Author Topic: Taking down statues and monuments - righting wrongs or rewriting history?  (Read 6625 times)

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Offline ozgod

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Along with the anti-police brutality protests that erupted across the US after the death of George Floyd last month were another type of protest - against controversial historical figures. Among the statues that have come down, either pulled down or taken down by authorities include:
  • US- Confederate generals such as Robert Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Charles Linn
  • UK- slave traders such as Edward Colston and Robert Milligan
  • Europe- statesmen and leaders such as King Leopold II of Belgium, the former owner of the Congo
And of course just last week the legislators in Mississippi voted to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag.

The removal of monuments and statues to some pretty reprehensible people is not new of course, it's been going on for decades. What is interesting now is that some of the statues being targeted are those who may have made some considerable contributions to Western society, but had flaws that would be unacceptable in today's era. Examples of these are Christopher Columbus, who discovered the New World for the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, and opened the way for colonization of the Americas. Of course, the Native Americans, who were decimated by disease and European soldiers, have a very different opinion of Columbus.

Also in the US there has been a push to remove the Emancipation Memorial in Boston, which depicts Abraham Lincoln seated over a kneeling slave (the original statue also stands in Washington DC and has attracted protests. The Jefferson Memorial in Washington has also attracted calls for its removal, because Jefferson was a slave owner. This also goes for statues of George Washington, America's first President, because he owned slaves.

Americans of course do not have a monopoly on dodgy historical figures. Most of Europe's history is wrapped up in the Age of Colonialism, where European empires competed to grab the most foreign land. Britain built an empire on which the sun never set largely by taking land from native inhabitants in India, North America and Asia. A lot of historical figures that are at the forefront of what created the Pax Britannica in the 18th and 19th centuries are now coming in for some stick, like Horatio Nelson, Clive of India, and more recently Winston Churchill, whose statue outside Westminster Hall had to be protected with a box after it was defaced and vandalized because of Churchill's racist views towards blacks and Indians.

Advocates of taking down these statues, both of people who were obviously bad but also those who were more ambiguous, argue that their actions, while acceptable in a less socially conscious era, are not acceptable today, and that having them up causes hurt to those who were disenfranchised as a result of their actions. Defenders say that one should look at the whole of the person and see how much overall good for society they did, just just on their flaws, as flaws are not the sum total of a person.

Predictably, because it is an emotive and divisive issue, President Trump has decided this latest culture war is a winner for him and he has jumped in on the side of preserving the monuments with a speech defending Confederate (and other) statues. Among his quotes were: "Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children...Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities." Conversely, Joe Biden's view is that he "has drawn a distinction between preserving statues that honor some historical figures who owned slaves or had racist beliefs and those of Confederate figures who he said had “committed treason.”

What does everyone think? Statues are just the symptom of the larger issue, which is that human history is bloody and unjust. A lot of people who were important to our country and to other countries did bad things in the past, whether it was enslaving others who didn't look like them, owning slaves, taking land from indigenous peoples, committing treason against their country, just to name a few sins. These people also did some good things - like discovering the country we now call home, or defending Europe from tyranny, or writing our Constitution. Of course everything is in the eye of the beholder and victors write the histories.

So where do you guys stand on whether these statues and monuments should stand or fall?
Any odd typos are because I suck at typing on an iPhone :D

Offline DefenseWinsChamps

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Minorities have been lobbying for years through the proper channels for these actions, with very little effect. Now they took improper channels to do it. I don't think its right, but I understand why they do what they are doing. Part of me supports it. The other part is concerned.

The problem is that a mob mentality generally doesn't have any nuance to make careful decisions, and I think nuance is necessary. As the line in MIB goes, "A person is smart, but people are stupid." Many statues probably should be torn down, not to rewrite history, but because a proper evaluation of history shows us they shouldn't be honored in our country. Other statues should probably not be torn down. The goal isn't to whitewash history or ignore the faults of important figures. A statue honors them and what they stood for. The goal is to give honor where it is due, and not to give honor where it is not due.

