Teddy Roosevelt and the American Museum of Natural History

JAC: People keep thinking that I’m the author of everything on this site. While that’s usually true, we also have occasional contributions from others, most often from Greg Mayer, a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. And this comes from him.

by Greg Mayer

Readers of WEIT may recall that last Monday Jerry noted that, according to the NY Times, President Ellen Futter of the American Museum of Natural History has decided that the statue of Theodore Roosevelt that stands in front of the Museum’s entrance on Central Park West will be removed. I’ve (almost) given up on the University of Wisconsin, but some institutions are still worth fighting for. It took me a few days to compose a letter, and below is what I sent her on Friday.

Theodore Roosevelt equestrian statue, Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, American Museum of natural History, 14 June 2019.

Ms. Ellen Futter, President
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024
Dear President Futter:
I am writing to you to express my dismay at your decision to remove the statue of Theodore Roosevelt from in front of the the Rotunda entrance of the Museum.
I hope I need not have to recount for you Roosevelt’s close association with the Museum during his lifetime, and his many contributions to natural history as a naturalist, collector, conservationist, and scientist. The State of New York chose the Museum as the location for its memorial to Roosevelt in all his fields of endeavor– politician, public servant, soldier, statesman, author– not just in natural history.
As a conservationist, his historical importance is unparalleled, because, as Governor and President, he was able to act on his principles. He expressed these principles succinctly in a letter to Frank Chapman, one of the Museum’s curators, while he was Governor:
The destruction of the wild pigeon and the Carolina paraquet has meant a loss as severe as if the Catskills or Palisades were taken away. When I hear of the destruction of a species I feel just as if all the works of some great writer had perished[.]
As a scientist, Roosevelt is one the very few presidents who, as a much published student of the natural world, can be counted among the company of scientists. During a recent visit to the Museum to do research, I had the pleasure of examining in the Bird Library a copy of Roosevelt’s paper on animal coloration, published in the Museum’s Bulletin in 1911, one of the only scientific papers published by a president.
The statue itself presents Roosevelt in Western frontier garb, while at his side are a figure of an American Indian and an African. The American West and Africa were extremely important in Roosevelt’s development and career as a naturalist, and he wrote much of his experiences in both places. The figures represent not conquered peoples, but the people and places with whom, and where, Roosevelt lived and worked during his years in the West and during his year-long African expedition. The entrance outside of which the statue stands leads, appropriately, into the Akeley Hall of African Mammals– a hall which had been planned to be called the “Roosevelt African Hall”.

Your effort to cast the removal of the statue not as a repudiation of Roosevelt, but as a critique of the statue’s “composition”, is a transparent stratagem, and is even more disreputable, making the statue’s removal an aesthetic whim, rather than an ideological act. Realistic depiction of allegorical figures in a pyramidal shape may not be the fashion today, but it is the essence of a museum to conserve, display, and interpret natural and cultural artifacts from all of time and history, not to get rid of those that go out of style.

Those calling for the statue’s removal may be well-intentioned (though ill-informed– those who defaced the statue a few years ago thought the figure to Roosevelt’s left was an African-American). But good intentions and justified grievances are not enough to excuse the act of iconoclasm  that you are contemplating. The English Reformation may have had some good points in its critique of the Catholic Church, but that did not justify the destruction of the monasteries and the loss of their libraries– a severe loss, just as Roosevelt himself wrote to Chapman.
To remove the statue is to condescend to the misdirected passions of the crowd, no matter how just the essence of their grievances. I urge you resolutely to reconsider your decision.
With all best wishes,
Gregory C. Mayer
Professor of Biological Sciences
University of Wisconsin-Parkside

A couple of notes on items in the letter; some of these points are not explicated in the letter, because I assume Futter would know them. First, the entrance to the Museum here leads into the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, which is a large space containing an Allosaurus attacking a Barosaurus, as well as various memorials to Roosevelt. The floor below the Rotunda houses the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall, also with memorials to Roosevelt, including a bronze sculpture of Roosevelt sitting on a bench (alongside which many pictures have been taken). This whole section of the Museum, together with the plaza, facade, and statues, constitute The New York State Theodore Roosevelt Memorial. Second, Roosevelt’s letter to Frank M. Chapman may be found here. Third, the earlier misinformed protests alluded to are the subject of this NY Times article. And finally, if you want to know more about Roosevelt as a naturalist and his connection to the Museum, Darrin Lunde’s The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt, A Lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Natural History  (Crown Publishing, 2016) is a good place to start.

