it’s satisfyingly ironic that it’s modern racists themselves that are causing these monuments to their ancestor’s racism to finally be dealt with.

    • Bob Terrace says:

      I agree with Ken. I have no problem destroying statues erected 100 years after the US Civil War. These were put up to intimidate.

    • As I said in my last post on this, I wonder if that’s an aspect I don’t see quite the same as I would if I lived in the South of the US.

      NZ hasn’t had a perfect record on race relations by any means, but we have no history of slavery, legalized segregation, denial of voting rights etc. There were four Maori seats established in our (then) 99 seat parliament in 1867 (NZ parliament was only established in 1854 – we’re a very young country), which Maori voted for and were MPs for on an equal basis with other MPs. In fact, currently there are proportionately more Maori MPs in parliament than there are in the population. Inter-racial marriage is common, and that’s not a recent phenomenon. (Three of my mother’s six siblings married Maori, for example.) There are issues of inequality, but all governments, whatever party is in charge, are making genuine and effective efforts to address them. So, I don’t have the same background as someone my age (53) from the US South.

      All that must have an effect on how I see this.

    • j.a.m. says:

      @Ken: As long as we’re visiting the sins of the parents on their children to the nth generation, let’s demand that Comrade Nancy Pelosi denounce her father for promulgating this vile message of hate and intimidation.

      As mayor, Pelosi’s father presided over the erection and dedication of the statues. Before a crowd of several thousand, many waving Confederate flags, he praised Lee and Jackson as “great men”, and said: “Today, with our nation beset by subversive groups and propaganda which seeks to destroy our national unity, we can look for inspiration to the lives of Lee and Jackson to remind us to be resolute and determined in preserving our sacred institutions.” He called on Americans to “emulate Jackson’s example and stand like a stone wall against aggression in any form.”

      The private bequest that funded the statues stated, “They waged war like gentlemen, and I feel their example should be held up to the youth of Maryland.” But that poor schmuck is long gone. If we can puff ourselves up by smearing him and trashing his final civic gesture, that’s our business.

      • Ken says:

        You’re right. Baltimore should have just added a plaque to the monument that explains it’s ok to fight for a racist cause, and honor those who did, so long as one remains a gentleman while doing it. I’m sure Nancy would be pleased to do the unveiling.

        • j.a.m. says:

          Who, in your view, is not a racist?

          • Ben Goren says:

            Pro tip: one of the most effective ways to establish your bona fides as a racist is to accuse everybody of being racist. We’re all racists, right? So there’s no problem being a racist, hey? I’m a racist, he’s a racist, she’s a racist, wouldn’t you like to be a racist, too?

            Since you ask for examples of non-racists, I would suggest that an easy, surefire (but far from exclusive!) identification would be those who are members of interracial marriages, The offspring of such are almost never racists. Close family members might be, but increasingly rarely.

            It’s also a reasonably safe bet that those who work in the public sector probably aren’t. Most doctors, librarians, civil servants, etc., are humanists, not racists. There are exceptions, sure, but they tend to be both rare and closeted.

            Those whose work includes the advocacy of civil rights are typically anti-racist, but it is fair to note a small-but-vocal and disturbing minority who advocate for the superiority of one or another non-white race. I doubt you’ll find any racists employed by the ACLU, but, yes, some in the BLM and Antifa movements are racists.

            The bigger question you should be pondering, though, is why you are so comfortable judging people not by the contents of their character but by the colors of their skin? What possible significance can there be in the degree of a person’s melanin expression?



        • j.a.m. says:

          As racist causes go, you can’t top old-fashioned British imperialism.

          Not to mention that Britain was the largest market for slave-produced cotton, or that the Confederacy would have collapsed without the support of British factories, mills and shipyards.

          So let’s commence the revisionism by inventing an anti-racist substitute for “Victorian”.

          • Next you’ll be telling us it was the slaves’ fault for getting caught by the slave traders.

