Jefferson statue pulled down, Lincoln is next

I go back and forth on how we deal with famous people who had views that, while widespread in their time, would be rightly seen as odious were they expressed today. For example, there was hardly an Anglophone white man before the turn of the 20th century who wasn’t a racist or had some association with oppressing people of color.  These include Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, who kept slaves, Winston Churchill, who was a nativist and bigot, and Charles Darwin, who, although an abolitionist, clearly expressed views on the superiority of white people that would be excoriated today.

What do we do with statues of such people, or buildings named after them? I suppose my solution would be to take it on a case by case basis. For example, statues of Confederate generals put up after the war to celebrate white supremacy seem “problematic”. But we pull them down, as is happening recently to widespread acclaim, or do we give them “context” with explanatory plaques or “counter-statues” nearby? My views tend to be not to erase history, but, when that history is especially odious, to “contextualize” it. Or, as with the Nuremberg stadium where Hitler held his famous rallies, just let them go to seed. (I think they’ve done this in Sofia, Bulgaria with Soviet-era statues.)

Here are three cases in which I can see the problem, but don’t favor effacing history. This comes from my judgment that, on balance, the good done by these people outweighs what bad stuff stemmed from their views. In other words, a memorial serves not only a celebratory purpose, but a historical one. This puts me at odds with many of my fellow Leftists, but let me know your own take.

Thomas Jefferson statue. This article comes from Oregonlive.com (click on screenshot). Protestors pulled down a statue of Jefferson from an eponymous high school in Portland, Oregon:

From the report:

Earlier in the day, the statue’s pedestal had been defaced with graffiti that, among other things, identified Jefferson as a slave owner.

Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence that proclaimed “that all men are created equal,” publicly decried slavery — even as he enslaved hundreds of people and profited from their forced labor.

It was unclear when the statue was taken down, but by 10 p.m. when dozens of protesters streamed back onto the football field at Jefferson High School, the statue was no longer standing.

The crowd cheered as an organizer announced: “There’s an interesting piece of history up here… Mr. Thomas is all beside himself.”

“We’re taking this city back,” the organizer said, “One school at a time. One racist statue at a time.”

Yes, Jefferson had slaves (and took one for a mistress), but he’s perhaps the most famous and accomplished of the founding fathers, author the Declaration of Independence, of the Virginia Constitution (which served as a model for the U.S. version), of the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom (calling for the separation of church and state), the third President of the U.S., and the founder of the University of Virginia (for which he forbade a theology school).

Perhaps I’m soft on TJ because he went to The College of William and Mary, my alma mater (a statue of TJ at the College was defaced three years ago, as was a statue of James Monroe, also a slaveholder), but it seems to me that the good he did for our country outweighs his status as a slaveowner (which, as I understand, was always problematic for him). Are we then to further efface Jefferson from our history because he had slaves? If so, then also efface George Washington, who had hundreds of slaves. Shall we tear down the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument? If not, and you think statues to Jefferson are racist, why not?

And if you want to “contextualize” this statue (doesn’t everybody know now about Jefferson, his slaves, and Sally Hemings?), how would you do it?

Abe Lincoln Statue. In Boston, a statue of Abraham Lincoln might be removed because it shows him towering over a kneeling slave, even though Lincoln was neither a slaveowner nor an advocate of slavery. After all, he did sign the Emancipation Proclamation and did not, contrary to the claims of the NYT’s 1619 Project, favor sending blacks back to Africa, the land of their ancestors.

The statue in Boston:

As WBUR News in Boston reports:

The statue in the city’s Park Square is a replica of the Emancipation Memorial in Washington and depicts Lincoln with one hand raised above a kneeling man with broken shackles on his wrists.

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The statue is meant to show Lincoln freeing the man from slavery, but a petition against the statue says it “instead represents us still beneath someone else.”

The petition was started by Tory Bullock, a Boston man who says the statue has long led him to ask, “If he’s free why is he still on his knees?” His call to remove the memorial had attracted nearly 6,000 signatures as of Saturday.

The Boston Globe reports that Mayor Marty Walsh is in favor of removing the statue and is interested in replacing it with something that recognizes equality. Walsh’s office said the administration is looking into the process required to make the change.

I have to say that, in a modern context, it’s a tad cringeworthy. However, the question “If he’s free why is he still on his knees?” might not be relevant if Lincoln is seen in the process of raising up those who were downtrodden. A statue made today wouldn’t—and shouldn’t—show a crouching black man, but are we to tear this down because it was made in 1876, not long after Lincoln died? If you think it should stay up but be contextualized, how would you contextualize it? At least we don’t have to tear down statues of Lincoln by himself, like the great marble sculpture in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Winston Churchill Statue. Even though who admire Churchill, as I do, must admit that the man was flawed. He was a white supremacist who made rabidly bigoted comments about others. He was also a jingoist who favored the perpetuation of the British Empire. As Newsweek mentioned when discussing the government’s plans to perhaps remove the statue from its place in Parliament Square:

“Churchill was quite explicit that he did believe that white people were superior,” Prof Richard Toye, head of history at the University of Exeter, has said.

“He said he disliked Chinese people, he described Indians as a beastly people with a beastly religion, by which he meant Hinduism. He often described Africans as being sort-of childlike. He was certainly criticized during his own lifetime for having outdated, antiquated views on race.

“We know that he made very negative comments about Indians and blamed them really for the [Bengal famine in 1943], saying it was their fault for breeding like rabbits. But that’s not to say that he deliberately planned or engineered the famine or wanted to perpetuate deliberate genocide against Indians.”

Even his granddaughter, Emma Soames, accepted that Churchill’s views “particularly now are regarded as unacceptable but weren’t necessarily then” but “he was a powerful, complex man, with infinitely more good than bad in the ledger of his life.”

I would agree with that, but others might differ. After all, he did save Britain from being Nazified during WWII, and helped end the Hitler regime, which killed millions, forever. There’s no doubt that, at least for a time, he was one of the world’s great leaders.

His statue, however, is being defaced because he was deemed racist.

The statue had been covered with a protective cage, but the cage was removed for a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron. This picture is from a Reuters report. Some say that the statue should be put in a museum rather than left in the open, where it will surely be defaced in the future.

The issue of what to do with statues celebrating flawed or even thoroughly odious people is not an easy one, though to some it seems simple: pull ’em down! But by so doing you are erasing history, and, as we all know, not all of history is pleasant. It pains us to remember much of it, but do we erase the pain by erasing the past? Remember, erasure of history was Winston Smith’s job in Orwell’s novel 1984. I’d hate to think that, four decades after the time of Orwell’s prognostications, we’re approaching this kind of erasure for real.

Now I don’t favor leaving all statues up, but I’m generally in favor of it with “contextualization” of the more problematic ones. As a (secular) Jew, I still wouldn’t call for a statue of Hitler to be removed, but simply contextualized, perhaps with the kind of memorial to exterminated Jews that one sees in Israel or in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

By all means give your own take on this issue, including the three men above, in the comments.

254 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. John Donohue
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    The issue of Public/Private property is at the heart of this issue. My opinion is that we have too much public space, and that we do not protect the rights of expression on private.

    If I erect a sculpture on my property, even if it is visible from public space, that is free speech. Do not touch it.

    What to do about expression in/on “Public” spaces?? Don’t allow it. No creche on the lawn of the post office, no murals on the courthouse, no statues of [anyone] at the entrance to a city park.

    By the way, note to the PullDowners: Don’t neglect the recent Darling of the Woke — Alexander Hamilton. He was a slave broker and possibly kept a domestic slave for his own use.

    • Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      I agree. Frankly, who needs statues of famous or historic figures? They are usually no very good likenesses anyway.

      • Adam M.
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        Should we pull down statues of MLK and Malcolm X too, then? (After all, they were “problematic” too.)

        • John Donohue
          Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

          Yes. The principle is the principle. No art, commentary, slant … just function. That is the only fair way.

          We don’t need an authority (government) telling individuals what to value.

          • GBJames
            Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

            “We don’t need an authority (government) telling individuals what to value.”

            I assume this means we should not have statues like these installed on public (government) property.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      If I erect a sculpture on my property, even if it is visible from public space, that is free speech. Do not touch it.

      But you have no free-speech right to prevent the government from putting up a row of hedges or trees on a nearby public right-of-way to block it from public display, agreed?

      • John Donohue
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        Go ahead, Gov. Plant a hedge on the “public” road so you don’t have to see my statue of Jesus, Ayn Rand, Charles Darwin, or Karl Marx.

        This goes back to my other point … to much “public.”

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted June 18, 2020 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          … to [sic] much “public.”

          Think it’s time we sell off Yellowstone and Yosemite to private interests for mineral rights and theme parks?

          • John Donohue
            Posted June 18, 2020 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

            No. Sell them to private trusts who will keep them wild forever.

            And that’s beside the point. Expression of ideas, such as represented by art, should not be allowed in government spaces. It is the inclusive of the 1st Amendment. Gov should not ‘establish’ any orthodoxy of ideas.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted June 18, 2020 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

              No expression of ideas in government spaces? So no public libraries? No public museums? No public concerts or theaters? Must the frescoes be torn out of the dome of US Capitol rotunda?

              Who’s going to fund these “private trusts” that will own Yellowstone and Yosemite? And do the private trusts get to say who gets to visit and use the parks? Get to run them for profit?

              • Posted June 19, 2020 at 3:11 am | Permalink

                I’m not too sure how that would work. Would it be like the NRA? Or Greenpeace? Or a corporation or monopoly? And, what say would the populace have over decisions made on their behalf by the trust? Would there be mining or oil exploration in Yellowstone (or my favorite place, Chaco) or killing off of the wildlife by sportsmen? As it is, we have too many “private individuals” such as corporations making decisions for, we the people, over which we have no control. Please, no more.

    • Posted June 18, 2020 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      A different take: the heart of the issue is no less than how we should view the history of the world since Columbus. Is it a history full of white men as heroes — admirable, albeit “flawed” (but who isn’t?) — who spread civilization around the globe, built new nations, professed new philosophies, amassed great fortunes with their ingenuity and industriousness? Or is it a history where these very men are villains, oppressors, exploiters, ethnic cleansers, who as Marx memorably said (of the abstract entity that’s the driving force behind them) were “dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt”?

      Most people were taught the first version in school, with at best a vague idea that the second exists, if even that. In reality, historical figures who are still widely remembered today for what they did (as opposed to what they said and wrote) are often a bit of both. They navigated new waters — literally or figuratively — but also looted and killed and enslaved, and very often the navigation was in service of the looting and enslavement. The American Revolution is a case in point: there’s credible evidence that it was motivated in part by the fear that slavery would be outlawed if the British rule continued. And sure enough, however “revolutionary” it might have been, it left slavery intact.

      Now people who think the second version has not been duly acknowledged are demanding acknowledgment. Overall I think this is a good development. What harms people like Jefferson and Churchill had done, whether the bad outweigh the good, is the debate we should be having. (For what’s its worth, in the case of Churchill I think a case can be made that he wasn’t much better than Stalin; at least the difference isn’t as great as the standard narrative makes it out to be.) If it takes some acts of vandalism to get people to even have this debate, I say so be it.

  3. Posted June 18, 2020 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    No one is perfect, and you can find flaws with anyone if you look deep enough. You won’t have any heroes, role-models, or people to look up to if you are focused on finding fault rather than recognizing the achievements they made.

    Statues are to honor people for the good work they did, and in doing so we have overlook their flaws. This is particularly important to consider when judging people of the past with the morals of the present. They are a time machine that helps give you an idea of the mindset and morals of people of the time, rather than a way of trying to impose our morals on them.

    Certainly there are statues that should be removed, because the reasons for erecting them are misguided or racist. However I don’t think you can put Jefferson or Churchill in either category. See my previous paragraph.

    If this sort of thinking continues, I can easily imagine a time in the future when people like MLK or members of the Underground Railroad are criticized because they weren’t vegan or vegetarian.

    • potaman
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      If someone suggested putting up a statue of Stalin for leadership during the second world war, one would rightly bring up the purges and the holodomor. The trouble with Churchill is that this aspect of his life is swept under the rug. It’s not just the racism. At least 3 million of his own people died of hunger during the war. His government set up a system of concentration and torture camps in Kenya after knowing what the Nazis did. Obama’s grandfather was tortured by churchill’s thugs.

      • Frank Bath
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        I assume the three million figure refers to the British Empire not Britain where people only went hungry.

        • Potaman
          Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

          Refers to Bengal in particular. There’s the whole behavior in Kenya after the war. How many Americans look at a Churchill statue and think of the concentration camps the man set up in Kenya?

          • Posted June 19, 2020 at 3:27 am | Permalink

            In this regard, Churchill was a piker. Stalin’s famine of 1932 – 33 is estimated to have killed off up to 12,000,000 people in the Ukraine and elsewhere by starvation (other estimates: 3.3 and 7.5 million according to Wiki). Again, per Wikipedia: “According to the findings of the Court of Appeal of Kiev in 2010, the demographic losses due to the famine amounted to 10 million, with 3.9 million direct famine deaths, and a further 6.1 million birth deficits (sic).” However, there are still many Ukrainians who love Mother Russia.

      • Posted June 19, 2020 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        In the English town where I grew up, Colchester, there is still a Stalin Road. Churchill Way and Roosevelt Way are there too. One can guess the era when this housing estate was built – not long after 1945. To me it a good thing to preserve, as it reflects a brief period in history when these three men were world-leaders, whether one liked it or not. It would also be awfully inconvenient to all those who have Stalin Road as their address to have to change to a new one.