Theodore Roosevelt equestrian statue, Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, American Museum of natural History, 14 June 2019.

I grew up on Long Island, both sides of my family are from Brooklyn, and my father worked in the City. As a budding naturalist, though my attention focused on the Bronx Zoo, the American Museum did not escape my notice as a source of wonder, amazement, and knowledge. Until I went to grad school at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, the American Museum was “my” museum. I visited, and continue to visit, the American Museum to examine specimens for my research. In fact, for the last few years, I’ve been visiting the American Museum almost every year (because of the extraordinary richness of their collections for a project I’ve been working on).

Theodore Roosevelt equestrian statue, Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, American Museum of natural History, 14 June 2019.

The first thing I did as I contemplated my response was to check what info I immediately had to hand about the Museum and Roosevelt. I was surprised to find I had more than a dozen books about the Museum, its collections, and its history. The earliest I purchased in 1975, during a high school field trip; the latest I bought during a research visit last year. I doubt I’ll get a reply; the only time I’ve gotten a reply to such a letter to a higher up was a letter to Harvard, and they knew I was an alum. My hope is that if enough criticism is voiced, there might be a reconsideration.

Theodore Roosevelt equestrian statue, Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, American Museum of natural History, 14 June 2019.

The defenestration of statues is reaching absurdist territory, with two recent take downs in Madison. Protesters pulled down the statue “Forward” outside the State Capitol. The statue is described by the Wisconsin Historical Society like this:

“Forward” is an allegory of devotion and progress, qualities [sculptress Jean Pond] Miner felt Wisconsin embodied.

The statue has often featured, as a positive symbol, embraced by protesters, in demonstrations in protests for women’s rights, gay rights, labor,  etc. The current protesters are either abysmally ignorant, or actually oppose progress.

 

Forward, as recently defaced. She was subsequently pulled down and thrown in the street. Amber Arnold, Wisconsin State Journal.

Even more bizarre is the destruction of the statue of Hans Christian Heg, an abolitionist and Union officer who was killed by Confederates while leading his troops at the Battle of Chickamauga. Heg was originally from Norway, and the Norwegian media have taken note of the statue’s destruction. This excerpt, from a Norwegian piece entitled “Historians Puzzled After Statue Razed” sums it up:

Norwegian officials were surprised and saddened by news that the statue of a Norwegian-American anti-slavery activist is among the latest to be toppled and dumped in a river by demonstrators in the US state of Wisconsin. Hans Christian Heg opposed slavery and fought for the Union Army during the Civil War. . . .

Colonel Hans Christian Heg became a symbol of Norwegians’ anti-slavery activism. He was shot and killed during the Civil War while leading a Union regiment against the South’s Confederates, so Norwegians can’t understand why his statue became a target of anti-racism demonstrators.

It’s not just Norwegians that can’t understand. As a local reporter put it, the statues’ destruction left “many people wondering what purpose their removal served to advance the Black Lives Matter movement.

The tearing down of statues has now become indiscriminate. In Madison (again), students at the university are now calling for the removal of a statue of Lincoln. (Everybody hates Lincoln, apparently.) In San Francisco, a statue of Ulysses Grant was actually taken down! Do the demonstrators know nothing at all about American history?

That the latter is actually the case is suggested by a remark made to NBC News by a demonstrator at an attack on a statue of Andrew Jackson, to the effect he was getting rid of “Confederates”. This is absurd. Jackson was a staunch Unionist. During the nullification crisis of the 1830s, Jackson firmly opposed nullification and secession, and, at his behest, Congress passed a bill authorizing him to take military action against South Carolina. According to Britannica,

Jackson’s actions in asking for the Force Bill were seen by nationalists as a heroic move that preserved the integrity of the Union and underscored the primacy of the federal government.

