Over the past few months debate has been raging around whether or not to take down statues commemorating Confederate figures. Now before getting to my thoughts on them, let’s quickly shoot down the arguments I’ve heard for why they should stay:
- “They’re trying to erase our history!”
Answer: The Confederacy literally seceded from the United States so unless you claim to be a Confederate over an American I don’t see how that’s “your” history. These same people will cry about every kid getting participation trophies nowadays but still agree to immortalize men who threw a tantrum trying to protect slavery and LOST. They shouldn’t even get a ribbon for that.
- “You can’t change the past.”
Answer: First off, no shit. Secondly, taking these statues down does as much to history as having them there in the first place. Nothing. The only thing they’re doing if they’re left up is making black people feel weird and reminding everyone that if you fight for your backwards and bigoted ideas hard enough they’ll make you into a decoration.
- “Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson?” – Your President
Now here’s where I have no witty response. Just a simple “Yes.” Fuck it, take them all down. Washington, Jefferson, Andrew Jackson’s old racist ass—all of them. But before you go getting your founding father feelings hurt, hear me out. Why are likenesses of these men being preserved at all?
Believe me I know that feels like a trick question but it’s not. Try to put aside what you take for granted and ask yourself—is it not a little weird that these dudes are literally immortalized in art like some god-like creatures? At least Jesus died for our sins, what the hell did Stonewall really bring to the table?
This isn’t some weird hit job on the founding fathers. They had some incredible ideas that we still need to fight to preserve today. But it was the ideas, not the men, that were incredible.
The most famous of which is “All men are created equal” which even catches flack sometimes for the fact that they wrote it knowing this didn’t include women or non-white men. But my issue here is about the end of the phrase instead of the beginning. We’re all equal, all an imperfect species filled with good and bad, so why the hell should some of us be made into statues?
Now I know this will inevitably lead to some smartass saying “if we need to take down the statues of all of them, then we’ll have to do it for the good guys too!” Once again, no witty response here. Do it.
Listen, I’ll kill Santa Claus if I have to: MLK was a womanizer, Ghandi slept naked in bed with his teenage niece. Wrong? Yes, but it’s only because they were equal to all of us fellow, fallible human beings. Take theirs down too.
If you really want to protect and keep alive the ideals that these men stood for then be a better person. Kidding (but not really). Or at the very least commemorate and immortalize the idea itself above the man. Instead of transfixing a person in bronze, why not create a statue that shows one of their most badass quotes? Or an explanation of what they hoped for the world so we can use that as a moral compass? I know many current monuments have quotes written down but as soon as you depict the person themselves you lose the important distinction between the idea and the human.
Let’s all just try to remember the point of these statues: tourism income reminding us of where we’ve been to guide us in where we’re going. A powerful idea or concept can do that much more effectively than a mortal man can. But hey if we’re just going to continue to tear each other apart over golden racists while still believing that we’re all created equal then I just have one final question—where the hell is my statue?