        As far as I can see this is the only Stalin Road in the UK, and there are probably very few anywhere else in Europe, or even in Russia. It is one of the minor annoyances of life that if you visit a foreign city with a map a few years old it is often nearly useless because so many of the streets have been renamed because of political correctness.

    • Mike Mayer
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      “Statues are to honor people for the good work they did, and in doing so we have overlook their flaws.”

      For the confederate statues that was the stated reason, but I think the real reason was to reinforce who was in charge in the south. Just like the timing of incorporating the confederate flog in some state flags or flying it over the statehouse. They were reactions to the civil rights movement, not a way to honor history.

      In addition, the history they claim to honor is a revisionist history of the civil war.

      I think the idea of contextualizing is a good one. Just taking them down allows people to remain ignorant of what actually happened. The contextualization will allow people to educate themselves if they want to.

      • Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        I wrote yesterday that taking down the confederate statues is a good thing because those statues were an attempt to erase history themselves–the gains made during the Reconstruction Era, which stopped far short of what was needed. The statues were put up once the Federal Troops left and in waves throughout the Jim Crow era to solidify white supremacy over the South and pretend that blacks never had rights at all. Hell, our textbooks do a lousy job of teaching Reconstruction (certainly here in Texas) because of pressure and revisionism by sympathetic scholars. Within a few generations, most of the rights and freedoms gained in those 10 years were buried or forgotten, put under by the forces that be.

        This isn’t destroying history to remove those statues. I’m totally okay for moving them into museums in the Civil War sections, or on the battlefields to mark the places in the battle lines where those men were (that would give some context and landmarks to find one’s way around… if there aren’t already a bunch of landmarks to begin with.

        I’m uncertain about how to think of the statues of Jefferson and Churchill, because they are certainly known more for their statesmen work and crisis leadership than slavery or racism. Most of the unpleasantness has been swept under the rug, but it can be brought to give better definition. The trouble with the Confederate statues is that they all lived and fought for the preservation of the immoral system of slavery. They fought against the United States as their own Confederate country. That’s THE legacy these men left behind, and what most of them would complain was gone (or going) until the day they died. Even in defeat their minds weren’t changed, and certainly not their families for generations. And people in the south today are still fighting the war in their minds because of the myths we all grew up with. It’s time to let the Old South die.

        • sugould
          Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

          This isn’t destroying history to remove those statues.

          Yes. And as statues were mass-produced “reminders” to black Americans, I don’t mourn their loss.

      • Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        You could always remove a statue if the stated reason for honoring them is no longer acceptable, eg. Confederate statues. However you don’t remove one if your argument is not related to that, eg. Don’t remove a statue honoring Jesse Owens for his Olympic wins because he held some opinions that are unacceptable now (I’m just making this up for examples sake).

        • Ricardo de Hollanda
          Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

          Totally agree. Confederate generals were honored for fighting to keep slavery. That’s their only claim to fame. There is no valid reason to keep their statues.

          • Steve Pollard
            Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

            I dunno. I think people like Lee, Jackson, Stuart and Forrest deserve to be remembered for their abilities as military commanders. I am completely opposed to obliterating people from history for any reason, even if part of their behaviour was reprehensible from our own privileged point of view.

            • tomh
              Posted June 18, 2020 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

              “I am completely opposed to obliterating people from history for any reason,”

              Removing a statue is not obliterating anyone from history. History is written in books, concrete figures have nothing to do with history.

              • Posted June 19, 2020 at 3:54 am | Permalink

                Statues and other art forms, paintings, stained glass windows, poetry, music, etc. are as much history as any printed or film media is. In addition to Robert E Lee et al, Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, Little Black Sambo, Uncle Remus are also reminders of a different time and represented that time to a given group of people. How far back should we go in ridding ourselves of statues that remind us of past atrocities by “heroes”? How far back in the history of slavery, and slavery of many different colors of people?

                Anger over the inequities of history and the present day lead to expressions of violence against symbols because that is safer than directing physical anger at one’s fellow human beings. How do you select one or more living persons to injure in retribution for centuries of mistreatment and grief, into the present day? This will not change a thing. When the defacing and/or destruction of statues is over, there is still a huge amount of work we must do together to bring about change.

            • phoffman56
              Posted June 18, 2020 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

              “I think people like Lee, Jackson, Stuart and Forrest deserve to be remembered for their abilities as military commanders.”

              And maybe Hitler should be in Germany for his ability to build autobahns??

              • Doug
                Posted June 18, 2020 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

                Nathan Bedford Forrest was a slave-trader before the war, a war criminal during it [allowing his men to murder Black prisoners], and a Ku Klux Klan leader after it. He deserves to be remembered as one of the most loathsome characters in American history. If there’s a Hell, he’s in it.

                How many statues of Grant and Sherman are in the South? Don’t they deserve to be remembered for their abilities as military leaders?

                As others have said, no-one is suggesting removing these men from the history books. History should be as accurate as possible, and that includes Lincoln, MLK and everyone else. When I was in 5th grade in 1971, our history textbook said that Lee did not own slaves, and was in fact opposed to slavery.
                Rubbish! And this was in Connecticut! I can imagine what kids are being taught in the South.

                Another thing–why is there this obsession with equating “The South” with the Confederacy? The Confederacy lasted 4 years. “The South” has a long history stretching from the founding of St. Augustine and Jamestown to the present. Surely Southerners can find other historical figures to admire–Frederick Douglass and Rosa Parks for example. (Not all “Southerners” were/are white.)

              • W.Benson
                Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

                What I remember General W. T. Sherman for is his scorched-earth policy, war on civilians and private property (stuff that later would be called war crimes), and his statement to the effect that “the only good Indian was a dead Indian.” Otherwise, he was an A-ok guy.
                And it’s not like Stuart, Jackson, and Forrest burned New York City the way Sherman did Atlanta.
                Slavery in the South, of course (and to say the minimum), was unacceptable, as was Abraham Lincoln’s thesis that different races could not live together as one on American soil, and therefore Afro-Americans at war’s end should be resettled outside of the United States (Lincoln was investigating 3 Caribbean destinations: Panama, British Guiana, and Belize; an experiment using Haiti in 1863 had failed) using funds appropriated by Congress.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted June 20, 2020 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

                @W.Benson:

                Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman pursued a “scorched earth” policy on his March to the Sea regarding railroad tracks, crop fields, buildings and other property. But he strictly forbade his troops from taking physical retribution against civilians.

                “War is hell,” as the man said. And he aimed to dissuade the South from pursuing any further.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      I appear to remember MLK was criticized for abating in a rape one of his companions committed.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    The only way I can put this subject as a reader of American history is, many people simply do not seem capable of studying or reading history. They assume their values and culture today should apply to all those they might read about or study, regardless of how long ago that was or what the culture of that day was. They pretend to believe in this thing called democracy but the fact that a majority of people back 250 years ago believed in slavery or at least white superiority means nothing to them. Just ignore all that because today I believe this. It is a great ignorance of history itself.

    What I have to say to all those who want to run out and demolish all the statues to people such as Jefferson, Washington or Lincoln, you are the worst of us all. You will next want to censor the books or burn them to remove these people from history. If you insist on taking your values and culture with you to study history your best bet would be don’t go. The trip will be wasted.

    • GBJames
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      I think you misunderstand what history is. Statues are not history. They are artifacts. History is the story of why the statues are there. History is also the story of why they are taken down. History does not suffer when statuary is removed.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:19 am | Permalink

        I don’t think you are taking any of this seriously. You think because some people go out and take down a statue, that is all there is to it. You should think again. People who want to judge people in the distant past is what is wrong and stupid. They will soon want to remove these people from history either through book burning or censorship. They will re-write history based on their own values and judgement. That is exactly what was wrong with our early history of African Americans and the American Indians. This is what Stalin did. This is what dictators do.

        • GBJames
          Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:26 am | Permalink

          If by “taking seriously” you mean agreeing with you, then no, I guess I’m not. I am completely serious about the need to remove Confederate statues for the reasons I would advocate that we not erect statues honoring Erwin Rommel and Osama bin Laden.

          As for your fear of history being “re-written”, this is like begin afraid of psychology or evolution being “re-written”. History is “re-written” every time a new book or article about the past is authored. What you should be concerned about is how accurate or inaccurate history is when it is re-written. The existence of statues dedicated to Confederate traitors in places of honor has nothing to do with that question.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

            The best advice I can give, I already have. Best idea would be don’t make the trip.

          • Steve Pollard
            Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

            Rommel was a fairly honourable man, as far as Nazi Generals go. I don’t know if there is a statue of him in Heidelheim, but if there was, even as a Brit I would not be agitating to have it pulled down.

            • Florent
              Posted June 18, 2020 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

              Unfortunately, he wasn’t. Most of that honourable reputation of his was constructed during the 50′ and 60′ by ex-Whehrmacht officiers and soldiers who wanted to appear cleaner than what they were.

              Recent historiography has shown that they were as bad as the SS. And Rommel didn’t escape that rewriting of his personality.

      • Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        I differ somewhat, GB. Art history may indeed suffer when statuary is removed — depending on the statuary, of course. It it’s a massive one-of-a-kind sculpture on the National Register, it probably has some art historical value over and above its political value. To me, there’s a huge difference between banning flags and changing street names versus destroying the artifacts of art history. I’m ok with removal of some statues, but art history is not entirely reducible to politics and not as dispensible as a mass-produced flag from Wal-Mart. If you disagree,don’t worry, I’ve already caught a lot of hell from my progressive friends over this 🙂

        • GBJames
          Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

          OK. If a specific bit of statuary has special artistic merit, let’s put it where we put other bits of valuable art, in a museum. But understand what you’re doing and don’t use make-believe art appreciation as an excuse for leaving socially-meaningful statuary in public places of honor.

          It is the difference between projecting Triumph of the Will on the wall of a public building 24/7 and having the film available for viewing at a library. The later serves the purposes of history. The former is a political statement being made in real time.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

            Yes, statuary of significant aesthetic value should be preserved — in appropriate places such as museums or galleries.

            They shouldn’t be left to stand sentry at courthouses or or other public buildings where they were placed to intimidate the descendants of slaves from exercising their voting franchise.

            • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

              Exactly. Just as a monument to the “Ten Commandments” also should not be there.

            • rickflick
              Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

              “statuary of significant aesthetic value”. Yes! Hard to imagine burning the Mona Lisa if it turned out Michelangelo was a slave holder.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted June 19, 2020 at 12:32 am | Permalink

                Well, it certainly is hard to imagine that isn’t it? – Mona Lisa not being a statue (even a wooden one which might explain your incendiary words), and Michelangelo not being the artist who painted her.

                Bernini had his mistress’s face slashed with a razor after she had an affair with his brother… Which made me feel very much less of him when I heard the story, though t remains that he was an extraordinarily great artist and certainly did not go about making statues in support of women’s servitude.

                But statues such as we are talking about are erected for political reasons, as, essentially an expression of power and as propaganda, and though there be a few exceptions they are not of any great artistic originality or interest, if at all. The Mona Lisa is not a political picture with a political message, Michelangelo certainly worked with powerful patrons, but he wasn’t in the business of churning out propaganda on their behalf, and that, among many other more important things, is why he was a great artist, and also why his patrons respected him.

              • rickflick
                Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:11 am | Permalink

                Sorry, Leonardo wasn’t it. I guess you crushed my clever analogy. I’ll go back to the drawing board.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted June 19, 2020 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

                Be careful what you draw on it! Not another Mona Lisa! Best wishes.

          • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

            +1. Well put GB.

  5. ploubere
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately that is the false equivalency argument, that if we remove Confederate statues then we also have to remove the Founding Fathers.

    We erect statues to historic figures who contributed something of significance to the country and the world, in spite of their other failings. So, Thomas Jefferson is recognized for his role in the founding of the Republic, whereas Jefferson Davis did nothing worthy of honor but instead betrayed the Republic for the most insidious of causes. They are not equivalent.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      I took so long writing my comment below, that I didn’t see yours. Agree completely.

      • ploubere
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        great minds 🙂

  6. Robert Ryder
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I have lived all my life in the South (grew up in Georgia, live in North Carolina now). I’m a white male and am all for pulling down the Confederate statues. What country allows monuments to defeated rebels to stand? Or names military bases after them. Enough. But do it with as much respect as you can muster. If the Daughter of the Confederacy wants the statue, let them put it on their property. But Jefferson and Lincoln?!! That’s where you lose me. Even many white abolitionists were racists. Shall we rewrite history, Soviet style, while we’re at it?

  7. JB
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I find a strange (and somewhat cringey) penchant we have as a society that we want to create stone replicas of humans to commemorate their legacies. I think photos and text in history books are enough; leave 50 ft high statues for N Korea.

    It must be deeply painful for the Lakota Sioux to pass below Mt Rushmore and be reminded that the conquerers and murders of their tribe are etched into the mountains they’ve long considered sacred. It must be painful for a black American to have his daily commute pass beneath a statue of Washington or Jefferson. We can try and contextualize, but for some people it just won’t help.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      I think that Jefferson with his enlightened attitude, despite being a slave owner, contributed in the end to considering blacks as humans. I think it is a mistake to judge the past with the rules of the present. One should ask: within the historical context, did this guy (yes, generally a male) do more good than evil? I agree 100% with our host here.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      I find a strange (and somewhat cringey) penchant we have as a society that we want to create stone replicas of humans to commemorate their legacies. I think photos and text in history books are enough …

      Humans have been making sculptures of one another at least since the Venus of Hohle Fels — a good 35-40,000 years before Gutenberg’s printing press or Louis Daguerre’s proto-photography.