Jackson was a Southerner and slave-owner, but we don’t know what he would have done thirty years later, because he was long dead by the time of the Civil War. (You should read, by the way, Jackson’s proclamation on nullification, simply as an example of argumentation. I’m not sure if he wrote it himself, but it’s a rhetorical tour de force compared to what emanates from the current president.)

One of my greatest concerns is that these events are providing the perfect ammunition for Trump’s re-election campaign. You may think that tearing down Lincoln, Grant, and Civil War heroes is the action of a few zealots, and I hope that’s true. But four years ago I thought the follies of the academic authoritarian left were an academic sideshow, but it turned out Fox News was broadcasting these follies 24/7. The events in Madison have not gotten much coverage from other national media, but Fox is already making hay of these events; (video here; more coverage).

In seeing what is going on, I thought, “This is like the Cultural Revolution”; Andrew Sullivan had similar thoughts. If Lincoln, Grant, and Heg cannot pass muster, then no one can.

46 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I’ve commented elsewhere about the profound stupidity of destroying the statues in Madison so I’ll be brief by way of a “sub”…

    Jesus, what idiocy! Tearing down the statue whose purpose is to symbolize making things better!

  2. Eric Grobler
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    “The tearing down of statues has now become indiscriminate”

    I came to the conclusion that this is fundamentally about a hatred/jealousy of the achievements of western civilization.

    In a parallel universe China, Africa or south america could have invented science, the enlightenment etc, but in our universe the west is responsible for the majority of human achievement.

    Thus the mob wants to destroy statues of western achievement, the “transgressions” of historical figures is just an excuse.

    Darwin will be next.

    • Adam M.
      Posted June 29, 2020 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      I agree. I don’t think it’s indiscriminate at all. I don’t think they’ll be happy until every statue of a white person is torn down.

  3. A C Harper
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was a warning about dystopia. Fahrenheit 1,742 is the melting point of Bronze.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I don’t think any of it can be explained except by ignorance. This whole business of judging long past history by your own values today is a joke and I have been saying that here since I started commenting. And many people here have thought otherwise, which is their privilege but again, I do not understand it. Since I began reading about history as a hobby I have done so following the recommendations of some pretty good historians. Joseph Ellis for one said, if you are going to take your modern culture and judgement with you to learn history, you should not make the trip.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted June 29, 2020 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Ignorance is only a part of it.

      The Cambodians were peaceful for centuries until the Khmer rouge who loved history came on the scene 🙂

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted June 29, 2020 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        Well, slaughtering people is kind of a different subject don’t you think.

        • Max Blancke
          Posted June 29, 2020 at 10:57 am | Permalink

          It is certainly an escalation. Have you ever spoken to or read accounts by former members of the Khmer Rouge?
          None that I know of joined the cause with the expectation that they would eventually be engaging in wholesale mass murder. There were a lot of Buddha statues smashed or thrown into the flames before the killing started.
          Angkor Wat was a completely different experience prior to 1970 than it is now.

          • EdwardM
            Posted June 29, 2020 at 11:01 am | Permalink

            “There were a lot of Buddha statues smashed or thrown into the flames before the killing started.”

            A paraphrase of Santayana that is terrifyingly resonant today.

        • Eric Grobler
          Posted June 29, 2020 at 11:20 am | Permalink

          You claimed that the madness can be explained by ignorance.

          My point is that it was the western educated Marxists and intellectuals who were responsible for the violence in the pursuit of an Utopia in Cambodia.

          “Well, slaughtering people is kind of a different subject don’t you think.”

          Don’t you think there are parallels between leftists like antifa and the Maoists of china for example?
          Humans love a bit of slaughtering for a good cause.

          • EdwardM
            Posted June 29, 2020 at 11:34 am | Permalink

            “Humans love a bit of slaughtering for a good cause.”

            Yes we do, but it’s complicated; “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure…. God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion”

            -Thomas Jefferson.

