Them Damned Statues

Howdy, Pardners…

With age, as our cultural mythology asserts, comes wisdom.  I think that’s a fairly true statement, because as a person sheds the constant need for novelty and social status, they tend to find importance in things that actually have importance.  They also tend to have learned a few things in life that still serves them well.

Despite my every effort to the contrary, I have learned a few things.  During my years in the Corporations, I learned to speak quietly.  You see, when you speak quietly, everyone will lean in to hear what you are saying.  When you yell, people will only hear that you are angry.  Your message, valid or not, will be lost.  Well, actually, your message is, “I’m really fucking angry!”, and that message comes through loud and clear.

Mobs do not speak quietly. They have neither nuance nor context.  They are just blindingly angry.  This sort of group anger can lead to stupid behavior… from waving Nazi flags to vandalizing public monuments.  Oddly, both groups have a similar goal…. They want to rewrite or erase certain parts of history.

Not that history doesn’t sometimes need to be rewritten or erased.  For instance, Vikings did not have horns on their helmets.  We need to erase that idea from our historical database.  The fact that we once thought this to be true should be studied in academic circles (because it is damned interesting), but Vikings should no longer be depicted in the popular media as big murderous guys with horns on their helmets.  Now, fat opera singers do indeed have horns on their helmets, but that’s a completely different story.

We old folks get nervous when we hear about anyone who wants to rewrite or erase a particular historical fact.  We get nervous because we’ve lived through some of that history, and we know that it doesn’t matter which part of history is rewritten or erased, but who gets to do the rewriting and erasing.  The first job of any tyrant is to rewrite and erase history.  The job of rewriting or erasing history should be done with quietude and a tremendous amount of study and thought.  It shouldn’t be left in the hands of angry self-righteous mobs.

Imagine, if you will, the power of rewriting or erasing history being handed to Donald Trump.  I rest my case.

Of course, I’m taking the long way around the barn here.  I’ve been giving some thought to the rush to erase Civil War monuments from Southern culture.  I mean, I get it, but I think that it’s too soon.  When my father was a little boy in Texas, he knew and talked with living Confederate Civil War veterans.  I am only one generation removed from that time.  It all seems like it was a long time ago, but it wasn’t.  It is still fresh in the minds of Southerners, and some of them are just a bit miffed at what they see as outsiders coming in to condemn and erase their history.  They are especially miffed that outsiders waving flags of hatred and racism have co-opted Southern history as somehow their own.  I’m from Texas, so I’m compelled to be polite about this, but if I weren’t Texan, I’d say something like “Fuck you!  Go back under whatever rock you climbed out from under.”

And then there are the folks who, in response to the White Supremacists and Nazis, have taken it upon themselves to destroy a particular part of history.  Y’all should go home too.   The history of America has been steeped in racism, slavery, corruption, inequality, misogyny, violence, and xenophobia for over four-hundred years.  Knocking down a couple of statues my give you a little chubby, but it will make no difference whatsoever.  History is what it is… not what you want it to be.

Give the South some time to live with its past, and give them the chance to make their own decision about how to present that past.  It’s their culture, not yours.

Have a day.

Riley

primum vivere, deinde philosophari.

 

2 Responses to Them Damned Statues

  1. It’s not erasing history to remove the statues. It’s taking away physical objects that were made specifically to honor traitors to our country, who were fighting to preserve slavery. (Despite whatever other excuse they, or anyone else, might have come up with for their actions.) They should have never existed in public areas in the first place and they should definitely be removed as quickly as possible. It’s most definitely not too soon for this to happen, instead it’s way overdue.

  2. Sir,

    Firstly, a big thank you, for all your articles over the years. Always pointed and thought provoking. It seems that you have posted less of late and from reading I see that you have taken up a new way of life. So just in case you take up underwater origami and leave the webjigger forever I thought I would comment on this article as a way of showing my appreciation for all the insights and things I have learned from your writings, all positive, by the way.

    I am not a natural commenter. And truth is, I find typing my thoughts into the little box very difficult. This may even be the wrong forum so please excuse me.

    I have watched the events discussed above unfold from afar. I come from a place where one part of the island actually has a piece of governance called the “flags and emblems act”. So I suppose these symbols of the past and signs of elegence are of great import to human kind. I find them tribal and somewhat childish.

    I believe General Lee was against the erection of a statue of his good self. He believed it would be an obstacle to reconciliation. He was smarter than his modern day followers.

    All over the world statues and other works of art are bones of contention. During the collapse of the Soviet Union statues and propaganda art was destroyed or moved extremely quickly. This may have led in part to the nostalgia that appeared a decade later. In other jurisdictions, the art was moved to a museum and put in context. I’m against destruction and am not 100% sure about relocation. I don’t know what the best solution is. I know that all protest can be hijacked and I know that the pictures on the idiot lamp will not show all the angles. History is co-opted for the propose of the moment.

    As you state, the US has been built on one group oppressing another group. As has most of the world. And the destruction statues will not change that. I will try not to be in the oppressing group and will do my very best to stay out of the oppressed group. But as a middle class white male who can read and has recourse to the law and indeed no fear of it. I stand a privileged individual and indeed so are some of my family.

    So, if I may offer a counterpoint to your assertion the time has not yet come. I’m sure you are right and for some southerners the time has not yet come. But for those that are the subject to the racism, slavery , corruption, inequality, misogyny, violence, xenophobia the time has come, it has passed and although the destruction of statues won’t change that, they have had enough of the south living with and in the past. They want the street furniture to be less of a prop for those that have no real interest in history but would use it to further their cause. They don’t need to be reminded of dead mens adventures.

    I am in favour of commemoration but not glorification

    I hope that you and yours are and remain well. I look forward to reading more should there be more. And wish you well in your new adventure. And, if someday they erect a statue to you I will come over there and help them tear it down.

    Please also excuse all typos (I am resisting reading glasses as an act of defiance against all oppression)

    Thanks again

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