      Old habits die hard, I reckon.

  8. potaman
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    What makes 3 million Bengali lives less worthy than 3 million Ukrainian lives? Stalin’s contributions to fighting Hitler were any day greater than Churchill’s. But we rightly don’t praise Stalin and put up statues to him, because of the holodomor and the purges.

  9. samoffat@28gmailcom
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Symbols-of-history removal/defacement is getting out of hand! Museums must have paintings that include oppressors – tear them off the walls? Bulldoze the Coliseum – horrors of cruelty occurred therein? And on and on. Teach honest history and all its complexities in the schools with discussions of offensive statues erected after wars and other memorable events. The profound emotions leading to removal of hurtful statues is most certainly understandable but the way that it is being accomplished hints of mobism. In many cases (TJ for ex) serious, respectful removal with mention of the beneficial contributions to the country would be more appropriate? And then maybe a Museum of Statues, or Park somewhere, with full explanations?

    I wonder how The Supremes feel about statue removal. It permitted the cross to remain on public property – a symbol of oppression to many of us. Are statues a historical expression of free speech? So many puzzlements….

  10. Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Rarely do ‘they’ have statues of physicists. I doubt a physicist would be offended if they destroyed a statue of themselves. They’d probably be embarrassed that it existed at all.

    We’ve got one of Oppenheimer. Many people think he’s responsible for all nuclear weapons. Good grief.

    Like GB says above: statues are not history. They aren’t physics either. Tear them down and you don’t change the laws of Nature.

    Racists and woke heroes all fall to earth at ~ 9.8 m/s^2. Last I checked that the equivalence principle has been verified to about one part in 10^14.

    • phoffman56
      Posted June 19, 2020 at 6:33 am | Permalink

      Yes! Embarrassed about any such statue he’d be, but it might even be worse for him if Einstein’s statue had him wearing socks, even maybe matching socks.

      I assume there isn’t one anywhere.

  11. DrBrydon
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I’ll first of all say that, being the descendant of a Union Army veteran and namesake of another, I don’t tear up a lot at the idea of losing statues of Confederate generals, or renaming bases, or prohibiting the Confederate flag in the military. (I do draw a line at cemetery memorials.) When it comes to people like Jefferson, I think we have to remember that at a time when there were many, many slaveholders, not just in the US, or in the Americas, or in Africa, the Mideast or Asia, Jefferson and men like him championed ideas of liberty that have been adopted around the world, and saw them adopted and enshrined here. They rose above men who were slaveholders as well as autocrats. That he and his generation did not see that their universality applied to woman, blacks, and Indians is regrettable, but our ancestors fixed that, too. At the same time we have to remember that, as used today, the term “racist” covers everything from “micro-agressions” to actual, physical genocide. To say that a man like Lincoln was a racist and freed the slaves should make us question how useful the current usage really is. It would be ironic, and wrong, if Juneteenth were proclaimed a Federal holiday while Lincoln statues were pulled down.

  12. Jon Gallant
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Perhaps statues of “problematic” historic figures—which is to say, every historic figure who committed the offense of living in the past—could be dealt with in the way we in Seattle deal with our statue of Lenin. It is located quite near another statue that might be called problematic, that of a troll eating a Volkswagen car.

    At holidays, our bronze Lenin is gaily decorated with whimsical hats, ribbons, and other accessories. And it is fittingly located in front of a fast-food joint. Its first location was in a parking lot where a flea market was held every Sunday. I used to tell visitors that it commemorated the “New Economic Policy”, the temporary authorization
    of flea-markets and small-time free-market enterprises, which Lenin proposed in 1921; the USSR ended the NEP in 1928, so as to pursue the wonders of full Socialism.

    The Seattle Lenin statue’s history is at:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statue_of_Lenin_(Seattle)

  13. E.A. Blair
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    “Perhaps I’m soft on TJ because he went to The College of William and Mary, my alma mater…”

    I also have a soft spot for TJ because one of my direct ancestors married one of Jefferson’s sisters, making the third president my many-times-great uncle. This also means that I am related to the descendents of Jefferson and Sally Hemings.

    • phoffman56
      Posted June 19, 2020 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      I’m related to that mosquito who just bit me, and to the weed she just landed on.

  14. Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    But by so doing you are erasing history

    As GBJames and others have said, statues are not history. They don’t record, they merely editorialize. Pulling down statues is not erasing history. Would Germans being erase their Nazi history if they were to pull down a statue of Hitler? Of course not.

    • Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      *be accused of erasing

    • Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Yes, statues are history in that they make us think about history and sometimes ponder that history, and keep history alive in people’s minds.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        Thank you. Statues or paintings are all about the history, just like the books the historians wrote about the people.

      • GBJames
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        If this is true of statues then it is true of every artifact made by humans, ever. It is simply too broad a definition of history to be used like this.

        I, in my former life, was an archaeologist. Archaeologists, like historians, study humanity’s past. An chert flake is not archaeology. It is an artifact. You use artifacts to help create history/prehistory. If you elevate artifacts to the status of history, all you do is demean the discipline. You become a collector of stuff and that’s all.

        Also, what does it mean to “keep history alive in people’s minds”? Statues of Confederate generals and soldiers were erected to keep the history of white control over enslaved people alive. Is that a good thing? Statues are created to express and enforce social ideas. These statues are not history, they are living (so to speak) symbols whose purpose it to communicate very specific messages about who and what is valuable, and who/what is not.

        • Historian
          Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

          GB is completely correct. Confederate statues were erected to honor traitors and to justify Jim Crow and the “Lost Cause.” What kind of bizarre country do we live in where a sizeable proportion of the people think they should remain standing because they teach history? No, they don’t. People who view these statues cannot but help to come away thinking that the individuals represented were honorable. And just what would a contextualized plaque state next to a statue of Robert E. Lee? Perhaps it would state something like this: “General of the Confederate States of America (1861-1865) and traitor to the United States of America. The statue is here so you, the viewer, can understand that Lee fought to retain slavery. Go home and read some history books!”

          The rationale to keep the statues is the same for retaining the military bases named after Confederate generals. Here’s my suggestion for a contextualizing plaque to be placed at each entrance to Fort Bragg: “Welcome to Fort Bragg, named after Confederate general Braxton Bragg. Of course, he was a traitor and fought against the military ancestors of the soldiers stationed here. Don’t worry about it. Aren’t military bases in other countries named after traitors? Most importantly, we wouldn’t dare to erase history. So, enjoy your stay and don’t forget you can buy Confederate flags in the gift shop. As President Trump would say, there were good people on both sides.”

          • Tim Harris
            Posted June 18, 2020 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

            I wholly agree with G.B. James & Historian, whose comments are the most considered and sensible on this thread. In Britain, Borie & his Boys are now trying to make big issue of the statue business since Colson’s (which had been a matter of controversy for years, with the statue’s defenders refusing even to allow a proper plaque put up that described the man as he was and not as a simple, well-meaning philanthropist)was torn down in Bristol. The reason why they are making a big issue of it is to distract from their total incompetence as a government, and also, as is becoming more and more clear with their recent appointments, to do as little as possible to address the matter of racial equality. David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, has said, “Labour isn’t talking about Churchill’s statue. The Lib Dems aren’t talking about it. The Greens aren’t talking about it. The only party talking about Churchill’s statue are the Conservatives.”

            Obviously, Lincoln’s statues are not going to be torn down, any more than Churchill’s is, though I think there is a very good case for removing that one statue of him with a black American kneeling at his feet and putting it in a historical museum – for aesthetically it is surely not up too much, any more than most triumphal statues from the 19th-century or 20th-century are, and it is unworthy of a museum devoted to art.

            Perhaps the defenders of statuary will now speak out, in the interests of ‘history’, against the pulling down of the statue of George III in Manhattan by American revolutionaries after the Declaration of Independence, and the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad with the connivance of the American government and military…

            The public world is not the academic world.

            • Tim Harris
              Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

              ‘racial inequality’ not ‘racial equality’ in above.

            • Robert Bray
              Posted June 19, 2020 at 9:37 am | Permalink

              ‘ there is a very good case for removing that one statue of him with a black American kneeling at his feet and putting it in a historical museum.’

              Yes, and I think Lincoln would have agreed with you (us), though he would indeed have wanted the ‘case’ to be made.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      I have a friend who collects Nazi memorabilia (No, he has no sympathy whatsoever with Nazi ideology). He had a simple white wooden kitchen chair with a winged swastika imprinted (‘incarved’?), it was one of the 2 things that really hit home: this really happened, this was normal (the other one being the documentary film ‘Shoa’). Like, folks, this really happened, this was real.

      • Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        I suppose you can see the difference between someone with no Nazi sympathy whatsoever collecting Nazi artifacts purely as a hobby, and (as a hypothetical example) someone like Orbán making a point of having furniture bearing Nazi symbolism in his prime minister office. I suppose you also understand the difference between (hypothetically) the 9/11 Memorial Museum showing pages from bin Laden’s diary in a glass case, and Islamic fundamentalists erecting a statue of bin Laden right outside the Museum.

        Imagine Islamists did manage to get a bin Laden statue erected at ground zero. Now some people would see it and think “yeah, he did exist, he really did that, like there used to be two towers where he’s standing right now.” But I can’t imagine how anyone who is not an Al Qaeda sympathizer himself would think this is an appropriate way to “keep history alive”.

        • Posted June 19, 2020 at 4:13 am | Permalink

          The more I read here, the more I am reminded of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem, “Ozymandias”:

          I met a traveller from an antique land
          Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
          Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
          Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
          And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
          Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
          Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
          The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
          And on the pedestal these words appear:
          “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
          Look on my works, ye mighty and despair!”
          Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
          Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
          The lone and level sands stretch far away.

  15. Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    One solution I’ve heard of, when it comes to statues which are deemed inappropriate and should be taken down (on a case by case basis), is to put them in a museum dedicated to the education of people on that subject. Eg. Confederate generals erected decades after the war and placed in town squares so that black people will have to pass them on their way in and out of civic buildings? Sure, take them down. But don’t erase them; contextualise them. Put them all in one or several museums with explanations of how they came to be erected etc etc. Not all statues should come down, of course, but that’s one solution for the ones that probably should. (And contextual plaques on other ones where we shouldn’t go so far as to take them down- case by case, context by context, etc etc.)

    • daniaq
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      That’s what I thought too!

      • Max Blancke
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        They will absolutely seek out the statues even if they are in museums. The recent violence in Albuquerque was at the Albuquerque Museum.

        One county over from me, the Confederate memorial at the courthouse is under attack. It literally just lists the names of the local men who died in the war, and the statue on top was of a local farmer who fought and died, but was never a slaveowner. The campaign to topple the statue is being led by a person from another state, who probably learned about it on the internet.

        I think we are either the sorts of people who destroy monuments and memorials, or we are not. If we are tolerant people, we can let our children play in the shadow of such objects, and use that as an opportunity to teach our kids about the good and bad causes that have been fought over, and the people sacrificed for those causes.
        Or we can live in a burned out hellscape where everything someone associates with a cause they don’t approve of this week, or with a person who does not pass the current purity test, is obliterated.

        I recently read an article on the case for purging James Buchanan. The basic reasoning was that he did not end slavery. That puts him in the company of almost every person who lived before 1865, and much later in some countries.

        Don’t forget Robert the Bruce. He was apparently a racist as well, although it has not been shown that he ever saw a Black or Asian person in his life.

        My observation thus far is that the people trying to destroy everything are largely degenerates who have accomplished nothing in their lives.

  16. Robert Bray
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Couple of things:

    To call Sally Hemings Jefferson’s ‘mistress’ is a euphemism. He owned her, he took her sexually, and she had no say in the matter. In effect, Jefferson raped Sally Hemings.

    As to Lincoln:

    He wasn’t at all neutral toward slaver. He hated slavery, and from the time of his adolescence on he said so forcibly.

    And he did favor colonizing freed blacks in places outside the U.S., such as the Ile-a-Vache (Haiti)and in Panama. Lincoln only abandoned the policy after both of the above ended in malversation and disaster for the would-be colonists.

    Where Lincoln was in his mind and heart at the time he was assassinated is anyone’s guess. I happen to believe that he was working his way slowly toward the ideal of full racial equality, but nothing in his final speeches or writings says so.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      I normally do not argue much in favor of Jefferson. He has more wrong with him than we can list. However, to say, because Sally Hemmings was his slave, therefore sex with her was rape, that is not necessarily so. I guess the rape went on for nearly 20 years since this was about how long their sexual interactions lasted. And at least two of the children, maybe more were Jefferson’s. Sally was also the half sister of Jefferson’s dead wife. He freed some of the children they had together but not her. By his own measurements they were white enough for freedom but Sally was not.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        I believe it’s historically understood that Hemings, living in Paris, wasn’t a slave under French law. When Jefferson was to return to the U.S., had she simply left Jefferson’s Paris house she would have been free. She threatened to do so, unless he promised, upon his death, to free any children they might have together. He acceded; she remained both his slave and his bed mate thereafter.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

          The way I got it is slightly different. Hemmings came over to France with one of Jefferson’s children. French law allows a slave to ask for freedom and they would receive it. She did not. I do not know if she used this knowledge/time to get Jefferson’s word that he would free their kids. I only know that he defined how much mixing or whiteness had to be obtained before the person could be allowed freedom and remain in Virginia. He never freed any other slaves primarily because he couldn’t. He was in such debt that he no longer owned them, they were mortgaged property. All were auctioned off after he died.

    • James A Walker
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      My knowledge of Lincoln’s views on African colonization are taken from Brenda Wineapple’s book “Ecstatic Nation”, and my recollection is that Lincoln was in favor of colonization until the middle of the Civil War, when he realized that asking black troops who had fought for the Union to emigrate was unjust.