            • Eric Grobler
              Posted June 29, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

              Interesting Jefferson quote.

              Let’s tear down his statues!

    • eric
      Posted June 29, 2020 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Re: the indiscriminancy. This is another example of the left eating itself (IMO). Each protestor tries to outdo the others in their virtue by taking greater offense at lesser faults. So now every citizen of the past is held up to a microscope, and if they weren’t actively, constantly, campaigning for late 20th century notions of civil rights, they’re insufficiently pure.

      • Doug
        Posted June 29, 2020 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

        re: ignorance:

        Regarding the guy who thought that Andrew Jackson was a Confederate, I once heard someone on a radio talk show who thought that Andrew Jackson and Stonewall Jackson were the same person. He also thought that this person was the source of the quote “Don’t fire ’til you see the whites of their eyes.”

  5. EdwardM
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    That was an excellent letter, Dr Mayer but I’m afraid it will fall on deaf ears. We’ve long passed the point where reason and thought matters. The sudden stop at the end of this fall in our culture will take a very long time to recover from, if we do at all.

  6. rickflick
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    How sad. This is all fuel for tRump’s campaign.

  7. Historian
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    You lament, as I do, the destruction of statues by historical ignoramuses of people that far from supporting slavery, vigorously opposed it. Such actions may help Trump; they certainly won’t hurt him. At this point, lecturing these frenzied fools may be too late. The best we can do is to try to identify why some people, presumably with the best of intentions (some may dispute this), engage in these acts. My view is that they reflect the historical ignorance of Americans in general. In recent years, the study of American history in its national context, with an emphasis on political developments. barely exists at universities and colleges, replaced by very limited areas of study, such as gender or race studies. In addition, students are no longer encouraged to major in the humanities, rather they are urged to major in STEM fields as a means of securing better employment. The result of this is that at least some young people have no understanding of the difference between a slaver and an abolitionist. If and until the study of “old fashioned” history is required of all students then we can expect the toppling of statues of admirable people (or some equivalent of this) to continue.

    On the other hand, these unfortunate incidents should not detract from the essence of what the goal of removing Confederate memorials from public property (including military bases named after Confederate generals) is: a long overdue recognition that honoring Confederates is an obscenity and an affront to American ideals. This is why the city of Charleston, South Carolina (not protesters) removed an enormous statue of John C. Calhoun, patron saint of pro-slavery apologists. It is also why the State of Mississippi will be removing the Confederate battle flag from its state flag.

    Thus, in contrast to Andrew Sullivan’s fear that we are entering an Orwellian age, I contend that we are at long last leaving one. The South may have lost the Civil War on the battlefield, but won the peace – at least until now. This triumph was manifested by the national acceptance of the “Lost Cause” theology. The essence of the argument is that the South seceded not over the preservation of slavery, but for states’ rights. The North was the aggressor as it denied the constitutional right of secession. Robert E. Lee was a saint. Most importantly, slavery wasn’t all that bad since masters were kindly, slaves were happy and loved their masters, and the ignorant African was Christianized. In any case, it would have died out in a few decades. This myth is an extraordinary big lie, yet for more than a century much of the country (including the North) accepted it. It is hard to find a more successful implementation of an Orwellian world.

    I will leave for another day the discussion of whether monuments to slaveholding Founders such as Washington and Jefferson should be removed. I will just say that at least some African-Americans think so, including Charles Blow, op-ed columnist for the NYT.

    • EdwardM
      Posted June 29, 2020 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      “… in contrast to Andrew Sullivan’s fear that we are entering an Orwellian age, I contend that we are at long last leaving one.”

      A most excellent point. Always good to be brought up short in my thinking. Thanks.

      Still, this slope we’re on is coated with ice and while we may be leaving one Orwellian age it would really suck to slip into another that’s waiting for us at the bottom of this precipice.

    • eric
      Posted June 29, 2020 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      I think you’re wrong. I think tearing down a statue of Lincoln shows the protestors have lost the “essence” and “goal” you state.