We don't build statues as historical markers of Hitler, war criminals, dictators, etc. in America. Why not? Because its not about history. Its about the way a statue honors a figure. Those figures from American history can still be accurately recorded in our histories with their contributions and failures, but a statue honors them, and in many cases should be torn down.

Offline Roy H.

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There’s a ton of nuance here, I think.  For me:

Founding Fathers — These statues should remain.  Washington, Jefferson, etc. were products of their times.  They were the giants upon whose shoulders our country was made, flaws and all.  Same thing with Lincoln, Roosevelt, etc. 

American heroes — For the most part, see above.  The only caveat is that you have to make sure they were actual heroes.  For instance, General Custer isn’t a hero or a martyr.  But, there will be grey cases.  FDR led us out of the Great Depression and through WWII.  He also interred Japanese Americans.  It’s complicated.

Confederates — On private property, do what you want.  In a museum or commemorated on a battlefield like Gettysburg?  Fine.  If there’s a veterans memorial to Confederate soldiers, I’m okay with that.  But, I don’t object to public statues coming down.  They’re powerful symbols to many of systematic oppression and literal ownership.  Our government supporting and maintaining these symbols rubs me the wrong way.  That said, I’m sure that there are more exceptions that I might be okay with.

None of the above should be torn down by an angry mob or vandalized, however.  They need to be removed through a democratic process.
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Offline gouki88

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Got no issue with seeing monsters like Leopold go down. When you're responsible for 10 million deaths, and for the essential creation of the term 'crime against humanity', you don't deserve any sort of commemoration. He deserves to be remembered in a similar vein to Hitler, Bagosora, Pot and the like.

However, there's simply never been anyone like that in American history. Certainly, some Confederate monuments deserve to be taken down. As Roy said, public Confederate statues seems insulting at best, and supportive of Confederate ideals at worst. I'm not sure if there is any way to go about this. As far as I've seen there's rarely any progress made with pursuing the usual channels to try and get results for issues like this. On the other hand, we've seen mobs tear down statues of Jefferson, Washington, Ulysses Grant and bloody Hans Christian Heg. These actions are obviously unjust.

It's hard to find a middle ground. Society is very very angry right now

Offline NKY fan

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I have no problem with statues taken down and sent to a statues junk yard as long as statues symbolize actual slavery and genocide.


Churchill statues being vandalized ( for him having racist views ) is a grey area. He also hated certain European nationals as well but that is reflection of the times during that period of history.

It will be interesting to see what will happen in Europe with American allies and more specifically turkey as they practiced genocide until 1923 and also enslaved people and countries decades after slavery ended in USA. Will USA force them to take down statues of ottoman emperors and conquerors ?

One thing that I just recently found out was that settlements that American Armenian descendants received from turkey are tax exempt in California. That was cool 😎

Offline johnnygreen

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This reminds me of the recent Marge Schott story, where the University of Cincinnati removed her name from their baseball stadium. She was banned from the MLB in 1996 for being racist. In 2006, she donated $2M to the University of Cincinnati, who in turn, later put her name on the baseball stadium. So, the university accepted the donation and put her name on the stadium, knowing her public reputation of being racist (and at a time where racism was no longer socially accepted). If they’re going to remove her name now, then the university should also give back the present value of the $2M from 2006 to the Schott foundation. To me, the university looks like complete scumbags for holding such a double standard. Yes, we will accept your money, but we have to publicly condemn you to make us look good.

Offline ozgod

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Got no issue with seeing monsters like Leopold go down. When you're responsible for 10 million deaths, and for the essential creation of the term 'crime against humanity', you don't deserve any sort of commemoration. He deserves to be remembered in a similar vein to Hitler, Bagosora, Pot and the like.

However, there's simply never been anyone like that in American history. Certainly, some Confederate monuments deserve to be taken down. As Roy said, public Confederate statues seems insulting at best, and supportive of Confederate ideals at worst. I'm not sure if there is any way to go about this. As far as I've seen there's rarely any progress made with pursuing the usual channels to try and get results for issues like this. On the other hand, we've seen mobs tear down statues of Jefferson, Washington, Ulysses Grant and bloody Hans Christian Heg. These actions are obviously unjust.

