Of Statues and Stuff (mostly statues)

There seems to be a lot of stuff about statues and whether they should be taken down or left up. So much so that it encroaches into my blog browsing, what with everyone having an opinion.

One of the blogs I read had a short editorial stating that Jefferson’s and Washington’s statues should be taken down along with the statues of everyone who was in some way associated with slavery. He was very forceful about it. 

I replied with a short comment:

“Obviously, there’s nothing to discuss here, so I look forward to watching the dynamiting of Mount Rushmore.”

Yes, I’m capable of short comments when I want to. It’s just that I often don’t want to. Anyway, he replied with more absolutism. I couldn’t very well let matters stand (I’m stupid that way). 

The following is the reply I left on the spur of the moment; I thought it might make for a decent Sunday post. So here goes (with minor corrections and a few extra words). 

# # #

First, let’s dispense with any doubt. Slavery: wrong. Confederacy: gone and good riddance. Both of those things are good things to agree on. Me? I’m an immigrant (not born here); I have no skin in the game, if you’ll pardon the pun, but I strongly agree with both those statements.

With that out of the way, there are nuances to judging people who lived in the 1700s and 1800s and whether they merit statues. Perhaps the nuances are not worth considering, but they’re there.

Lee’s statue was put up in celebration of a horrendous culture that celebrated slavery. His accomplishment was that he fought to maintain a slave-based economic system. There’s no reason to have a statue of Lee anywhere but maybe a museum or national park.

On the other hand, one could argue — while still pointing out his faults — that Jefferson’s statue (and others) are up there to celebrate an ideal. He may not have lived it but he did eloquently write it. What he wrote, the ideas he penned, forms the basis — again, while pointing out his personal failings — for something we hold up as a model to others. Is there a cult around the man? Yes. Jeffersonian is a word. Do I believe cults are good? No.

Do I still admire the words and recognize the uniqueness of them in the context of the times? Yes. Do I think that those words served to usher in an introspection on the whole slavery thing and its eventual abolishment? Yes. Do I think that ultimately Jefferson succumbed to the comfort of his station at the cost of his ideals? Yes.

So, where does that leave me? Well, you already said, and it’s common knowledge, that he owned slaves and used his position of power for sexual gains (some contention as to the affection angle). I don’t think anyone is trying to hide that fact, nor celebrate him for it. We can and do celebrate his ideals.

Humans often exhibit dualistic tendencies, so it’s no surprise we can both admire and castigate the same entity. Perhaps we don’t need statues of Jefferson, especially if we’re celebrating slave ownership at the feet of those statues. But that’s not what we’re doing.

Personally, I don’t care much for statues and in this digital age, we’ve perhaps lost the need for them. On the other hand, they serve as a focal point for this very discussion, the entertaining of two separate and conflicting ideas. Are the two ideas equally valid? Does one take precedence over the other?

For instance, you call the US a beacon of Democracy . . . is it? I mean, yes, we have a unique document, the Constitution, but where do we fall as far as democracies go? We’ve interned US Citizens of Japanese descent when it was convenient. We have the highest incarceration rate. We have the death penalty. We restrict women’s rights. In fact, as far as democracies go, we’re ranked 21st (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index). It doesn’t sound like a beacon to me. Who do we blame for all that? Bush? Clinton? FDR? Nixon? Whose statues do we take down? Which libraries do we close or rename?

Can I still think the US is a great country with high ideals and still salute the flag even though I know about the corruption of those ideals that infests our society and the government? Yes, because I can still fight for the ideals. If I didn’t, I’d have to tear down the whole country (there are some who think this).

We tend to blame individuals (today it’s Jefferson and Washington) but the US had slavery from its inception all the way up until the Civil War, and not just in the South. True, by the 1860s it ended up only in the South, but that’s a lot of people voting for a long time for leaders who were not separationists.

Can we maybe assume that slavery was not an easy thing to discuss, let alone dispose of, in those days? Can we assume countries don’t turn on a dime? Can we assume leaders are a reflection of the society they inhabit? Just how many people do we blame?

Still . . . dynamiting Mount Rushmore . . . I’d show up for that, camera in hand. Might even try to get me one of the noses, or at least a piece of one. You know, not to worship, but as a reminder.

# # #

I could leave it at that, but I want to add one more thing.

