Statues, History and Change


My mouth is full of porcupine needles.  I pull them out one at a time.  There is so much to say and nothing more to say about the virulent public rise of Neo-Nazis, KKK and other White Supremacists Americans.  It is not just the horrors of Charlottesville or the impressive Bostonian response. It is not just the endless editorials and news discussion, social media, coffee house or water cooler conversations.  It is the fact that we stand across from each other and no matter how people try to ameliorate certain positions there is this line, between knowing or unknowing but practicing, racists, and those struggling against it, in themselves, and in their world.  Those who assert that the KKK, etal were horrible but that removing, not destroying, just removing, often to museums, certain statues from public concourses denies or diminishes history are wrong.

I find the issue of statues incredibly easy. Statues are made to honor and uplift and assure that the person(s) depicted stays a part of our collective memory because of the value of his or her life works.

lincoln memorial

What does one remember when one looks at the Lincoln Memorial. (And yes he was flawed)

 

 

 

rosa parks

 

What does one remember when seeing the statue of Rosa Parks?

 

 

 

 

How does one feel when seeing a statue remembering the enslaved?enslaved statues

malcolm statue

 

 

Giving honor to Malcolm X?

 

 

 

 

 

On the other hand what are the life works we are encouraged to remember and honor when we see a statue of Robert E. Lee? A traitor to the US? A man who fought to maintain slavery? A man who was known as a cruel slaver? A man who lost the war? I believe his house was burnt down, his property seized and those grounds now hold the Arlington Cemetery.

The false argument about history is at best foolish and at worst dangerous. It’s not about denying or turning from history.  It’s about being honest in the depiction and calling the question of who we honor and why. And does that mean we should revisit the removing of Christopher Columbus statues? Well Columbus was a man who never made it to the North American shores. He was responsible for the genocide of Indians on Caribbean Islands and South American shores and was known as a rapist and alcoholic. He was searching for India and found America. Maybe those monuments should be reconsidered. History is not being revised. It is being looked at through corrective lenses. Will many lose some heroes? Yes.  But new ones will be discovered if we retain the reasoning behind statues.

But we cannot get distracted by the symbols, we  must look at the core problems of the wound of slavery that have not been properly addressed, let alone healed, and the alienated white voices who in their fear and through their hate believe that only by turning from “other” can they lead successful lives. And that means, among other things, looking at the what of capitalism and the why of fascism.

My aunt says we need a truth and reconciliation process like the one in South Africa to start the healing. My husband wants all major networks to show the hearings at prime time so you have to work to avoid them.  I want more workshops like the one given by Jane Elliot that address the subject white person to white person.  (Please travel down the link if you have not seen her work. It’s quite wonderful to see her clarity and her method of transformation.)

I don’t know what will happen. I suspect things will get worse before they get better. And I am sure that it really is, as it always will be, we the people who must foment the change.  We the people who must not only march and write letters but at home, work, and yes even play, confront the beast when we see it bare its claws, let out a roar, move towards a destructive action.  Sunlight and bleach kill mold. Darkness encourages its growth.  Let’s shine the light brightly.

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