          • Ken says:

            Removing monuments to racism from public places is not revisionist, let alone would be other suggestions made here, like adding context that reduced their effect. Erasing history is not the goal, reducing what looks to many like institutionally sanctioned racist symbols is the goal. There are still books and many even have pictures. We are not suggesting they be revised. The people who suffered this particular racism most certainly don’t want it forgotten, as should be terribly obvious, ffs. No, it is the racists, and people like you – and I do hope there is a difference, though you’re rather challenging us find it – who want to obscure the past by lying that there was some imaginary noble cause, or with apologetics like “everyone is racist, so hold no one responsible”.

          • j.a.m. says:

            Please don’t obfuscate. My comments are about one thing only: Hypocrisy.

            1. Pelosi complains about statues inside the Capitol building that she did nothing about during four years as House Speaker. She won’t say if her father was a racist.

            2. Rather than learn the actual history of a monument, Ken makes up a fable to fit a narrative.

            3. When it comes to history, context does matter, and having all the facts does matter. The historical fact is that indeed everyone WAS a racist — in the 19th Century, by retroactive standards, virtually everyone in Europe or of European extraction was a racist and white supremacist, including the entire political and military leadership on both sides of the Civil War. And if your moral yardstick is who profited from slavery (on both sides of the Atlantic), generals do not top the list. The historical fact is that few who died on the Confederate side were slave owners, and few who died on the Union side were fighting to end slavery.

            4. Moralizing is cheap if you only go after soft targets. I could muster a little more respect for your position when and if you take on the British monarchy and the many other symbols of British crimes against humanity.

            5. Keep in mind that a hundred years from now people will look on the abortion industry with the same repugnance we hold for slavery. And then deserved ignominy will befall the legacy of those politicians who today “stand with Planned Parenthood.”

          • Ben Goren says:


            Not only are you proudly parroting the KKK’s talking points, now you’re hijacking the thread to advocate that women should still be bonded into — literally! — forced labor.

            What next? Maybe harvest womens’s organs after they can’t bear any more children? You’re already claiming chattel ownership of their reproductive systems.

            Do you have any clue what century this is?


          • Ben Goren says:

            Never mind the racism j.a.m. is wearing on his sleeve. What about whataboutery!?

            Hey, didja know that there’s this guy in North Korea named, “Kim,” who’s even crazier than Drumpf? That means Drumpf must be the greatest person evar! And what about all these other horrible things, even worse than j.a.m.?

            Ooh — I know! What about whataboutery on toast?

            So…a serious question. Are you actually on Putin’s payroll, or are you merely in a passionate bromance with his professional trolls? What is it about Russian strong men that gets you so excited?


          • Ken says:

            Speaking of hypocrisy, listen to the master obfuscator of Heather’s Homilies lecture us on clarity! As I’ve said before, chutzpah is not something jam lacks.

            I’ve made nothing up. Baltimore has a very long history of institutionalised racism in the 20th century, let along the 19th, that anyone really so interested in actual history would know. If you think that’s incidental to the erection of such a monument, you are more deluded than I thought. And so Pelosi has it very wrong. That’s no argument for inaction at all.

            It’s not that you can site other examples of racism – few here would disagree there’s plenty around not being addressed – it’s that you’re using them to distract from the issue in front of us and to deny anything should be done about it. It’s not even like anyone here has been an apologist for Britain or other racism.

            And trying to conflate a woman’s moral right to choose with racism is just as wrong as it gets and simply more of your own befuddlement. If this is where your tour guide and translator have led you, you are not being served well by it at all.

            I’m off now for a while to see some sights. Do try and behave. Happy Spring, kiwis, and see you all in October.

          • Have a great time Ken! We’ll miss you. 🙂

  3. Ben Goren says:

    The first thing to understand is that the American Civil War was, first, foremost, and from start to finish, about slavery. Colonel Ty Seidule, head of history at West Point (the American Army’s elite officer’s academy) — arguably the man with the most prestigious American military history credentials, period — makes the point most forcefully in this five-minute Praeger U (yes, I know) video:

    The next thing to understand is that Lee was the general who led the Rebellion. The American Army — the same American Army that fights today — defeated him in what was, far and away, the deadliest and must brutal war America has ever experienced. Yes, we participated in WWI and WWII and many others; only in our own Civil War have our own casualties even come close to those Europeans and others experienced.

    A statue of Lee, in other words, has no more of a place in the American public today than a statue of Himmler would in Germany.