      • James A Walker
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

        Also, and I may be misremembering here, but he changed a lot of his views through conversations with Frederick Douglass.

      • Historian
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

        For an academic discussion of Lincoln and colonization, see the essay entitled “Abraham Lincoln, Colonization and the Rights of Black Americans,” by noted Civil War historian Eric Foner In “Slavery’s Ghost”, edited by Walter Johnson, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011. Foner makes it quite clear that Lincoln supported voluntary colonization until late in his presidency. It was only during the last two years that he began to change his mind.

        • Posted June 18, 2020 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

          There may have been other reasons for his change of heart, but Wikipedia states “186,097 black men joined the Union Army: 7,122 officers and 178, 975 enlisted soldiers. Approximately 20,000 black sailors served in the Union Navy…” I wish I could remember the name of the battle on the Mississippi (maybe Historian can tell us) in which the South won out over the North and when 300+/- black soldiers surrendered, it wasn’t accepted. They were all killed.

          I think it would have been very hard to send Union soldiers of whatever color off to colonize in other countries when they had given so much, including injury and death, to the Union cause.

          • Historian
            Posted June 19, 2020 at 6:27 am | Permalink

            You are probably thinking of the Battle of Fort Pillow, fought on April 12, 1864. See Wikipedia article for details.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Fort_Pillow

            • Posted June 23, 2020 at 7:53 am | Permalink

              A belated thank you. I’m quite certain this is the battle I was trying to think of. The different treatment of Union black soldiers vs. Union white soldiers by the Confederates shocked me so much when I learned about, that I’m surprised the specifics managed to escape my aging brain.

          • GBJames
            Posted June 23, 2020 at 8:28 am | Permalink

            The Union and the Confederacy exchanged prisoners for some time early in the war. This was advantageous to both sides since it reduced costs, and more humane to all prisoners.

            The exchanges were ended by Lincoln because in May 1863 the Confederate legislature determined to exclude black Union soldiers in these exchanges.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        Lincoln’s colonization policy, he hoped, would be a practicable solution to a growing problem: freed blacks moving north into the D.C. area as the Army of the Potomac occupied the northern part of Virginia. Slavery in D.C. was abolished on April 16, 1862; and some months later freed black began enlisting in the Union Army. Enlistment surged after the Emancipation Proclamation became effective on Jan. 1, 1863.

        Lincoln supported the disastrous attempt at settling freedmen on Ile-a-Vache (Haiti), 1863-4, but that was the end of his fantasies of colonization.

  17. Curtis
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    To me it is fairly simple. If you are known mostly for bad things (e.g. Stonewall Jackson, Stalin, Jefferson Davis) your statue should come down. If you are known mostly for other things (Jefferson, Churchill), leave the statue. I know this distinction is not always clear cut but it works for 99% of the people.

    In Oregon things have gotten ridiculous. Oregon State University renamed Avery Hall because of “Joseph Avery’s ties to the Occidental Messenger newspaper, which advocated for slavery.” They had to do research to find out who Avery was because he had been totally forgotten except for the things named after him.
    https://leadership.oregonstate.edu/building-and-place-names/names-under-consideration/avery-lodge

    In the late 1800, Patrick Lynch donated land for schools but solely because of his last name, the schools needed to be renamed.
    https://www.kgw.com/article/news/education/lynch-removed-from-name-of-two-portland-schools/283-463293264

    • DrBrydon
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      I think the issue would be, how do we define ‘mostly’ and ‘bad’? We’re dealing with a mob.

  18. Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have any problem with them taking the statues down if the only reason the statue exists is something to do with the Confederacy. On the other hand, I would also be ok changing out the plaque to tell a more modern view. After all, people are reading these plaques now and, therefore, the message should reflect what we now know to be true. Those who like these statues can have them but not their message.

    • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      “the only reason the statue exists is something to do with the Confederacy”

      Which obviously does not apply to the Jefferson statue.

      • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        True, the Jefferson one can stay though if the message associated with it needs updating, I am fine with that. Perhaps we need a standard “slave owner” or “no slavery” logo we can place on offending statues like Jefferson’s.

        • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

          Agreed. I think full context is important.

          Jefferson was a towering, accomplished, and deeply-flawed man. Like so many leaders.

    • Posted June 19, 2020 at 4:17 am | Permalink

      And every 25 years or so when history has been revised again, we can update the plaques with the current interpretation of history.

  19. Ross Stephens
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    PCC,

    as a brit(ish Isles) person, Churchill was great war leader and delivered what was needed. Statue OK …but, too many Brits think he did nothing wrong ever, and then use his words to support their own racism. I didn’t object to the ‘was a racist’ addition as as ‘one off’ protest but no-one wants to bring his statue down

    Our ludicrous. lazy, drunkard PM merely claimed that so that he could stoke a culture war here and pretend that the UK BLM marches were about iconoclasm and not about real injustice.

    Look at the right-wing, would-be blackshirts who came out in answer to his call – throwing Hitler Salutes at the Cenotaph and the statue, attacking the police and, in one instance, tramping through a public park and physically abusing happy picnickers! (the Cads!)

    Ross

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      As a white Briton I thought the image in this article was one of the most powerfully pathetic, embarrassing things I’ve ever seen in my life. It made me faintly ashamed of my race:

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/18/man-rescued-by-uk-black-lives-matter-protester-is-ex-police-officer

      A useless, retired old white racist, who traveled from his home for a bit of violent scumbaggery, overestimates his own macho credentials, gets his head kicked in and is then carried out by one of the black protesters he no doubt went to yell at.

      What a pathetic shower these ‘counter protesters’ are. What a rancid government we have that people like this feel sufficiently emboldened.

      • EdwardM
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

        “What a rancid government we have that people like this feel sufficiently emboldened.”

        That pretty much sums up what’s happened here.

  20. nay
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    When the topic of confederate statues came up a few years ago, I thought they should be removed, with their pedestals, to a museum to provide historical context. I am against vandalism because someone worked hard to create these statues, whatever we might think of their subjects and those who commissioned them. Think of the ancient Egyptian pharoahs who destroyed or vandalized monuments put up by their predecessors or the present day idiots destroying ancient monuments because they didn’t exist when Mohamed was born – duh, you are destroying your own history and the skilled work of your people, the ancient stonemasons who created those statues. Do you want those who come after you to erase YOUR work? No? Then don’t set them this example of hooliganism masquerading as virtue. Don’t destroy knowledge; use it to teach and to learn.

  21. Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I think in principle there is something wrong with removing images of historical figures. It essentially says that a person’s total life must be considered to evaluate any aspect of their being. Wouldn’t that apply to any reference to them? So, in teaching about Churchill’s role in WW II, it would be necessary to delve into his many flaws.

  22. Historian
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    “After all, he did sign the Emancipation Proclamation and did not, contrary to the claims of the NYT’s 1619 Project, favor sending blacks back to Africa, the land of their ancestors.”

    Regarding Lincoln’s position on sending blacks back to Africa (known as colonization) the above statement is factually incorrect. Throughout almost his entire political career, he supported it. This is indisputable. He was an acolyte of Henry Clary of Kentucky, who was one of the organizers of the American Colonization Society. As late as of December 1, 1862, in his Message to Congress, Lincoln wrote: “I cannot make it better known than it already is, that I strongly favor colonization.” However, Lincoln did make it clear that the colonization should be voluntary. Lincoln did not discuss colonization in public after this date, although some historians still think he favored it.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      My understand is that Harriet Beecher Stowe was a member of the society too. That should mean any statues and her books should probably be destroyed. Such a big job all this corrective action to history will be.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        Colonization began early in the 19th century with Liberia. Stowe was an abolitionist, whose epochal book appeared in 1851-52. This was immediately after the the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, which meant that northerners could not legally protect ex-slaves who had escaped from the south–even those who had done so earlier. I’m pretty sure colonization for her was not due to a wish to exclude freed blacks from her society!

        Or perhaps you were merely being sarcastic.

    • Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      It is my understanding from the books I’ve read about Lincoln that he did not believe whites and blacks could live together in harmony. His viewpoints about slavery either changed over time or he expressed differing view to different people. He did agree with Henry Clay’s proposed solution to the problem. I understand that there was a proposal to buy back slaves (property)from their owners and settle them in one of the Central American countries where it was thought that the climate, et al, would be suitable. Initially, he approached the states to have each come up with a plan, a solution, for achieving this. None of them did. During the war, the Confederacy used slaves to support their military. It was to remove that benefit to the Confederacy that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 which did not free all slaves in the country, just those in the Confederacy. The last slaves freed militarily in the Confederacy were freed on Jun 19, 1865 (Juneteenth) in Texas (where a great many Southerners had fled with their slaves). The 13th Amendment which freed all slaves took place later that year.

      • Historian
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        Lincoln proposed a plan of gradual emancipation (in the form of constitution amendments) that would compensate the slaveholders in the Annual Message to Congress on December 1, 1862. My guess is that Lincoln knew that his plan had no chance of coming to fruition, but he didn’t want to be accused of not doing everything in his power to restore the Union. About a year or so later, this plan was forgotten as he supported the proposed 13th amendment, which abolished slavery.

        https://www.infoplease.com/primary-sources/government/presidential-speeches/state-union-address-abraham-lincoln-december-1-1862

        • Posted June 18, 2020 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

          Whatever the reason(s) for Lincoln’s temporarily looking to the states for a solution to slavery, slavery was abolished during his presidency. If he had not been assassinated, slavery issues might have been resolved differently by him than they were by Andrew Johnson. (One of our other impeached presidents with Nixon, Clinton and tRump, and considered to be one of our worst presidents if not, the worst). Much of what our country still suffers is a result of what Johnson and the Southern states decided about slave issues after the war. Bondage slavery may have gone away only to evolve into different forms of slavery: sharecropping, imprisonment with prisoner labor for no or little money, but to those leasing/renting out the prisoners. Brutality continued then, and now. Segregation occurred then and continues in a somewhat different form now through redlining and other related means of restricting the means for Blacks to get bank loans because of being restricted to certain less desirable areas of cities.

          Tearing down statues and/or using graffiti to deface them expresses centuries of pent up anger and mistreatment. Somehow, we all have to work hard to get past that and to correct the underlying disastrous problems of inequity for all people of color.

      • Posted June 18, 2020 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

        …that he (Lincoln) did not believe whites and blacks could live together in harmony.

        I don’t know that we have proved him wrong.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      So did Marcus Garvey.

      • Historian
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        Do you have a point?

        • Posted June 19, 2020 at 4:25 am | Permalink

          Look around you. How much harmony do you see between peoples of the same color vs. people of different colors? The entirely admirable goal of people living in equity and, preferably, harmony, is still a work in process/progress. It is a goal worth trying to achieve, even if it has to be done person by person, family by family, polity by polity.

  23. Eli
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    As a (secular) Jew, I don’t support pulling down statues. But if we are doing it, then a lot of them have to come down. The Arch of Titus in Rome? Down with it: commemorates the expulsion and enslavement of Jews. A statue of Louis IX? Down with it: he expelled the Jews from France. The city of St. Louis should also be renamed. A statue of Edward I in England? Pull it down: expelled the Jews. A statue of Isabela of Castile in Spain? Away with it: kicked out all the Jews from Spain. A statue of Richard Wagner in Berlin? Gone, for his well-known antisemitism. In fact, most European writers and artists before 1950s were antisemitic so should be dispensed with. Shakespeare, Dickens, Martin Luther, Karl Marx. All have to be pulled down.

    Now, I’m against pulling down all these statues. Because if we start doing it, we won’t have any left.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

      I recommend reading Howard Jacobson’s ‘Shylock is my Name’ & James Shapiro’s ‘Shakespeare & the Jews’.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted June 20, 2020 at 12:29 am | Permalink

        And Karl Marx was a secular Jew. He also regularly has his tombstone in Highgate Cemetery defaced (by which I don’t mean he crawls out of his grave and does it himself). The Tories don’t seem to mind that – at least I haven’t heard any baying & blustering about defacing monuments in that respect.

  24. Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    In Ottawa I live fairly near a “Roosevelt” and a “Churchill” pair of streets. No Stalin here, even though he’s the third of the “odd triple” in important ways, however much of a monster he was. On the other hand, in Paris, they have Metro stops and streets named for the former city of Stalingrad and its famous battle.

  25. eric
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Re: the Jefferson and Churchill statues. I absolutely disagree with the defacement and vandalism. If the respective communities come to a decision to take it down, that’s fine by me. It’s their school/city and I think in many such ‘statue’ cases it’s the local community that should participate in deciding whether to keep it or not. I see the protestor’s actions as a type of “heckler’s veto” on civic expression, and I strongly disagree with them taking what should be a democratic decision away from the people.

    Re: the Lincoln statue. I think this is Boston’s decision just as the others are their respective communities’ decisions. But yeah, were I a Bostonian, I would instantly and immediately vote for a replacement. Whatever the noble intent, to modern sensibilities it’s just cringeworthy. Looking for a happy medium, perhaps what they need to do is take this statue down and put up a different, more ennobling statue of Lincoln with a freed slave. Might I suggest the two of them seen working working together, side by side on something, with a phrase like “our work has just begun” on the plinth?

    • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Love your suggestion on the Lincoln statue.

      Better than my thought of: them standing tall, looking each other in the eye and shaking hands.