Firefly quote:
Mal: It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of ’em was one kinda sombitch or another.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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24 Responses to Of Statues and Stuff (mostly statues)

  1. Eddy Winko says:

    I cant help but think that too many people are arguing about statues when they should be arguing about symbols. Once something becomes a symbol of hate for extremists to rally behind then I think that there is a legitimate right for it to be removed.
    Just my two-penneth worth.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow sir . I think your piece/essay/ ideas are on the money and are precise and accurate. I don’t care for statues either. If there has to be one I’d rather it be one of the bison, eagle or, wolf. Or a native American that has been pushed out by our so called democracy. Now that would be a great statue and while we’re at it, lets help the poor Indians to live a better life. I digress here but really there are so many un-met needs in the US and yes we are well behind other countries in how our own people are treated. For my two cents worth, I will add that I fear for the US. I don’t see equality and when hate groups are allowed to breed and grow on college campuses and else where then we are indeed in trouble- hugely. I add that last word, hugely in jest.

    Regards, Yvonne D.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Thank you. I can’t completely take credit for some of the underlying ideas as they are an aggregate of discussions I’ve read and heard, but it’s what I’ve settled as my own interpretation of the swirl of controversy that surrounds us.

      As for hate groups, yes, that is a thing to fear. There is a point past which emotions take over and reasoned discussion is no longer even an option, let alone attempted.

      I fear we are at the cusp of it. I hope we’ll step back from the brink, but my frank view is that we are foolishly leaning over that brink. When I hear and read even “reasonable” people endorse violence, any hope I might have shifts to just being able to live out the rest of my life before things completely break down.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I agree that we are on the brink of something akin to civil war. If not, I think that folks will fear leaving their homes or that our homes will be invaded by the hate groups. There will be unlawful acts and behavior and I’m afraid the average person will be unable to do anything to protect themselves.

        Like

      • disperser says:

        One comfort, such as it is, is that the 60s and 70s saw more acts of violence than we’ve yet to see here relating to civil unrest. That included an incredible number of bombings. We survived those times and even saw positive changes in the aftermath.

        The bad news is that in this era of “terrorist attacks” escalation of civil unrest might have the government react by clamping down on all sorts of civil liberties and extending their reach into our private lives by classifying civil protests and even dissenting speech as potentially dangerous. We’re seeing calls for that right now.

        Like

  3. sandra getgood says:

    I think your post is excellent.

    Like

  4. Right on, Emilio!
    And that’s a great Firefly quote!
    My favorite statue is the Big Blue Bear in Denver at the Colorado Convention Center. He’s not a sombitch, but he’s a somsow.
    HUGS!!!

    Like

  5. Not so fast, Disperser! There are a lot of statues out there that are great works of art. They make great subjects for photos, too! Personally, I think we need more of them in this digital age. And have you ever been to New York harbor?

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Not been to NY Harbor.

      As far as great works of art, there’s a spectrum where people can disagree. However, if it’s art, it should be in a museum. If it’s art, it doesn’t need to be of any particular or famous individual. And, honestly, I don’t think the protests are about whether a particular piece is art or not.

      . . . and I’m not the one advocating removing statues. In fact, the whole piece is about measured responses. However . . .

      As photographic subjects, statues are great but they’re not worth people dying over. The discussion about statues, personages, history, and a whole lot of stuff has been poisoned by emotions, and I don’t know how we get back from that.

      As I said, intent matters, but as long as people are not engaging in frank and reasoned discussions, I don’t know what we should do about the statues we have.

      As for this digital age, I can’t think of a good reason by I would need/want statues of anyone who was alive in the 20th century other than as a form of worship and I’m against that in principle. Also because achievements of any kind are rarely attributable to just one person.

      As far as photography goes, it won’t matter to me if the statue is of an animal or some generic person. The fact that the person might have been famous would not sway me to placing any greater value on it.

      But, it goes beyond that. I think I would care if someone wanted to raise a statue of the 19 highjackers, even if it was to “teach” history. By care, I mean “hell no!”

      I can understand how others may have the same feeling toward particular people or events. For instance, a statue commemorating the internment of Japanese Americans might be OK, but perhaps not if it’s of FDR triumphantly holding up Executive Order 9066.

      What we choose to focus on matters.

      Like

  6. Great post Emilio, (though it pains me to admit it). I loved the short comment. Succinct and straight to the point.

    You’re improving lad. Might be the influence of an Englishman, you’re sounding almost majestic. Keep it up.