    I’d be okay with removing the statues to history (not art) museums, placed in displays that completely contextualized them, utterly without glorification.

    But, even then…do we need all of them preserved? Does Russia need every monument to Stalin preserved? Does Iraq need every portrait of Saddam Hussein preserved?

    “Book burning” is a rather incendiary phrase. But what of all the extra copies of books that don’t sell and the publishers wind up having to pulp? What of all the drafts of books (and student essays and business reports and and and) that get marked up with a pen and then tossed? What of all the documents with confidential information (including your own health and financial records) that are routinely securely shredded to protect their confidentiality?

    Nazi book burnings were intended to keep people from reading things Hitler himself was afraid of. Removing statues of racist mass murderers doesn’t keep people from learning about them and their history. Indeed, it does a better job of communicating current affairs: it says that we don’t glorify and respect racist mass murderers and we don’t erect shrines to them in our most hallowed public places.

    Even if we once used to.

    And if you want to know why, the public library’s just down the street and it’s open until 8:00 pm today….



  4. Thanks for your thoughtful response Ben. My comment above relates here too I think.

  5. Don says:

    From a lifelong South Carolinian who had a great, great, great grandfather who died in service to the CSA and a great, great who fought in 28 battles. I only point this out because I do have a dog in the fight. Memorials to fallen soldiers are one thing, monuments erected to white supremacy are another thing entirely. Many monuments were erected decades later as Southern Whites expanded their power over Blacks, the end of Reconstruction, the beginning of the Twentieth Century and the vitriol against immigrants “taking our jobs” and during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement. Put the memorials in museums or on Confederate grave sites. Get rid of the monuments to White Supremacy.

  6. Kevin Henderson says:

    Great Post.

    “The one you feed.” This is an answer, in my view, that serves as a significantly well fitting metaphor. A statue of a racist? A statue of a god long forgotten? An erotic Hindu sex pose on a building face? Urine on the face of a Jewish carpenter? I feed it to myself as art. Others feed an identify they want to be true.

  7. Randy schenck says:

    I mentioned over at Jerry’s site that I had changed my mind a bit on the statue business. I have always been against people who want to view history from their present position and time because it simply does not work. But this issues requires some spitting of hairs as they say. These civil war generals were in fact committing treason and then preceded to kill thousands of Union soldiers for the next four years. They did this to preserve slavery and their way of life. Some southern born also elected to stay with the union and fight to preserve it. Those are the people we should be honoring but today, who even pays attention.

    We cannot compare the likes of Jackson or Lee with our founding fathers – Washington or Jefferson or Madison. Yes they owned slaves but that is not why we honor them today. Washington did so many things to create this country it is almost impossible to name all of them, but fighting a war for 8 years against the British, having the stature to get folks to show up in Philly in 1787, and then being the first president for 8 years comes to mind. We would not have the country we have without Washington, no one comes close. Only Lincoln who prevented it’s failure can raise to this level.

    If the statues have the same affect on African Americans as the Confederate flag has – then take them all down. We simply do not need them in the way.

    • I’m wondering about the issue too, but at the same time I’m not sure that the appeal to history is the right answer either. Washington etc were traitors to – they were British citizens and were betraying the king. If they had lost, they wouldn’t be heroes. William the Bastard of Normandy became William the Conqueror in 1066. He won, so he got to write history. Nowadays, a statue to Harold Godwinsson isn’t controversial, but it would have been in the years following the conquest of England. The Queen can trace her ancestry to both William and Alfred the Great, but the Anglo-Saxon part of British heritage is thought of as more representative of England that the Normans of the Vikings and they contributed just as much, and did a lot of winning along the way.

      At the moment, those statues that were erected in reaction to the Civil Rights era etc are a kick in the teeth to many USians and there removal from places like the centre of town is appropriate, but I’m still not convinced that destroying them is the right thing in the long term. I do, however, understand why people feel that way. Also, I think the decision should lie with the communities concerned – someone like me can talk about it, but we shouldn’t have a say in the matter.

      • Ben Goren says:

        Washington led the American Revolution against King George, yes.

        Have you ever been to London?

        How many monuments to Washington did you see there?

        How appropriate do you think it would be, even today, to erect one there in his honor?