  26. Jenny Haniver
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Two other recent cases of removing and altering artifacts, here some that relate to Hitler and Nazism: 1) the removal of headstones of German prisoners of war in the US that bear Nazi symbols and tributes to Hitler https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2020/06/01/nazi-headstones-will-be-removed-from-us-veterans-cemeteries-va-leaders-say/; 2)”Hitler’s house will be remodeled, not torn down” https://apnews.com/68c78da43da3477da439244da74bc26b.

    What’s to be said for these decisions?

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      If it were left up to me, I would leave them as they are. It is history whether they like it or not. I was in the service but it does not bother me. Here is something that would have bothered me. Back during WWII, there was a prison Camp where I lived in Iowa. Lots of German farmers around there too. My name is not exactly Italian. So to give these German prisoners work to do they would take them out to some farms with guards of course, to look after them. On some of these farms the prisoners were treated better than the guards. I got this first hand from my dad

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

        I agree with you.

        I know virtually nothing about German POWs in the US being literally ‘farmed out’ to work for private concerns so did a bit of searching and found this interesting audio,”Mine Enemy: The Story of German POWs in America” https://beta.prx.org/stories/118746-mine-enemy-the-story-of-german-pows-in-america. Also this video “Traces of POW History in Iowa “http://www.iowapbs.org/iowapathways/artifact/traces-pow-history-iowa.

    • eric
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Yikes! Nazi headstones. Seems wrong to deface them even as offensive as they are.

      I guess I would say: contact the closest living relatives whenever possible. Have a nice replacement headstone to offer them (maybe the German double eagle symbol?). See what they say. We don’t want to whitewash over the fact that they were German or POWs, but there’s no reason to glorify Hitler or nazism. Plenty of valorous and/or innocent war victims died in unmarked graves and trenches for me to weep over much that a Nazi isn’t keeping the exact headstone they wanted.

  27. rickflick
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, many protestors are so emotional about the issue, it would be very hard to get them to sit down and discuss a reasonable plan with carefully thought out criteria for what stays and what goes.

  28. Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think the statues should be torn down or vandalized. Provide context. And, for Ceiling Cat’s sake, make sure history is taught to all of us without bowdlerizing it to make all seem heroic and rosy. I think this is another iteration of “wokeness” but in modifying or eliminating tangible objects rather than verbalizations and concepts.

    What is the next step in removing items that are historically objectionable now that “harm” someone’s (anyone’s) sensibilities? In re Asian sensibilities: Do we tear down Hiroshima, the references, photos the city devastation, the shell of a bombed building, the museum? In re the 1.1 million people killed at Auschwitz (Jews, Roma, Soviets, Poles, Europeans, etc.: Do we tear it down, or any of the other German concentration camps where so many died? In re Native Americans: Do we tear down the evidence of Custer’s Last Stand and the Battle of Little Big Horn, or sites of the many other battles that took place between the U.S. government’s army and the Native Americans? What about physical signs of our impacts in Hawaii, the Marshall Islands (where we tested atomic bombs) and other island nations?

    Do we rename or tear down buildings with the names of out of favor or disreputable historical figures, rename landmarks, cities, states, etc? How far do we go in making changes in the here and now to accommodate our “woke” sensibilities that will probably be totally inappropriate in the future in the same way that some of us perceive our own past history as bad now.

    Yes, historians are known to modify history over time. There is also a tendency to gloss over the negative aspects of our “heroes” and history. This is a great disservice to all of us. We need to know the truth about historical events and the people involved. We should be able to tell from ourselves and the humanity around us that none of us are perfect, but most try to be good and do good.
    We must know all we can about what happened in the past to ensure that we may better know what to save and what to change.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

      Regarding ‘Asian sensibilities’, why on earth should ‘we’ (whoever ‘we’ is) want to tear down Hiroshima? It was already torn down in a horribly brutal way nearly 75 years ago. Or why should we wish to tear down what is left of the original Hiroshima or what has been built to memorialise the bombing? (I, by the way, have lived in Japan for nearly fifty years.)By ‘we’, do you mean the Japanese themselves, or the perpetrators of the bombing who now want to consign what was a great crime to oblivion and deny their responsibility for it?

      I honestly think there is a vein of hysteria in much of this fuss about statues – with one commenter on this thread having resort to the old bogy of ‘the mob’. We have had violent right-wing protestors, come to ‘protect’ the statues, clashing with police in Parliament Square in the UK, and assaulting peaceful black protestors demonstrating against racism. Who is the ‘mob’? The issue is being blown out of any kind of proportion by the right, and by right-wing politicians such as Johnson and Trump who are anxious to distract from their own incompetence.

      • Posted June 19, 2020 at 4:44 am | Permalink

        How fortunate you are to have lived in Japan for so long. My daughter lived there for about ten years and loved it. I was fortunate to see parts of it, including Hiroshima, while visiting her.

        The Hiroshima I saw had mostly been rebuilt and except for a picture and plaque at a bridge, the steel frame of a bombed out building, the statues in the park, trees with paper birds (peace symbols), and the museum, the Hiroshima that was bombed is no more.

        I think by “we” I meant those of us living after the historical fact: the Japanese and the Americans and all the rest of humanity who need to know what happened in order not to make the same terrible mistake again.

        I have read some of the books written by Japanese people who were in or around Hiroshima at the time of the bombing and they tell what they saw with the same stoicism one gets from much of the writings from Jewish concentration camp survivors.

        I, like you, had always viewed the bombing as a shameful atrocity until I became aware of the mobilization of all levels of Japanese citizenry to protect the homeland and all the military equipment, etc., stockpiled in caves around the country. It has been suggested, or stated, that the death toll would have been much more horrendous than it was had the Americans invaded and fought on Japanese soil.

        I’m certain that my “knowledge’ of this isn’t as great as yours. Maybe you can suggest some informative books for me. If so, thanks.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted June 19, 2020 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

          Well, there is a plethora of books, and I have certainly not gone through them all. I recommend John Dower’s two books: ‘War Without Mercy’ & ‘Embracing Defeat’.

          And there is a lot of debate. Japan would have surrendered anyway sooner or later – particularly after the Soviet Union broke its non-aggression treaty and attacked Japan. Its cities were mostly in ruins – the Occupiers were shocked on their arrival to see the destruction (though the US did even greater damage to Korea in the Korean War). More people were killed in the fire-bombing of Tokyo than in Hiroshima. My wife’s family are from Fukuoka, she was born in 1944, and the family were living in caves at one time.

          Bombing civilian targets in any war I, like Robert Lowell, regard as a crime, but of course everybody was doing it – the British with the bombings of Hamburg & Dresden (there is a harrowing novel by Gerd Ledig called in English ‘Payback’ about the bombing of the former).

          The Japanese did behave atrociously, particularly in China. But it is not as if there had not been not constant atrocities on the part of the colonial powers in Asia & elsewhere. The British, of course, the Americans in the Philippines (about which Mark Twain was so eloquent), the French in Vietnam, and the Dutch in Indonesia (the Dutch government has just given reparations to Indonesia for massacres of civilians by Dutch troops in 1947, when the Dutch were attempting a comeback – and of course there was the general massacre throughout Indonesia in 1965-66, aided & abetted by the American, British & Australian governments, about which the American film-maker Joshua Oppenheimer made two extremely good documentary films). I think there is a great deal of hypocrisy involved in the animus that remains in the West towards Japan, though I find the animus remaining in Korea & China very understandable – though not when it is cynically ratcheted up and down as a tool by the Korean & Chinese governments.

          Of course, this sort of hypocrisy is apparent in the responses of European governments (in which of course I include the British)and the Australian & American governments to the endemic racism in their countries.

          The saddest thing, I think, is that the Japanese did not come as liberators to Asia, but as new colonial masters to the countries they invaded, and they too often behaved disgracefully badly. The subsequent achievement of independence by those countries was, however, in large part (though unintentionally) the consequence of Japan’s invasions.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted June 20, 2020 at 12:31 am | Permalink

            I should also add that a large reason for the continuing animus against the Japanese was that they were the first non-white nation to deal out devastating defeats on the ‘white’ powers.

            • Posted June 23, 2020 at 8:43 am | Permalink

              A belated thank you for the book references. I will try to locate them.

              As a person who thinks the study of history is very important, I find my hatred of warfare and writings about it a great difficulty. I grew up with older family members who hated “Japs” because they’d fought in the Pacific campaign against the Japanese. My mother, whose heritage was largely German could not understand my bias towards the British and against the Germans.
              Even though the Civil War is long past, I have family members who are pro-Union vs. family members who are pro-Confederate.

              While in Japan, I talked with a Japanese lady on a bus who lived outside of Hiroshima at the time of the bombing. She lost family members who went into Hiroshima to try to help and who were made ill by or died from the radioactivity. So, while many people were trying to get out of the city back to their own homes, others were desperately trying to get into the city to provide aid.

              I’m not convinced that the Japanese would have given up. Many Japanese soldiers continued to holdout after the war was over. The last was Private Teruo Nakamura who surrendered on an island in Indonesia in 1974. Some believe there were holdouts continuing into the 80s and 90s.

              I understand that there is still a great deal of hatred of the Japanese in Korea and China (and probably islands in the Pacific like the Marshall Islands)due to how they were treated by the Japanese.

              But, I am quite certain there is hatred for any nation, including the United States, perceived as a military aggressor. Have there been any just wars, or wars without atrocities? When will we learn to change without wars?

  29. Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I am more in favour of debate and discussion over removal than of vigilante justice.

    As for which to debate removing that I would consider “yes, remove” to are almost all the civil war statues. I agree with also that some can go to appropriate museums. Is there a national museum of American history? The civil war is a sad, if necessary topic in that, including its aftermath and such.

  30. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    For example, statues of Confederate generals put up after the war to celebrate white supremacy seem “problematic”. But we pull them down, as is happening recently to widespread acclaim, or do we give them “context” with explanatory plaques or “counter-statues” nearby?

    We move ’em to Civil War battlefield monuments or cemeteries or museums.

    Except for that really ugly one off I-65 outside Nashville of Klan-founder Nathan Bedford Forrest below. (That one, I’d like to take a blowtorch and hacksaw to myself, just on aesthetic grounds, save that it’s on private property.)

    https://media.gannett-cdn.com/35553607001/35553607001_5694175297001_5694153748001-vs.jpg?pubId=35553607001

    • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, that one is bone-ugly.

    • ploubere
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it’s on private property. It’s hilarious and is now covered in pink paint. I’m fine with it because it reveals the imbecility of those who want to honor Forrest.

  31. Peter Blunt
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised that PCC(E) would not favor removing a statue of Hitler. Was Hitler a complex man who did some good which comes at least close to outweighing the industrial-scale mass murder and destruction that he was responsible for? Sorry for the sarcasm: Is PCC(E) here thinking about the pretty postcards Hitler painted? Germany seems to be doing fine with remembering the Nazi period without Hitler statues.

  32. Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    No, I wouldn’t favor removing it because it reminds us of something very important: there was a time when an entire nation idolized Hitler and erected statues to him. And there have been books written about that.

    Others may disagree, but they can do so civilly. I don’t appreciate your snark, though. You could have made your point without the sarcasm about pretty postcards and the like.

    • Peter Blunt
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      I take note that you did not appreciate the sarcasm. I did apologize in advance for it … There is one inaccuracy in your reply: It is not true that the entire German nation idolized Hitler. Coercion was about as important for Hitler’s rule over Germany than consent. Hitler’s rule over Germany was not, as some prominent German and North American historians have claimed, a “dictatorship by consent”. The British historian Richard J. Evans, author of a 3-volume history of Nazi Germany, delivered the 2006 Raleigh lecture to the British Academy on that topic. Nazi ideology was, at its core, about violence, and the Germans who had not voted for Hitler and disagreed with him were the first to be threatened by it and suffer from it – German communists, social democrats, trade union members, Catholics, etc.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        You cut hairs to avoid losing an argument or proving something. Mostly it just sounds like gaslighting.

      • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        Yes, you’re right, and let me amend that to say that “millions of people idolized Hitler” (that includes those in other countries). But I’ve also read Daniel Goldhagen’s book Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, which argues that the big majority of Germans were anti-Semites who agreed with Hitler’s program. (Yes, I know the book is controversial.)

        I think it’s best to leave out the sarcasm, so then you don’t have to apologize in advance or later.

        • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

          Yes, essentially every German from 1939 through 1945 knew (more or less exactly) what was going on in all those camps.

          There were 10,000+ prison, work, and extermination camps (Lager) in Germany itself. They knew.

          Goldhagen’s book is excellent and chilling.

        • Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

          There is little doubt that the vast murder of jews was widely known among the German population. A good recent book is The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945 by Nicholas Stargardt. Stargardt researched the vast correspondence between German soldiers and their families. The German soldiers witnessed and participated in the slaughter of jews during the Eastern campaign and told their families about it. In addition, people within Germany knew their jewish neighbors had disappeared and weren’t coming back as they helped themselves to their belongings. The idea that the average german citizen was innocent of this crime is pure bull shit.

      • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        By 1938 Hitler was enormously popular in Germany. And by July 1940, after the fall of France, he could have been elected God by the Germans. Until things started going badly in the war, Hitler was overwhelmingly popular with the German people. Even things people did not like, like corruption, they blamed on the other Nazis, not Hitler.