      I also think it’s about as Orwellian a symbol of ‘opposing the Confederacy’ as you can get.

      • Historian
        Posted June 29, 2020 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        What statue of Lincoln are you referring to in which a mob tore it down?

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    “The English Reformation may have had some good points in its critique of the Catholic Church …”

    Oh my! I can tell you one person St. Peter won’t be letting through those Pearly Gates! 🙂

  9. Max Blancke
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    It may have started earlier, but I first started paying attention when they pulled the rebel flag down from the SC confederate memorial.
    I had a nice, civil discussion with one of the activists advocating for the removal of the flag. He assured me that my concern was misplaced, and that nobody was ever going to care about whether southerners or Skynyrd fans personally display the flag.
    Not that I am a big flag person. But my argument was that we are just not the kind of people that ban flags. Once the precedent is set that we are that sort of people, we lose a huge part of what makes us American. Tolerance, I suppose.
    Every one of us, except for possibly the hard core Marxists, have our own tolerance levels for what is currently happening. There is a point at which we will vote our disapproval, a further point where we write letters, such as the eloquent one that is the subject of this post. Further along we have a point at which we march or protest, a point at which we resort to defensive violence, and probably a point where we start engaging in offensive violence.
    My contention, which many here may well disagree with, was that we could have stopped all of this back when we were talking about flags. We had a similar national discussion in 1977 when the Nazis wanted to march. To me, these are all canary issues.

    If past precedent is any guide, the sort of people who tear down statues are likely, if unchecked, to escalate to violence towards individuals and groups of people.

    And, we have allowed to discussion to focus on the particular accomplishments of the
    individual or group represented by the statue instead of arguing that Americans don’t tear down statues, we build them. We have already conceded a major point to the hopeful revolutionaries in that respect. It is important to remember that they don’t actually care about the statues or memorials. They don’t actually feel “unsafe”.
    When they exhibit rage in these confrontations, it is rage at the idea that people disagree with them. When the statue is removed, they don’t give it another thought. They move on to the next target.

    They will not stop at statues. I expect the museum collections themselves will be a target soon enough.

    • Historian
      Posted June 29, 2020 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      “Americans don’t tear down statues, we build them.”

      Maybe so. But, an iconic moment of the American Revolution was when citizens of New York City tore down a statue of King George III. Damn those radicals!

      Here is an article discussing this action.

      https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/anthropology-in-practice/the-history-behind-the-king-george-iii-statue-meme/

      • max blancke
        Posted June 29, 2020 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        We also tend to wait an interval before erecting statues of people, with the exception of Paseo de los Presidentes in Puerto Rico. There are no official statues of Trump, unless one counts the animatronic at WDW.
        A tradition of not naming US Navy ships after living persons sort of slowly developed as the US found it’s identity, until Nixon broke the tradition.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted June 30, 2020 at 3:32 am | Permalink

          I suggest that the person to commission for a statue of Trump should be Jeff Koons – he likes making statues out of gold (or getting others to do it for him), and his tastes don’t appear to differ markedly from Trump’s. Just the man for it!

          And then we can all tear it down.

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

    I continue to think these acts will have little impact on Trump specifically (in a way they could even help Biden, as one criticism of him was that he did the whole ‘tough on crime’ thing back in the day – probably less of a liability if people are seeking a law and order candidate), but will have an impact on people voting Republican vs. Democrat in general. One point that I think is pretty key here – Trump has not had much of a tangible impact, in the real, physical world, on most Americans. I know those on the far Left would be outraged and say that he has created a toxic atmosphere for minorities – but that relies on assuming he is covertly ‘dog whistling’ and that his base has in turn heard this and made life worse for minorities (given that we’re in the middle of the Great AWokening, it hardly feels like racism is at an all time high.) The things that people worry about with Trump tend to be far more ethereal – American’s reputation on the world stage, for example. Riots and vandalism, on the other hand, represent a very real, immediate, physical threat to people in communities all over the country. Vandalism also leaves a permanent visual reminder that people pass day after day. I think that is incredibly consequential.