        Why, therefore, should Lee have a monument in his honor in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.?


        • I wouldn’t expect one because the revolution didn’t happen there.

          I meant to add to my comment that in my mind there is only one reason for getting rid on the monuments, but it’s a powerful one – compassion for those who suffer because of them.

          But to me a more powerful solution would be to put up monuments to heroes of the Civil Rights movement, anti-slavery heroes etc next to the old monuments. I think it would better show future generations that there was a struggle, but in the end the right side won. They got the equality they should have had all along. And making the new statues bigger would make a good point too.

          • Ben Goren says:

            I wouldn’t expect one because the revolution didn’t happen there.

            Fair enough.

            But, again, what of all the monuments to Stalin in Russia, to Saddam Hussein in Iraq…or even all the Nazi monuments that the Germans have long since removed? Should they all remain standing?

            Must we remain haunted by public adoration of our own mass murderers simply because they committed their atrocities on our own soil?

            I think the fundamental point you’re missing is that the Confederate Rebellion was all about preserving and expanding the institution of slavery, and slavery was as horrific as the Nazi Holocaust. Until you can wrap your head around that much, you’re not going to understand what the bid deal is.


          • I’ve said what I think about Nazi stuff in the post. The Swastikas were a political symbol and are mostly gone (as Yakaru, who lives in Germany noted) and I equate them with the confederate flag, which I also think should not be flown.

            I’ve admitted above there could be cultural context things I’m missing because of my different background, which has never included racism. Scores of members of my family are people of colour and that’s been the case since before I was born.

            It’s for the people of Iraq to decide about Hussein. Even though I think he was a monster and am naturally glad he’s gone, I didn’t like seeing the mob rule way his statue was toppled. The self-aggrandizement of both him and Stalin was pretty inappropriate in the first place. The size of his statue wasn’t normal either. I’m honestly not sure what the right answer is there. The country still has a long way to go.

            There are statues of Stalin in Russia, and a new one was installed in Crimea recently. He is one of history’s biggest monsters, but polls show many in Russia admire him, and he’s part of their history. I certainly hope they move to a place where they won’t be building any more statues to him, but they’re not there yet and won’t get there as long as Putin’s in power. They are currently in a place like the South was when it erected statues to Lee et al all over the place. Now in the US it’s time to build monuments to Civil Rights and Abolitionist heroes, and that’s a good thing. I think it’s possible to move to the future without denying the past. In fact I think acknowledgement of the past is essential. To me, that means keeping the old statues, though not necessarily in the same locations. I understand why others see the problem differently.

        • j.a.m. says:

          Yes, I have been to London, and there is a statue of Washington Trafalgar Square.

          • Ben Goren says:

            I was surprised to learn that you are correct…but not surprised to learn that you left out critical details.

            The statue was a gift of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1921, and it is on the grounds of and exhibited by the National Gallery.

            Further, Washington himself famously vowed he would never set foot again on British soil, so Virginia included some soil from Virginia that the statue might be placed upon — a gesture which should make plain that all were aware of the gross inappropriateness of the monument, even if they didn’t want to admit it to themselves.


          • I’m not sure it is inappropriate. It’s an acceptance that both countries have moved on and are now friends, and GB acknowledges that there was much about the “rebellion” that was valid. It’s a good sign I think that GB has got to a place where the statue can be there. I’m sure no Brits today feel it’s an insult to them.

  8. Keith Cook says:

    American history is strewn with bad treatment of Native Americans so does that mean any statues to their founding fathers and settlers (for that matter) should go as well, how black is brown and vice versa.
    Dangerous territory for me ( American history ) so i need to be clear but to my point.
    We are talking about oppressive dominant behaviour not exactly something to crow about so limit the visuals and confine it to well modulated history books after all it was another time and place IN history.
    Perhaps even expand the statues to both sides being depicted and to battlefield and historical sites to honour all dead and their place in American history.
    The craziness of extremism left and right is like the whole thing over again with indiscriminate violence with absolute crap thinking of what is fair and just, it’s history when does the learning from it commence?

  9. j.a.m. says:

    “Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

  10. j.a.m. says:

    After we tire of the histrionics, here is a thoughtful, informative and moving commentary, well worth reading in full.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.