        • Posted June 19, 2020 at 5:00 am | Permalink

          Once upon a time, I saw a map of Europe with all the German concentration camps noted on it. I was shocked. I’d had no idea there so very many. From Wikipedia: ” According to statistics by the German Ministry of Justice, about 1,200 camps and sub camps were run in countries occupied by Nazi Germany.” A great many of these were located in occupied Poland.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      Surely, the question to ask is why such statues are put up in the first place. They were not, and are not, put up as simple, innocuous reminders of history, but as celebrations of power and celebrations of an agreed (in many cases imposed) version of a national myth – and they are meant as such: monuments not to some abstract ‘history’ but to some past glory in many cases – a glory that is intended to make us feel proud of our heritage and which therefore continue to act as such in the present, as the statues of American Civil War ‘heroes’ from the South were intended as supportive of the ‘rights’ of white people, and as intimidation of black people. I have no objection to the rather good statue of a First World War soldier in, as I recall, St Pancras or Kings Cross station in London, but a statue of Oswald Mosley or Nigel Farage? And statues of Hitler all over Germany? Of Stalin in the Ukraine? In the name of what, really? The fact is that the existence of such statues is rightly taken as indicative of present public and political approval and celebration of attitudes that were recently widely held (though one hopes rather less widely held now – but they are still there) and so have a great bearing and influence on present realities – such as endemic racism both in the USA & the UK, as well of course in many other countries.

      There is history as it is in all its messy reality and history as an (ideally) dispassionate academic discipline, and they are very different.

    • savage
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

      I admire your consistency.

      While I do not miss any Nazi monuments, the eradication of the past has mostly been practiced by extremely authoritarian governments and been regretted later.

      In Germany, people are mostly conservative about keeping old monuments, place names etc. Yet recently, there has been a push to remove references to half-forgotten men like Hindenburg who opposed democracy in Wilhelminian and Weimar Germany. A lot of famous Germans from the 19th and 20th century had “problematic” views, so I wonder where this will end up.

      With regards to Hitler’s birthplace in Austria: The main obstacle used to be that the building is sufficiently old to be earmarked for preservation. It was unused and mostly ignored with an explanatory stone in front of it before receiving much media attention over an ownership dispute that couldn’t possibly improve the situation.

  33. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    … the man [Churchill] was flawed. He was a white supremacist who made rabidly bigoted comments about others. He was also a jingoist who favored the perpetuation of the British Empire.

    Kinda mean to Lady Astor, too. 🙂

    • A C Harper
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      My father had old fashioned views and my grandfather (b. 1905) was positively archaic. My sons think I’m old fashioned too.

      Churchill was born on 30 November 1874, which is around 5 or 6 generations ago. And also roughly 3 political/social cycles according to Peter Turchin’s structural-demographic theory.

      Why are we surprised that we view ‘men of their time’ as ‘not modern’? It is an unreasonable expectation. I expect that a lot of the ‘outrage’ is confected by those with a political axe to grind… a resaonable person would accept that ‘now’ is not ‘then’ and an explanatory plaque should be enough unless there is a truly widespread desire to remove the statue.

      I imagine than many statues of modern famous people will be ‘unacceptable’ in 100 years time because they were not Vegan, or drove vehicles with fossil fuels, or….

      • GBJames
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        “Why are we surprised that we view ‘men of their time’ as ‘not modern’?”

        I find Robert Green Ingersoll pretty modern still and contributed to the restoration of his statue.

        • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

          🙂 Nice shot of that statue.

          • GBJames
            Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

            It is a great statue, in the must peculiar of locations.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

        But why the assumption that ‘men of their time’ all thought in the same way because they belonged to their time, and so, presumably, should be somehow forgiven? From the late 17th century onwards, for instance, people in Britain sought for the abolition of slavery. In Churchill’s time, there were plenty of people in Britain who had no truck with his racist views.

  34. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Removing statues of founders such as Jefferson and Washington is a stupid, bad idea. These were great if imperfect men according to the standards of today. They helped set the course of our nation. From a practical point of view this extreme behavior will only turn some moderates against Democrats. If you illegally tear down statues, you ought to be willing to go to jail. Confederate statues are a totally different case since they were traitors. Now, I’m sure these could be taken down legally without relying on rioting mobs.

    • Max Blancke
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      As for the issue of all confederates being traitors, The grey areas of the legality of secession were not the settled issue in 1860 that it became in 1865.

      The following letter is worth reading-

      “General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation. He believed unswervingly in the Constitutional validity of his cause which until 1865 was still an arguable question in America; he was a poised and inspiring leader, true to the high trust reposed in him by millions of his fellow citizens; he was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his faith in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history.

      From deep conviction, I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, including his devotion to this land as revealed in his painstaking efforts to help heal the Nation’s wounds once the bitter struggle was over, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained.

      Such are the reasons that I proudly display the picture of this great American on my office wall.

      Sincerely,

      Dwight D. Eisenhower”

      • GBJames
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        Dwight D. Eisenhower was, of course, a product of the Jim Crow era. He grew up at a time when the histories of the Civil War were being written to emphasize Lost Cause mythology. It is no surprise that he would have held those views of Bobby Lee.

    • savage
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

      I find it odd how readily Confederate soldiers are denounced as “traitors”. For which other historical situations would we still use such language?

      Rebels is a more neutral term. The founding fathers, inhabitants of former Soviet satellite states and any historical characters with complicated allegiances would not be called “traitors” either.

      On social media, a form of stolen valor also seems to have increased lately. People whose ancestors arrived in the US only a few decades ago boast about obscure military units of the Union army. Like Antifa members who claim credit for the D-Day landings. Has anyone else noticed this?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 8:15 am | Permalink

        People whose ancestors arrived in the US only a few decades ago boast about obscure military units of the Union army.

        Can you give a clarifying example of what it is you’re referring to here?

      • GBJames
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:19 am | Permalink

        I find it odd how readily Confederate soldiers are denounced as “traitors”.

        If the word doesn’t apply here, where would it apply?

        Traitor: a person who betrays a friend, country, principle, etc.

        Going to war against your own country is the textbook definition of being a traitor.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        ‘I find it odd how readily Confederate soldiers are denounced as “traitors”.’

        Wars are made by states, de facto or de jure. In the U.S. Civil War, both sides had conscription. After the initial enthusiasm of 1861, with young men South and North rising to enlist, the battle realities (Shiloh, etc.) and the likelihood of a protracted war led to a falling off of volunteers. Hence the drafts.

        Pace Mississippi today, ‘rebels’ was a Union term first. The Confederacy thought of itself as a nation (and Europe came close to recognizing it as such). Lincoln, who thought disunion was impossible under the compact of the Constitution–and we haven’t settled to this day whether he was right or mistaken in this view–insisted that the one, single nation of the United States was fighting a ‘War of the Rebellion.’

        And it is a fair guess that, as the conflict became more and more like a holocaust, fewer and fewer draftees wanted to be compelled to fight. . . . The well-off hired substitutes ($300 in the North); the poor either became cannon fodder or dodged.

        In this regard it was a war like any other. The high-faluntin’ rhetoric of idealism and ‘rights’ that we so easily hear of and repeat today is tinsel that reflects the light of our own shallow knowledge of history.

        • Robert Bray
          Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:56 am | Permalink

          ‘falutin”

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted June 19, 2020 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

          Lincoln, who thought disunion was impossible under the compact of the Constitution–and we haven’t settled to this day whether he was right or mistaken in this view–insisted that the one, single nation of the United States was fighting a ‘War of the Rebellion.’

          The colonies bound together as states in “a perpetual union” with adoption of the Articles of Confederation. That union was made “more perfect” with the adoption of the US constitution. If any of the states wanted an escape hatch for withdrawing from that perpetual union, the time to seek it was at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia by insisting that such a provision be written into the constitution’s text.

          Save that, if the southern states believed events had arisen such that they needed to dissolve the political bands that connected them to the north, then a decent respect to the opinions of mankind required them first to seek to amend the constitution to allow them to do so before simply seceding.

          All of which is a roundabout way of saying, I suppose, that I think Lincoln had much the better part of that argument.

        • savage
          Posted June 20, 2020 at 12:09 am | Permalink

          > The well-off hired substitutes ($300 in the North)

          The South exempted anyone from the draft who owned more than 20 slaves (“Twenty Negro Law”)!

  35. Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    It seems Moon of Alabama has a reasonable solution to this problem: https://www.moonofalabama.org/2020/06/how-to-change-the-meaning-of-monuments-without-removing-them.html

  36. Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Many commenters seem to have missed Jerry’s main point, which was not about Confederate statues but Jefferson and Lincoln. If it were only about Confederate statues, I think those of us who feel more protective about artifacts of art history than we do about flags and street names could go along. The point is that once you move the goal post, where is the end game? Anyone born before the millennial generation? In my hometown of New Orleans, Take’m Down Nola has a long written list of figures predating the Civil War slated for destruction (Jackson Square, Bienville, McDonough [the latter destroyed last week]). If there were clear limits, there would be more space for compromise.

    • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      Given the vibe these days that any white male is, by definition, a racist, supremist, and rapist/misogynist, there is no limit.

  37. Jon Gallant
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Some of the protesters in Seattle’s CHAZistan are raising real economic issues, such as the possibilities of rent control. However, a great deal of the noise emanating from the woke or cultural Left seems focused on matters of symbolism: statues to be pulled down, names to be erased, words (mankind?, niggardly?) to be prohibited, new pronouns to be ordained, scholars and researchers charged with wrongthink to be sanctioned or fired, etc. etc.. The paramountcy of symbolic action is illustrated when books are censored or withdrawn before publication, or when Google fires James Damore for merely suggesting that Biology might be involved in the demography of work choices.

    It should not escape notice that all this focus on symbolism displaces attention from such arcana as the tax system—in which top marginal rates (perhaps something of interest to Google management) has been adjusted steadily downward since the 1980s.

  38. Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I wish tRump had a statue I could pull down. With great glee.

  39. Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    This whole statues thing is bullshit from the start. If someone did something good, celebrate the good thing they did rather than attaching superhuman icon status to the individual.

    Once you set a one-sided version of something or someone in concrete of course you’re leaving a hostage to history. Accept it when they’re time’s up.

    Stick ’em in a museum if they’re interesting or the statue has some artistic merit, but don’t force the victor’s particular version on the populace while they’re driving through the city or walking their little doggie in the park.

    • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      Nobody is worth celebrating?

      • Posted June 18, 2020 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        Nobody acts alone. The whole idea of representing some important historical event by using one person is asking for trouble, in my opinion.

  40. Historian
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    The debate over the wisdom of removing statues and other memorial to the Founders is really a debate over the motives and ideals that drove them to create a revolution. In contrast to both the authors of the 1619 Project and its critics, there is no clear cut answer to the question, which is this: to what extent was the revolution undertaken to promote the idea of equality and liberty or was the rhetoric a smokescreen to justify the retention of oligarchic power by the colonial elite threatened by the demands of Britain to restore more power to itself? Professional historians have debated the question for at least a century and there never will a resolution. But, there is one thing to ponder: in contrast to the other major revolutions, its instigators remained in power through the war and the ratification of the Constitution. Why was this?

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Good point. It does make me think a bit about on fellow mentioned in the post more than others. Jefferson, once we get past his declaration in 76 was not around for any of the work on the Constitution and frankly had more complaints than good to say about it. He is the mystery man if there ever was one and historians have been attempting to define him since. He was the beginning of the two party system before even he knew it and he accomplished that while in the Washington cabinet. Today’s values might say he was a traitor and Washington himself, in the end, did not think much of the man. Jefferson, more than all the rest has been overdone I think, because he become the guy for all sides. Both north and south thought he was on their side and maybe he was.

  41. max blancke
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Nobody wants to bring chattel slavery back, or eliminate it.
    Nobody wants to reestablish French rule in Indochina, or needs to kick them out of the Ohio river valley.
    Nobody needs to drive Spain out of Cuba and the Philippines.
    We do not presently need to kick the Germans out of France again.
    The British pose little or no threat here.

    Lots of Americans died in wars over those causes, and many more. Quite a few in more than one of those conflicts. Many people who fought against each other in the Civil war fought alongside each other in later conflicts.

    Most of the people who fought in those conflicts did so because their country was at war, and joining up was what one did. Would I, as an educated 21st century man, enlist in the CSA? Of course not, unless doing so was the only way to defend my home and family.
    But none of the historical persons under current attack were educated 21st century persons. They were people trying to make the best choices they could under the experiences and stresses of the time and place that they lived.

    I think it is a certainty that all of those causes and conflicts led us to where we are now. I don’t think there is much assurance that a timeline where Madison or Jefferson was omitted would necessarily be one that leads to emancipation.

    • GBJames
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      “all of those causes and conflicts led us to where we are now”

      Indeed. And where we are now is a point in history where a great many monuments are being seen in a different light by a great many people. Some monuments are being removed. History moves on. It progresses. Fretting over the removal of Bobby Lee and his horse from public display doesn’t eliminate history, it extends it. Such is life.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      “Nobody needs to drive Spain out of Cuba and the Philippines.”

      Would that the Americans, upon driving the Spanish out of the Philippines, had promptly gathered their tents and bid adieu to the Filipinos. As they did not, the Filipinos took umbrage and a conflict ensued, labeled by the Americans as “The Philippine Insurrection,” rather than “The American Occupation.”

      • Max Blancke
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

        Agreed.

    • savage
      Posted June 19, 2020 at 12:22 am | Permalink

      > Most of the people who fought in those conflicts did so because their country was at war, and joining up was what one did.

      I am concerned about the moral righteousness of people who denounce others as evil because they happened to fight for an immoral cause. Such sentiments quickly lead to atrocities.

      • GBJames
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        It doesn’t matter what you fight for? Should nobody be denounced? Denouncing people for fighting for immoral causes leads to atrocities? My irony meter just broke.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        Does it follow that people who fight for an immoral cause should be celebrated — especially when the celebration is meant as a means of justifying the underlying immorality itself (and as a means for perpetuating many of the circumstances that made the cause immoral in the first place)?