    I’d bung in a load of smileys here but you’re such a wimp when it comes to things joyous :)

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Have you considered the possibility that I was majestic all along and you’ve just now come to realize it, having been improved in thinking and outlook by my majestic writing?

      Like

      • I had considered it and came to the conclusion that you weren’t, that’s why I made the comment that I did, which would be obvious to those with a limited knowledge of the nuances of the English language which some foreigners from the New World have trouble with, from time to time :)

        Like

      • disperser says:

        It was obvious and I’m fully nuanced (I’m from the Old World).

        I gave you the benefit of the doubt in regards to your enlightenment regarding the truth of things . . . benefit which I now fear was misplaced.

        Speaking of which, did you notice I corrected your punctuation and spelling errors in your original comment? I’m not sure how things are done in whatever version of English you speak, but in the American language “your” and “you’re” are not interchangeable.

        Like

  7. margie says:

    You guys know the Mr.Rogers song…who are the people in your neighborhood. It’s almost here.
    When our feathers are plucked from our own American citizenship? What’s left?
    Are you an asset to society?
    This is my main question.
    In other words young and productive to society. Notice I never called it our society.
    Those statues are just a part of stripping our history.
    Just as I have always said..you can’t judge the second person by the first person’s actions
    So, therefore, the past is the past. We should not continue the past…let it keep repeating.
    And here’s one.
    There is only one GOD. And his words shall live forever.
    Have a good day.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      You might not have said “our society” but you did say “our history.” There are different interpretations of history for different people and calling for a return to something past is usually not a good idea. Neither is holding on so dearly that it impedes progress. Meaning, the past is the past; learn the hard lessons and move on.

      And I partially agree about god. I don’t agree there’s only one (just ask Zeus or Odin) but I do agree that words attributed to some god or other (all of them written by humans) will live on . . . it’s what we use to justify controlling, oppressing, and killing each other.

      Like

  8. abushiestale says:

    I have noted for some time the tennis game you play with Lordbeariof bow and I think it’s time I followed more closely to force a certain maintenance of decency.
    Now for the comment; when I look at the history of my fair land down under (and I was a teacher of History for forty years) I am sure that almost every person, who has a statue erected in his honour , has feet of clay. As do we all. I can understand the difference that some feel for those heroes of the Confederacy but even they ought to be left there so that some poor stupid history teacher in the future can take a class of wet nosed students on a field trip and ask them to contemplate their own navels. I am now following from a distance.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Any friend of ElBob is welcome here.

      As for the statues, I think I’ve expressed my opinion that while I would not see a reason to remove them, I can also understand the why of it.

      The argument I give is similar to that of the confederate battle flag:
      https://dispersertracks.com/2015/07/04/july-4th-thoughts-and-photos/

      Meaning, intent matters. Those statues were raised by the Daughters of the Confederacy specifically to honor a period of history and a way of life that some still defend. To the best that I can ascertain, they are not there to teach the lesson of history. I’ll be writing a piece as to why a people’s narrative matters.

      As for a history teacher educating the youngins, might it not be better at a museum or memorial park that also includes depictions of slave labor and the conditions slaves labored under?

      A prominent place in the city square seems — to my tired eyes — a place of honor as indeed that is the reason they were raised.

      BUT . . . ever the reasonable bloke, I’m willing to compromise. How about a statue of General Lee mercilessly using a whip on a slave chained to a post? Now, that would be something, wouldn’t it? I bet even the Nazis would want that taken down, and that’s saying something.

      Seriously, if we could have a reasoned conversation, if we could discuss the positives and negatives of it all, we might actually grow as citizens and as individuals. But, right now the Left has gone off the deep end, and the Right jumped right in after them. Personally, I’d be willing to let them meet on a huge field away from peaceful people and let them go at each other with knives and bats, but that being an impossibility, I’d opt for judiciously relocating of the statues because I don’t see them as being worth human lives.

      Liked by 1 person

    • disperser says:

      That said . . . it’s a dangerous road we’re on . . . decisions based on emotion have a way of snowballing. I fear that regardless what we do, tomorrow it will be something else because someone somewhere is always going to be offended. And, no, I don’t have an answer as long as the conversation is being had with baseball bats.

      Liked by 1 person

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