    As to why people are tearing down statues seemingly at random – my best guess is, for the same reason college students light things on fire after football games, or go up and down roads with ball bats smashing mailboxes. I think young people are just programmed to do such things for whatever reason – probably a holdover from some point in our evolution when they had to strike out on their own and fight local tribes or some such thing. Get together a massive group of young guys with nothing to do due to quarantines (but a ‘quarantine hall pass’ if you happen to be out protesting) and a free pass from the police on ‘statue tipping’, and they’ll tip every statue in town. Let’s be honest, from a guys perspective, I’m sure toppling an entire statue is much more satisfying that bashing a mailbox. You have the whole shebang with ropes and pulling and a huge crash and all (Although now that I think of it, I really hope they avoid smashing anyone with a statue in the process. Seems like a dangerous activity.)

    My overall impression is that the Left is wasting a tremendous amount of accumulated goodwill on a movement that largely makes symbolic gestures. Some honorable (removing Confederate statues,) some bizarre (White fragility trainings at work – can I just say, as someone with severe social phobia, I have pretty much just given up on the idea of socializing with non family members and long, longtime friends ever again. Done. Peace out. I was walking on eggshells already and now I’m walking on a landmine field of weird and ever-shifting made up rules, I give up.) I saw a commenter on Sullivan’s article said that statues are a small price to pay for “ending racism” or something like that. I was kinda touched by the naivety there. First, even the small changes made in societal attitudes certainly won’t end xenophobia, they’ll just shift it to other groups, like the rural poor (who it’s pretty acceptable to bully in pop culture,) and even misogynism (i.e., stalking and harassing “Karens”). Second, what will actually be different in the life of a struggling member of a minority after months of vandalism, corporate “We support BLM” letters, and corporate seminars on race? When they wake up, will they have more money in their bank account? A better, safer neighborhood? More access to education, childcare, and employment? Those seem like across the board “no’s” to me. Again, I feel like the Left spend a tremendous amount of social collateral on a pretty questionable premise.

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted June 29, 2020 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      “My overall impression is that the Left is wasting a tremendous amount of accumulated goodwill on a movement that largely makes symbolic gestures.”

      Perhaps, Roo, you have discovered why the
      executives of big businesses (especially the new digital ones) are so touchingly partial to the ethos of the regressive Left, and so quick to produce those virtue-flaunting corporate letters and seminars. Next (if it hasn’t taken place already) we can expect Business Roundtable to endorse Black Lives Matter, and call for more statues to be pulled down.

    • Posted June 30, 2020 at 2:01 am | Permalink

      excellent analysis from a psych perspective.

      The mail boxes and post-game hooliganism is a mixture of high testosterone (which is higher in the WINNING, not losing team, remember) and the pFC not being “done” developing until 25.
      These things – and the statues – are all hierarchy climbing actions from the frustrated young males of our species.
      (love your “hall pass” line btw – heheh)
      I think they have little to do with the actual purported purpose of the vandals. Its all about climbing that ladder.

      But they’re still responsible for their actions (theoretically).

      You’re spot on regards the social damage the vandalism does and rather than righting a wrong it just dispirits and alienates the locals. And it plays into fox news’ ugly fat hands.

      I see it in my recently looted neighborhood in (the toniest part of) Manhattan. I wrote about it here
      https://themoderatevoice.com/new-york-city-horrors-coming-to-you/
      (published variously)

      D.A.,J.D. NYC (writer)

  11. Eric Grobler
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    “I continue to think these acts will have little impact on Trump”
    “How sad. This is all fuel for tRump’s campaign”
    “Such actions may help Trump; they certainly won’t hurt”

    Our American friends:
    I hope you oppose this madness from the extreme left not only because it might embolden the far right, but because it is destroying the country and it is fundamentally against liberal values.

    You should oppose the black lives matter movement openly because it is not in the spirit of the civil rights movement nor the Enlightenment.
    It puts race and identity at the center of politics and culture, just like “tRump”.

    • GBJames
      Posted June 29, 2020 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Might embolden the far right? Are you kidding? I don’t think those folk can be more embolden than they have been under tRump’s regime.