It's hard to find a middle ground. Society is very very angry right now

What are the thoughts in Australia about the celebration of Australia Day and Captain Cook's discovery of the continent? I read somewhere that there's a proposal to change it to Invasion Day?

Any odd typos are because I suck at typing on an iPhone :D

Offline KGs Knee

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We should just take down all statues, whether the person was good, bad, or otherwise.  They're just people, not gods, and no more important than any other human being.  All these statues are meaningless to me.

Just don't ask me to pay for any of this.  I don't want to pay to put statues up, and I don't want to pay to take them down.  My tax dollars should be spent on more important things, like my next vacation to the tropics.

Offline NKY fan

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Got no issue with seeing monsters like Leopold go down. When you're responsible for 10 million deaths, and for the essential creation of the term 'crime against humanity', you don't deserve any sort of commemoration. He deserves to be remembered in a similar vein to Hitler, Bagosora, Pot and the like.

However, there's simply never been anyone like that in American history. Certainly, some Confederate monuments deserve to be taken down. As Roy said, public Confederate statues seems insulting at best, and supportive of Confederate ideals at worst. I'm not sure if there is any way to go about this. As far as I've seen there's rarely any progress made with pursuing the usual channels to try and get results for issues like this. On the other hand, we've seen mobs tear down statues of Jefferson, Washington, Ulysses Grant and bloody Hans Christian Heg. These actions are obviously unjust.

It's hard to find a middle ground. Society is very very angry right now

What are the thoughts in Australia about the celebration of Australia Day and Captain Cook's discovery of the continent? I read somewhere that there's a proposal to change it to Invasion Day?
I don’t live in Australia but James Cook’s lifestory is fascinating.
From the books I have read he was trying to help islands indigenous populations in that part of the Pacific Ocean. He was crushed when he saw them starving and practicing cannibalism and then he tried to introduce farming and livestock.
Well he eventually fell victim to that.
From everything I have read he was viewed positively by storytellers from that time.
Maybe some methods that British empire utilized to expand to new continents were brutal but James Cook should not be lumped into all that.. perspective matters

Offline Roy H.

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Should we cancel the pyramids?
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Offline csfansince60s

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Should we cancel the pyramids?

Maybe the Coliseum too?

Talk about a precipitous, oil-slicked slope.

Offline GreenFaith1819

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This is what Sen. Tammy Duckworth "TRIED" to explain just recently about the title of this thread...

She stated eloquently that there NEEDS to be NATIONAL DIALOGUE about this...and then she was promptly ridiculed and labeled "America Hater" by our "HEROIC" Tucker Carlson....

The SAME TC that "served" on Dancing with the Stars while Mrs. Tammy was laying it on the line for her country



Keep it classy, TC...do the funky chicken for me.

Anyways sarcasm aside there DOES need to be SERIOUS "NATIONAL" dialogue about this...I know Pres. Trump has already taken his stance but he has less than 4 months left in office...

Once he is voted out this discussion WILL STILL BE relevant.
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Offline DefenseWinsChamps

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Should we cancel the pyramids?

Maybe the Coliseum too?

Talk about a precipitous, oil-slicked slope.

Seems a little like a straw man. I get your point, but I don't think anyone would claim that they, today, are affected by those memorials negatively, or that they were a symbol of oppression to them specifically and their people group.

Offline liam

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This is what Sen. Tammy Duckworth "TRIED" to explain just recently about the title of this thread...

She stated eloquently that there NEEDS to be NATIONAL DIALOGUE about this...and then she was promptly ridiculed and labeled "America Hater" by our "HEROIC" Tucker Carlson....

The SAME TC that "served" on Dancing with the Stars while Mrs. Tammy was laying it on the line for her country



Keep it classy, TC...do the funky chicken for me.

Anyways sarcasm aside there DOES need to be SERIOUS "NATIONAL" dialogue about this...I know Pres. Trump has already taken his stance but he has less than 4 months left in office...

Once he is voted out this discussion WILL STILL BE relevant.

Tucker is a coward who has never had any skin in the game.

Offline Donoghus

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Tucker Carlson is pure garbage.  Duckworth has already done more for this country than Carlson could ever dream of. 


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