        Or, to reify the matter some, was it moral to celebrate (and, by celebrating, to endeavor to vindicate) the Confederacy as a means of perpetuating Jim Crow?

        • savage
          Posted June 20, 2020 at 1:16 am | Permalink

          I am critical of celebrating soldiers merely for fighting for a particular side, because that is what they are expected to do: “Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die” …

          My understanding is that soldiers are seldom motivated by ideology. The American Soldier surveys conducted during WW2 revealed that most GIs knew next to nothing about Germany and Japan, and, more shockingly, failed to list differences between democratic and totalitarian states.

          I would appreciate if acts of humanity during war would be celebrated, but those seem to be contrary to the purpose of waging it 😐

  42. phar84
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    There are good and valid reasons to both sides of the statue debate. To prematurely tear them down now is to dismiss the pro-statue side.

    • GBJames
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      Premature? They’ve been there for a hundred+ years, most of them. The case for them hasn’t been made yet?

      • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        I think pahr84 is saying that mob action preempts input from the local citizens as to what to do with the statues in their neighborhood.

        I am fully in favor of removing Confederate figure statues from public sites, especially places such as courthouses. And the banning/removal of the CSA flag from the military, state flags, public buildings, etc.

        For statues of figures such as Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Lincoln, etc., the disposition should be publicly debated (and the heckler’s veto should not be allowed). In general, I am in favor of retaining such monuments.

        I had not read carefully into the Civil War until I read James McPherson’s The Battle Cry of Freedom (highly recommended). What I found was how despicable the South was before the Civil War. Their demands were outrageous. The “States’ Rights” argument is total BS. The South demanded that they be able to bring slaves to the North, and live there permanently with their slaves. (So much for States’ Rights.) The Fugitive Slave Act allowed prosecution and punishment of Notherners who were insufficiently zealous is pursuing escaped slaves. I don’t think provision was ever enforced (but I may be wrong about that!).

        • GBJames
          Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

          “mob action preempts input from the local citizens”

          A distinction is asserted here that probably doesn’t exist. Very few demonstrators at protests are imported. And they, too, are citizens. Certainly that is true here where I live.

          FWIW… there are multiple fugitive slave acts. They were enforced and they were resisted, as one would expect, depending on where and who you were.

  43. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Saddam Hussein could be quite the philanthropist when the spirit moved him. Anyone think the Iraqi people should’ve contextualized his statue in Firdos Square?

    • max blancke
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      I was there for that one, but not as a participant. I got an Iraqi flag that day, which is hanging in my shop right now.

  44. prinzler
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Someone may well have made this comment earlier . . . .

    One criterion for some cases will be easy to apply: when the problematic behavior or stance is the thing that made the person famous, then it’s appropriate to take down their statue. Robert E. Lee is famous for the thing that is problematic (supporting slavery).

    This leads to a second principle, that any person has problematic behavior, so there mere presence of a less-than-perfect person is only an argument for no statues of anyone. However, one could soften that principle by saying that, when the crimes outweigh the benefits the person gave society, then a statue or a name on a building should be removed. But reaching consensus on that basis will be more difficult.

  45. Robert Bray
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    I’m amazed by the intensity and variety of the comments on this thread! They’re wonderful to read and follow, though a it’s a little bit dizzying trying to keep track of who has written what, and when.

    Icons lead to iconoclasm. Hasn’t it always been so with human culture? I think that Homo sapiens likes images and, being social, likes public (as well as hermetic)images to be out there and on display, yet can scarcely agree from one generation to the next who or what is worthy of representation.

    Iconoclasm seems always timely, even necessary, to the iconoclasts. But as often as not another, a later group will find the destruction of idols horrific and a blot on history. I think of the many ‘righteous’ beheading of saints’ statues, etc., in churches during the English Reformation. Which I regard as moral vandalism. . . .

    Here’s a short poem ‘about’ the recent removal of the painted windows of Lee and Jackson at the
    ‘National’ Cathedral. It stands where I stand on this issue:

    national light

    why lookit over thar it’s ol’ abe jist
    a-standin’ in that colored winder with
    colored folks for oncet not tellin’ none
    o’ his jokes but busy ‘mancipatin’ . . .

    . . . waal mebbe a story too a short one
    ‘bout how them twain rebel gin’ls bob lee
    & stonewall recently had they winders
    tookin’ out ha bible totin’ jackson
    & high church lee both banished like their
    damned confederacy ha the holes bricked
    up glass put down in the crypt or maybe
    sent back to fuhginya ha ain’t it kinda
    sarky states rights lost cause & all such
    malarkey they’s all ex-cathedral now ha

    • Posted June 18, 2020 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      Now, be careful using that dialect. Someone might accuse you of trying to resurrect the language of Uncle Remus in his Brer Rabbit and Brer Bear stories which are much maligned today. Despite the fact that the author was trying to preserve Black stories.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        I take your point, both with and without its irony. My intent was to have the speaker speak with some fanciful version of my own class-dialect (now atrophied), upland southern white. That is, Hicksville.

  46. jezgrove
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have a problem with statues coming down, provided that their removal is publicly debated and democratically agreed – deciding how / where to contextualize it should be part of that discussion. The idea of activists pulling down statues without permission, as happened recently in Bristol, is definitely problematic. The people who pulled down Edward Colston’s statue would presumably be unhappy if a different statue, say that of Nelson Mandela, was similarly destroyed by a mass gathering with a different agenda.

    • Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      +1.

      But the Woke Left are dead certain of their righteousness.

      • jezgrove
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        So are the Unwoke Right. What could possibly go wrong?

  47. MacSlernz
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I am against statues being pulled down or defaced. There are calls here in New Zealand for statues to be removed. In fact, one in Hamilton has already been removed.

    If anyone who owned slaves throughout history are to be condemned does this mean that all mosques must be dismantled? After all, the prophet Mohammad owned many slaves. Mosques are erected to honour the prophet so they must come down.

  48. jezgrove
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I suspect the mosques are erected to honour Allah, but I take your point. Conveniently for Mohammad, Islam doesn’t allow representation of people so there are no statues of that particular slave owner to pull down.

    • jezgrove
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Oops, that was meant to be a reply to MacSlernz at #47.

  49. eHead
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I live in Richmond VA, so this is obviously something that has been on my mind. I should say I haven’t entirely decided how I feel about the statues, but I object to the self-righteous bullying tactics liberals are employing. The pro-removal side typically picks apart peoples characters (which usually involves judging people of the past by modern standards), or pointing out the myths and legends that have spun up around them or certain historical events. In my opinion all of that entirely misses the point… civic art and architecture has ALWAYS been about myth.

    Statues and monuments are idealizations. If all civic art were required to be an accurate representation of history, and the persons depicted were required to meet modern ethical standards, then there would be virtually no civic art at all. Mongolia would have to take down it’s giant statue of Genghis Khan, Uzbekistan would have to remove Tamerlane, the UK would have to take down their statues of Queen Victoria and Churchill, France would have to get rid of Napoleon, China Chairman Mao, etc, etc…

    Fortunately all this civic art is NOT expected to accurately reflect history or someone’s character, but rather it is an invitation to reflect on abstract civic virtues, or perhaps just to reflect on history itself. The point is the actual meaning of the art is flexible and can change over time and be reinterpreted. It’s not a negative that the Robert E. Lee statue is interpreted today (by > 95% of Richmonders, I suspect) as reflecting military excellence, loyalty to Virginia, fortitude, or whatever… that’s the whole point. It would be far more disturbing if people interpreted the statue as advocating slavery. Just like the statue of Genghis Khan presumably represents martial virtues and an indominable spirit, rather than rape and pillage. In this way a monument to the Vietnam War might mean different things to different people… to some it might be sacrificing for ones country, but for someone else it may simply be a cautionary warning about the folly of war.

    I’ll admit part of my hesitation in condemning our statues is simply the fact that I find them cool, and I think they contribute something unique to Monument Ave. Whatever their meaning I can appreciate their artistic value and monumentality. The sad thing is that society is so polarized that no acceptable shared meaning can be agreed upon. There have been plenty of times in history when people have been unable to reinterpret the meaning of their civic art, and have destroyed it.

    • Max Blancke
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      My mom was a historian of the civil war and reconstruction. As a child, she took me to a great many battlefields and graveyards. My favorite was always Vicksburg. There are so many wonderful memorials. But I like Richmond as well. I think it is sad that all of that public art is very likely to be smashed and defaced.

      • GBJames
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        I’ve read quite a bit of Civil War history and have visited quite a few battle sites. Vicksburg National Military Park is, indeed, well worth a visit and the remains of the USS Cairo are a wonder to be seen. My wife’s GGGrandfather is buried in the national cemetery there.

        I have a GGGrandfather buried in the Richmond National Cemetery. He was a victim of disease acquired while imprisoned at Scott Prison, one of the tobacco warehouses converted for storage of Union prisoners. The prison is not preserved. Nor is the more famous Libby Prison, although that one at least gets a plaque.

  50. William Boecklen
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    The question is: Where does it end? In fifty years will all non-vegans be vilified? What about Catholics (or any other random category)?

    What about entire generations that exhibited poor stewardship of the planet, causing the extinction of millions of species?

    • GBJames
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      Where does it end? It doesn’t. As long as humans are around we will continue to change and view things differently than previous generations. Best get use to it!

      • William Boecklen
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        Differently, but not so self-righteously. Where does the moral authority come from to pass judgement?

        • tomh
          Posted June 18, 2020 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

          Where did the moral authority come from to glorify traitors like all the southern generals who have statues? In memory of the glorious lost cause. Personally, I see no reason to keep all the concrete that makes them heroes.

          • William Boecklen
            Posted June 18, 2020 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

            Well, I was talking about Jefferson, Lincoln, Darwin, and people of their ilk.

  51. Jim batterson
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    On a day that started out with jerry seeming to question the viability of weit, These 130 (as of 1640 EDT) thoughtful comments and incredibly broad discussion are significant indicators of why i so often find weit so stimulating and important. Tnx boss!

    • Posted June 18, 2020 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Well, I’m still worried about the viability, but I have to say that this discussion, with good and intelligent points made on all sides, and with almost no rancor and no name calling, makes me proud of the readers!

      • Jim batterson
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

        Yes indeed. This has been a confusing issue for me…i generally think that providing good overides some bad, but have not stress tested that. Did they move society forward and while not perfect, position that society for more progress?
        But this is absolutely the best discussion, as you said, on all sides of the issue that i have seen.
        Btw, it would really help to have honest k12 history classes…particularly on treatment of native americans and african and carribean american, not to mention pretty much any newcomers including europeans. But i am not sanguine given the difficultyin getting a fair and current treatment of science in virginia over the past ten years.

  52. jezgrove
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, here’s a BBC website report on this issue: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52995404

  53. Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I think we should go slow with this de-statuing and renaming. This will offend a lot of people and give aid and comfort to the Trump campaign. Let’s at least wait until after the November election.

  54. Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, violence and damage to property wins the argument. Respect and tolerance are another country or universe.

  55. revelator60
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Statues are placed to commemorate and thank those who have accomplished great deeds for society. The Confederate statues don’t deserve to stay up, since they honor men who contributed nothing of value to our society. Their deeds don’t deserve celebration.

    But Jefferson’s statue should not have been pulled down. He was a founding father of this country and his accomplishments outweigh his crimes as a slave owner. The buffoon who said “We’re taking this city back” was doing nothing of the kind. You cannot take America back from Jefferson. You can celebrate the men responsible for the best features of the US while also keeping in mind their grave flaws. If you can’t do both, then you can’t handle history.

    The Boston statue of Lincoln should go into a museum with a contextual plaque. Why not replace it with a statue of Lincoln and a freed slave shaking hands?

    Churchill pretty much saved his country. That surely outweighs his nasty opinions and imperialist mindset, so a statue is justified. If people want to discuss his flaws, there are better ways of doing so than through graffiti. And it would be shameful for the UK to remove the statue—the gesture of public thanks—of the man who saw it through its darkest hour.

    In the wake of the recent police murders, I understand that many people want to root out racism, and that some have taken out their frustrations on statues of figures guilty of that sin. In some cases this has a rational basis, as in the case of the Confederate statues and cringey Lincoln statue. In other cases protesters have simply thrown a self-righteous tantrum whose effects are primarily cosmetic.

  56. jezgrove
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a Churchill quote, for anyone who hasn’t come across the problematic things he said:

    “I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place”.

    [To the Peel Commission (1937) on a Jewish Homeland in Palestine.]

    • jezgrove
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      And another one:

      “I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. […] It is sheer affectation to lacerate a man with the poisonous fragment of a bursting shell and to boggle at making his eyes water by means of lachrymatory gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gases: gases can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected … We cannot, in any circumstances acquiesce to the non-utilisation of any weapons which are available to procure a speedy termination of the disorder which prevails on the frontier.”

      [Statement as president of the Air Council, War Office Departmental Minute (1919-05-12); Churchill Papers 16/16, Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge.]

      Wikiquote notes:

      “Many argue that quotes from this passage are often taken out of context, because Churchill is distinguishing between non-lethal agents and the deadly gasses used in World War I and emphasizing the use of non-lethal weapons; however Churchill is not clearly ruling out the use of lethal gases, simply stating that “it is not necessary to use only the most deadly”. It is sometimes claimed that gas killed many young and elderly Kurds and Arabs when the RAF bombed rebelling villages in Iraq in 1920 during the British occupation. For more information on this matter, see Gas in Mesopotamia.”