      I’ve no idea how you come to conclude that BLM is not in the spirit of the civil rights movement.

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted June 29, 2020 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        “I’ve no idea how you come to conclude that BLM is not in the spirit of the civil rights movement.”

        “Intersectionality” is part of the BLM philosophy, which is not compatible with King’s “judge a person on his/her character, not skin color”

  12. Curtis
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I will not vote for any Democrat who does not denounce this. A pox on both your parties. I think I will be voting straight Libertarian.

    However, there is one symbol that means enough to me that if it is torn down, it likely will cause me to vote Republican. It got a little bit of publicity but seems safe for now.

    • Posted June 29, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Democrats let people tear down statues. Trump puts children in cages.

      Vote for the Democrats…

      … please.

      • rickflick
        Posted June 29, 2020 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        I was going to say something like that, but it seemed to obvious. Maybe it’s not obvious to everyone.

  13. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Teddy Roosevelt was both a great conservationist and one of the first to break up huge industrial monopolies. Leave the statue up. If people deface or tear down statues illegally, they should be jailed. The far left has a component that reminds me of Mao’s Red Guard, let’s discourage this sort of vigilante crap in the US with jail time!

    • Max Blancke
      Posted June 29, 2020 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      But he has been found to have normal human faults and frailties, as well as the sorts of outdated ideas that people born before the civil war tended to have, even the progressives.

      But leaving the sarcasm behind, the figures flanking TR on the statue in question always seemed to me to have a great sense of nobility, both in their posture and their expressions.

  14. Jon Gallant
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Some may remember “Night At the Museum”, a mediocre movie based on a charming idea: that all the exhibits in the Museum of Natural History come to life at night, which I took to be unquestionably true when I was a 7-year old New Yorker, some years ago. A statue of Teddy Roosevelt is an important character in the film, so we may expect a demand to erase the film, withdraw the children’s book on which it was based, and pull down the production company which made it.

  15. Posted June 29, 2020 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    If they come for the T.Rex, I will draw the line.

  16. revelator60
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I was originally in favor of removing the Roosevelt statue, but after reading Prof. Mayer’s contextualization I share his opinion.

    I was sickened when statues of Washington, Jefferson, and Grant were toppled and defaced, though I continue to support the removal of the Confederate statues.

    I brought up the toppling of a Grant statue in San Francisco to a woke friend, who countered that Grant had committed genocide toward Native Americans. Well, the crowd who knocked down Grant also defaced a statue of Cervantes, who far from owning slaves had been a slave himself, so I doubt the topplers were acting as conscientious historians!

    And while it’s true that Grant played a role in the dispossession and persecution of Native Americans, was he as guilty as Jackson? And aren’t a vast majority of Americans guilty or complicit too? My friend lives on what he would consider stolen land, but he’s in no hurry to give it up. Instead he’s happy to denounce the thief while keeping the stolen goods.

    Toppling a statue is a mostly cosmetic gesture that does little to fix structural racism…and that is probably why statue toppling has become so popular. It allows the topplers to feel righteous and pretend they’ve done something important. An angry self-righteous mob out to destroy every statue monster in sight will invariably start destroying statues of people who weren’t monsters at all.

  17. Filippo
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    sub

  18. jedijan
    Posted June 29, 2020 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the explanation of Roosevelt’s statue. (I live in Australia so have not heard of that before). Pity more is not known about these statues, as apparently much ignorance abounds within those who seek to destroy or deface these. How sad “Forward” has been attacked also. One can only wonder at the reasoning/assumptions behind that one’s destruction. Perhaps it would be a good idea to promote the statues, with brief explanations such as you have given, in a daily newspaper. Somehow I don’t think most vandals would read these though, as their mindset seems intent on unreasonable destruction.

  19. Hempenstein
    Posted June 30, 2020 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Henry Clay Frick’s famous comment re. Roosevelt, “We bought the son of a bitch but he didn’t stay bought,” ought to count as an endorsement, too, but you’d have to explain it to the statue-topplers.


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