holy cow, could this year be any weirder. remember 5 months ago when WWIII almost started and australia was on fire? that seems like 5 decades ago. like some tweet i saw somewhere in my constant scrolling and need for information overload, it’s like 1968 and 1918 are happening while nixon is president. (one could totally argue worse than nixon. like nixon, buchanan, and harding all rolled into one.) if you support trump at this point, my level of respect for you is at a low point. the man is a useless leader.
anyway. back to hindsight. what i really want to touch on during this short time i have your attention is what’s currently happening with statues and memorials that are being brought down.
the question surrounding this, of course, is if statues and memorials to confederate generals and the like really do enrich a person’s historical education or if it is just a glaring reminder to those whose lives were ground under the bootheel of slavery or colonization.
i’d argue that it is one thing to remember and learn from history; it is entirely another to glorify it. (i have a feeling i’m going to get a withering comment from my dad on this post.) it’s one thing to keep aushwitz open to tours as a reminder of horrific acts that happened under hitler and another if germany were to have multiple statues of hitler looking dapper throughout its country.
i think before we dive into the people who’ve been memorialized by art, we have to take a look at the notion of the confederacy. we all know what we learned in school. the confederacy seceded from the union in 1861. when lincoln was elected, the deep south thought their way of life was threatened, which was an economy based on free labor of people owned by other people. the war began in april 1861, and the deep south was joined by the upper south. a replacement government was put in place.
because the north was pretty industrialized vs. the south and was much better funded and supplied, the south fell after four years. it’s no doubt that gen. lee was a brilliant military tactician. the confederacy lasted four years, but its legacy has somehow remained. just four years as its seceded country and then losing, and the south is still pissed that its economy was dissembled to give all people the opportunity to live free lives. (the current prison system is another story and another blog post.)
no doubt that the south and the confederacy were on the wrong side of history. it was a secessionist goverment that waged war against the united states so they could own other people and enslave them. so the question we need to ask is why it seen as “heritage”? so white people can continue to flaunt racist ideals? does the glorification of the confederate “heroes” continue to make flaunting those ideals ok?
that’s what i mean by glorifying. it’s hard to tell people to stop being racist when they can point to town squares with statues of slaveowners that residents proudly hold up as heroes. it hard to be anti-racist when you wave a flag that represents not just valor justice, purity, and the 13 confederate states, but the willingness of southerners to FIGHT for the right to OWN PEOPLE. and that represents a losing side! i can’t imagine what it’s like to be one of the people that an entire populace went to war to own, especially after that side lost and people are still proudly waving a failed, 4-year government flag 150 years later.
(oh but kate what about the time before the confederacy when they were a part of the united states and they were included in the union? the union turned a blind eye to slavery to reap the economic benefits! so you don’t want to wave the US flag? i would argue that the united states and its flag is ever-changing and working to improve. just like people whose opinions change and evolve, so does a country. also, quit idolizing flags.)
what i’m amazed by with all the confederate statues in the south: doesn’t the south have ANY OTHER heroes or important people? it was a bleak time in the US history, but it’s been 150 years, and there have been plenty of other opportunities for great people to make an impact. there are great people who were from the south who worked hard to get rid of slavery – why not memorialize them, if they want a statue in a place?
holy cow, i am digressing in this post.
so let’s take a look at a few of the people whose statues have been taken down.
charles linn: a captain in the confederate navy, banker, industrialist. one of the founders of birmingham. the statues was installed in just 2013! his statue was taken down after an unsuccessful attempt to remove a nearby confederate soldiers and sailors monument.
confederate monument: this was the oldest confederate monument in north carolina. it was removed by the owner.
robert e. lee: oof ho boy. there are a lot of lee. no doubt he was a brilliant military leader. he was actually a colonel in the US army from 1829-1861. if my memory serves me right, he was asked to lead the union army, but he was born in virginia and so his loyalties lay in the south. he didn’t seem like he necessarily wanted a war. he said “i do not believe in secession as a constitutional right, nor that there is sufficient cause for revolution.” the man served much more time on the US side than the confederate side, yet he is only known for the confederate side. he’s undoubtedly the face and name of the confederacy.
holdup here a moment. as i’m perusing the list of monuments removed, a LOT of them – and i’m talking majority – have been removed by cities or owners or other public entities. many are being moved to museums or organizations that preserve historical monuments. INTERESTING.
so many of the symbols of the confederacy are being removed from prominent locations like parks, city halls, and other locales that are places of honor and moving to places where you would expect historical items to be.
i’m glad you are with me on this discovery, readers. this is important to point out and really focuses on my initial arguments: these items are being removed from a location glorifying them and being placed in a location of history. we are not erasing history. we are just choosing not to glorify a piece of history that represents nothing but oppression for a large populace of the citizens of our country, our united states.
dang, i was all excited to do a “christopher columbus is trash and here’s who should replace him” post, but turns out a lot of these public entities are doing the right thing.
oh what the heck.
christopher columbus is trash, and i’m not at all sad about his statues around the country being dumped into bodies of water. i especially love that the charge is being led by american indians*.
“oh look, i discovered the atlantic!” – CC, probably.
here’s some cool statues, per my twitter followers: mr. rogers in pittsburgh, mary tyler moore in minneapolis, statue of liberty, salmon sculpture in portland, the girl standing up to the bull on wall street, actual ART like the thinker, easter island heads, etc. check out this boredpanda page for a bunch of cool looking art/statue installations!
* one thing this has led me to examine is mt. rushmore. i’ve visited many times; it was a staple stop on family trips to the black hills. it’s a national monument, but it was also the six grandfathers to the lakota. the original idea, by a doane robinson, was to carve american west heroes like lewis clark, sacacawea, red cloud, crazy horse, and buffalo bill into the mountain, but borglum thought it should have broader appeal and chose four presidents (who happened to be white men). oh, and borglum? a member of the KKK and had a deep believe in nordic moral superiority. excellent! so while rushmore is something i have a lot of past investment in, i also wouldn’t be sad if the NPS decided to relinquish control back to the lakota. it was theirs to begin with, anyway.