  57. Steve Pollard
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    One way of looking at the issue is to observe that (in the UK anyway) almost all public statues are (a) of people who are almost forgotten today, and (b) of negligible artistic merit.

    Maybe we should consider that all statues should have a shelf life (or more accurately a plinth life) of 50 years, after which they should be removed to a suitable museum, or respectfully laid to rest, or left in place if that’s what a sufficiently significant local majority want.

  58. Posted June 18, 2020 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    I think most statues were built to show that society honors the person represented by it, not primarily as a historical record. Society can change their minds about whether this honor is deserved.

    I greatly admired Jefferson for many reasons. Somehow when I was younger it never bothered me that this man who proclaimed “All men were created equal” held slaves. But it should have. He kept lots of slaves. He could have led by example but instead enriched himself on the backs of slaves. The man is a world-class hypocrite about an issue that affected millions of lives.

    • tomh
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      Agree with most of this, but it’s not true that he enriched himself. Jefferson was in debt most of his life, mainly from debts he inherited when his wife died young (she inherited them from her father.) His debts were one of the reasons he could never bring himself to free his slaves.

      • Posted June 18, 2020 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

        I was not aware of that, thanks for the clarification. But I think it is fair to say that the bulk of his income was generated by slaves, even if he didn’t generate enough to get out of debt. This income was enormous, enough to build Monticello. Monticello is extravagant evidence that the work of his slaves did not merely serve to pay off his debt.

        • tomh
          Posted June 18, 2020 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

          Oh, no doubt, you’re exactly right. His taste for imported French wines didn’t help him in his budget woes, either.

      • Posted June 18, 2020 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

        Jefferson was in debt because he was utterly extravagant. He imported thousands of expensive luxury goods from Europe. All of this made possible by the exploitation of his slaves, and then he died in debt unable to free his slaves except the Hemings. He definitely enriched himself in terms of extravagant living up to his death.

    • Posted June 19, 2020 at 5:37 am | Permalink

      Black male slaves were not “men” at that time. Wikipedia: “Slaves were legally considered nonpersons unless they committed a crime. An Alabama court ruled that slaves “are rational beings, they are capable of committing crimes; and in reference to acts that are crimes, are regarded as persons. Because they are slaves, they are incapable of performing civil acts, and in reference to all such, they are things, not persons.””

      Unfortunately, I can’t remember where to find it, but eventually blacks were counted as a percentage of a person to maintain “equitable” power between the north and the south.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

        Your quote from Wikipedia stuns me though it shouldn’t. Remove the word “slave” and it might as well be the status quo today.

  59. FA
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    What’s the bet there will be a George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks statues going up before the end of the year, where to even consider any of the bad things they did in life will be totally verboten?

    • tomh
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      I’m betting there will be no statues of either one of them.

      • William Boecklen
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        How about murals?

      • EdwardM
        Posted June 18, 2020 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        But there will be countless murals, some even on public property.

        • tomh
          Posted June 18, 2020 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, I guess I just don’t see the relationship between some graffiti artist putting a picture on a wall of a guy who was killed by police, and a giant statue glorifying probably the greatest traitor in American history, who led an Army into a war that left a million Americans dead. But that’s just me.

          • EdwardM
            Posted June 18, 2020 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

            The goalposts are on rocket sleds, I see. The point that you are trying so hard to avoid is; why is ok to debase memorials on account of the personal failures of Thomas Jefferson but not George Floyd?

            • tomh
              Posted June 18, 2020 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

              Well, I was talking about Lee, but no matter who, it’s amusing that you equate the two.

  60. Posted June 18, 2020 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Hey I know, let’s remove all statues of people who don’t think as we do today (what ever that is), and while we’re at it, expunge ’em from art/photography/history/science books. Then we can all be a happy, prejudice free bunch of know-nothings, living in ignorant bliss.

    And definitely no more statues/images allowed, cos they might offend. (Remind you of something?)

    rz

    • tomh
      Posted June 18, 2020 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      I always wonder how people can go from statues glorifying people, which other people have to pass every day, to history books, which describe deeds and people have to make an effort to read. Why does removing statues equal erasing history books. I haven’t figured that one out.

  61. KD33
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    This is not OK.

  62. jodyw1
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    There’s a certain tragic irony in the men who formalized and explained a novel idea in the history of Humanity — that all people are equal, born with rights that are inherent to them, and can’t be removed from them — having their statues torn down and their memories broken because they didn’t live up to the idea they originated.

  63. Dionigi
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    The people who would pull down statues are probably the same ones who would condemn the taliban for blowing up buddha statues.

    • Posted June 18, 2020 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      Actually, I think they are the same people who would commend the Taliban for bowing up the buddhist statues.

  64. Filippo
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    On page 4 of the print Wed 6/17/20 NY Times is a photo of a statue of Jefferson Davis being removed from the Kentucky state capitol. The photo is in conjunction with an article reflecting the Associated Press’s embarrassment and profuse apologies for featuring a quote (a chiasmus) by Jefferson Davis:

    “Never be haughty to the humble; never be humble to the haughty.”

    There is not one word criticizing the efficacy of the quote. How could there be? It seems to express an outstanding, positive sentiment. It strikes me as something Martin Luther King Jr. could originate and utter without hesitation.

    Of course Davis was a hypocrite in uttering this, for monumentally obvious reasons.

    It’s too bad someone else didn’t originate it (assuming Davis didn’t appropriate it from someone else).

    I don’t suppose that anyone could get by with appending “Anonymous” to the quote. After all, there is always the possibility that Anonymous could be a bad person. And I gather that there are numerous Anonymouses. (Maybe append, “He Whose Name Must Not Be Uttered”?)

    I guess the quote’s fate is to be exiled to the Isle of Orphaned Quotes.

  65. rickflick
    Posted June 18, 2020 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    For a second, I thought I was reading the Onion. But it’s real:

    Facebook Removes Trump Ads With Symbol Used By Nazis. Campaign Calls It An ‘Emoji’

    Facebook says the campaign advertisements violated the social network’s ban on hate group symbols. The Anti-Defamation League’s CEO said that “ignorance is no excuse for using Nazi-related symbols.”

  66. hadden.donald@gmail.com
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 2:40 am | Permalink

    I don’t know the history of this statue (of Abe with the kneeling man). But could the intent of the artist to use this powerful symbol from the Abolitionist movement?

    This was created by Josiah Wedgewood, the family Darwin married into.

    All the best,

    Don Hadden

  67. Abi
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    I agree that this is a really thorny issue and it is very difficult to weigh in on one side or the other. My own feelings are:

    1. I suppose statues erected of controversial historical figures are broadly of 3 x types:

    – Type A: complex figures with both positive and negative qualities but who undoubtedly did a lot of good in their public life (Jefferson, Churchill, Washington, etc)

    – Type B: people who were undoubtedly horrible in their public life and whatever little good they may have done is inconsequential (Columbus, Leopold II, various Confederate generals, etc)

    – Type C: people who made their wealth by doing horrible or shady things but then indulged in philanthropy and lots of genuine charitable acts later in their life to launder their reputation – sort of like the modern-day Jeffrey Epsteins (Cecil Rhodes, Edward Colston, etc)

    My view is Type A statues should be allowed to remain while Type B and Type C may be removed. I say “may be removed” and not “should be removed” because I don’t feel too strongly about it. But yes, I would rather not see people like that in the public squares – afterall what we put in our public squares defines us as a people (our flags, our sense of aesthetics, our architecture, our monuments, our street musicians, etc)

    2. The really tricky thing though is a lot of our views come from our own reading of history. What would we say of statues of Stalin or Chairman Mao? Would they be like Type A or Type B above? One can make the case that Stalin did as much as (if not more than) Churchill to rid the world of the Nazis (although in an extremely blundering way). The categorisation of figures in Type A, B or C is very subjective indeed. It is for matters like this that I feel going forward we should think long and hard about erecting new statues of anyone (other than those of abstract ideas such as the statue of Liberty, etc) because these are likely to be unhelpful in the years to come and as society’s standards of morals and values evolve. Perhaps there is something to be said for the Biblical injunction against idolatry?

    3. Finally, I cannot help but mention that broadly in the West we have not yet fully come to accept and acknowledge how horrible our own history has been. While in the academic world this is well-understood and is slowly creeping into popular discourse, broadly in the school history books, culture, etc, our past misadventures in colonialism, racism, etc are either white-washed or are mentioned in the most obscure and passive terms (eg: “by the late 19th century, the native population in the Americas dwindled down to..” or “by 1930s, the British rule extended over…” without mentioning how the native population dwindled or how was it that the British rule extended, etc.) The horrors of Stalinism and Nazism are documented in great and gory details in our culture (as they should be) but the same treatment is not extended to our own murderous adventures. Even now, the remarkable breeziness in which conversations happen about the Iraq war or the way some of these warmongers like Kissinger are venerated should be a matter of great shame. In contrast countries like Germany have done a thorough mea culpa. They have not tried to hide or gloss over their recent history. The gory details of Nazism and anti-semitism are fully taught, documented and accepted in the broader German society including in school textbooks. As a result and in my own experience, I find the Germans are much more at peace with their complicated past and don’t get as riled up as people in the English-speaking world when their own skeletons are brought out of the closet.

    • Posted June 19, 2020 at 5:54 am | Permalink

      As recently as the late 1800s into the early 1900s, California Natives were being hunted and killed by whites. $.50 bounties were paid for scalps and $5.00 per head. Anyone who hasn’t encountered it might want to read “Ishi in Two Worlds written by Theodora Kroeber, wife of anthropologist Alfred Kroeber (parents of Ursula K. Le Guin.) Ishi was the last of his tribe, the Yahi, and died of Tuberculosis on March 25, 1916 where he lived in the University of California, San Francisco campus. His story is a heart breaker.

      • Abi
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 7:07 am | Permalink

        Years ago while backpacking in Patagonia, I entered a small bookshop and read a few pages from a book by the anthropologist Anne Chapman about the history of the native Selk’nam peoples of the Tierra del Fuego. Chapman was interviewing Lola Kiepja, the last remaining member of the tribe who she says “sensed the end” shortly before she passed away:

        “Here I am, following the steps of those who left
        Here I am walking on the path traced out by those who left
        I am following the trace of their steps
        Those who left talk to me from far away
        From the infinite they have talked to me
        The traces of those who left are here”

        I teared up when I read it thinking how would I feel if I were the last remaining person of my own “tribe”, scared, lonely and powerless and with nothing in the way of legacy to leave behind.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted June 19, 2020 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

          I’m copying your remarks into a notebook I have in which to record quotes that I find particularly moving, arresting, important, thought-provoking in some way or another. Your anecdote is ineffably poignant and something to meditate on.

          Thank you for recounting it here in WEIT.

    • Historian
      Posted June 19, 2020 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      “Finally, I cannot help but mention that broadly in the West we have not yet fully come to accept and acknowledge how horrible our own history has been.”

      You have hit upon the crux of the debate revolving around removing Confederate statues and slave owning presidents. Just as many people find it too painful to acknowledge that the stories in the Bible are fairy tales and myths, it is the same to reject the myths of the nation’s founding and civil war. Americans have been taught for centuries that the United States was an exceptional country, unlike all other countries in the world, dedicated from the Declaration of Independence onwards to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” where all men were created equal. Now, when the myths are being demolished, many people find it hard to accept that they are highly flawed, if not downright false. Hence, the right wing attack on the 1619 Project appeals to those who feel comfortable living in fantasy land.

  68. brian salkas
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    My take on racist statues in general.
    If it is a truely historical statue and also objectivly offensive (like the one with the black man kneeling) it should be relocated to a museum and addmision fees to the museum go toward funding black schools or black neighborhoods. That is the only way to contextualize such a statue.

    The ones that are less obviously offensive but still venerate racists should be delt with on a community basis. I personally would like us all to update our heros and put these statues in museums as well, but I acknowledge that this is really complex and does not lend itself to a “one size fits all” solution.
    As for any racist statue built in the 1950s and later as part of a counter protest against the Civil rights movement, those shall be be summarily removed after they are propefly vandalized

  69. Dan
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I believe the day will come when the records of Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio will be expunged from the record books because they played in the era of segregated leagues. The discontinuation of the Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo logo is only the tip of the iceberg.

  70. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Statues are cultural, just a small part of history, and history is not erased by removing them.

    In fact, changing cities should be part of a living culture, and we will likely see more of local digital plaques that we can experience in our phones anyway.

    I remember that I was fascinated by statues when I was 6 years old. “Why the fuss? Who were these people or thingies, what did they symbolize?” A few years later and I was fed up with how many they were.

  71. Tim Harris
    Posted June 20, 2020 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    If anyone is still interested in statuary after all these comments, then I recommend reading the article in the New Statesman by Richard J Evans, regius professor emeritus of history at Cambridge University, and the author of “The Third Reich in History and Memory” & “The Third Reich Trilogy”. Google: ‘Richard J. Evans, The History Wars’. It is extremely good, and by a brilliant historian who was, incidentally,an expert witness in the libel case brought by the Holocaust denier David Irving against Deborah Lipstadt, who had rightly taken him to task in her book “Denying the Holocaust”. I think many people on this thread should also read his “In Defence of History”, which is an assault on postmodern theories where history is concerned and a defence of history as an academic discipline.

  72. ethologist
    Posted June 20, 2020 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Actually Lincoln did favor sending freed slaves to Africa (or to Central America) and spoke about it throughout his political career, even though he didn’t see it as practicable. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln_and_slavery

    • rickflick
      Posted June 20, 2020 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      I think it’s telling us that Lincoln thought the race issue would always be intractable.


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