The Insolence of Man vs. History – Part Two
In yesterday’s column, the removal of the Roger Brooke Taney bust from in front of Frederick City Hall was the basis of an examination of the role of monuments to remind us from where we’ve come.
This fever to remove any permanent historical reference to objectionable history is now sweeping the South. It has infected Richmond, Virginia, the home of the Confederacy. Public parks are being swept clean of the kind of stuff people don’t want to see, those pesky historically accurate reminders of where we’ve come from.
Monument Avenue is the home to many statues and structures that document Richmond’s important contribution to our history. Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, and Robert E. Lee, son of Virginia and brilliant military tactician, are no longer the quiet reminders of a divided past; they are the principal enemy of civil justice advocacy efforts to rid the landscape of anything that reminds us that slavery actually existed, and that at one point, our nation was willing to split along lines with slavery as a major issue.
The latest replay of the Civil War is in New Orleans. Mayor Mitchell Joseph "Mitch" Landrieu is on a mission in the final year of his final term to give his core supporters exactly what they want. He’s a politician; that’s what they do.
Mayor Landrieu is intent on eliminating monuments and memorials that might offend New Orleanians, and that appears to be whatever they say it is on any given day.
“The removal of these statues sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of New Orleans and the nation: New Orleans celebrates our diversity, inclusion and tolerance,” Mr. Landrieu said. “This is not about politics, blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once. This is about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile — and most importantly — choose a better future.”
By removing artifacts that accurately represent our history? Is that really the best way to transmit your political message, Mr. Mayor? What ever happened to discussion, debate and dialogue? How about George Santayana’s famous quote “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it?” Is hauling away a monument an effective method of historical remembrance?
The decisions and actions of the Confederacy, and even the Dred Scott decision penned by Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, weren’t the only objectionable arguments in our history. The framers of the Declaration of Independence, giants named Franklin, Adams and Jefferson, were conflicted over how to deal with the question of slavery. Given that they failed to grant equal status among races and genders, should we melt the Liberty Bell down? Should we place a plaque in the National Archives display of our founding documents to add context to “out” these closet racists?
To avoid confrontation, Mayor Landrieu had public workers dressed in flak jackets, ballistic helmets and face shields while they carried out his political will in the middle of the night. Of course, the protestors who actually showed up just stood sadly by, shaking their heads over another weak-willed politician, unable to adequately articulate the importance of seeing and touching our nation’s history, content to let it be carried away in the back of a dump truck.
You see, the bulletproof armor and worry over rioting would be better saved for the social justice activists who started this. They’re typically way more dangerous and less sensitive to the law.
And they don’t give a damn about history.
[Editor’s Note: According to CNN: The Battle of Liberty Place monument (in New Orleans) was erected in 1891 to mark a deadly fight between members of the "Crescent City White League," a group opposed to the city's biracial police force and state militia after the Civil War, and officers from that police force.]