Forget the Past: Statues Represent Who We Want To Be

by on August 18, 2017 at 4:26 pm in Current Affairs, History, Political Science, The Arts | Permalink

That is the excellent title they gave to my latest Bloomberg column.  The piece starts by offering a very simple theory of what statues are for, and then I shift to the perspective of a foreigner.  Here is one bit:

Or consider the debates in Macedonia. The city of Skopje went on a major statue-building binge several years ago, both as fiscal policy and to cement national identity. One of the resulting disputes is whether those statues should emphasize the country’s ancient Greek connections (e.g., Alexander the Great) or the Slavic heritage (e.g., Saints Cyril and Methodius). It’s a strange debate to an outsider, yet to many Macedonians and some of their Greek neighbors (who wish to claim Alexander as their own), it is one of the most fraught issues of the day.

Again, you won’t get too far on this one by debating the life and times of Alexander, whether he led aggressive or defensive wars, or by asking how many slaves he owned. It’s better to focus on which political faction you wish to see assume more authority in Macedonia, and then work backward to figure out your preferred statues.

Similarly, if Macedonians were asked to evaluate the relative moralities of historic American leaders, I hope they would consider a similar approach. I don’t find it so fruitful to debate how much Robert E. Lee does or does not have in common with George Washington  — arguably Washington was a traitor of sorts as well, against a relatively benign British ruler, and he fought against Native Americans and owned slaves. American treatment of Native Americans makes it hard to find many truly “good guys” from that period. Still, we can ask what role Washington statues play in today’s politics; few people are using them to lord over Native Americans.

And my conclusion:

So if you’re considering the worthiness of a particular statue, here are three pointers: Pretend you’re from some very distant foreign country and view the dispute through that more objective lens. Second, focus on the future, and third don’t be afraid to make some changes.

Do read the whole thing.

1 Art Deco August 18, 2017 at 4:29 pm

I don’t want to be Shi Huang Ti. Can we ship Martin-Luther-King-the-Merciless back to the Chinese contractor who carved it?

https://c1.staticflickr.com/7/6090/6112555807_120f5347a7_b.jpg

2 mulp August 18, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Paying American workers costs too much and would have killed thousands of American jobs!

The only way to create great high incomes jobs in America is to slash US labor costs.

3 Fazal Majid August 19, 2017 at 11:14 am

One of those labor costs is health care coverage at least 2x higher in the US than other OECD due to rent-seeking by the AMA and Big Pharma.

4 Art Deco August 19, 2017 at 11:49 am

Physicians are well compensated, more so than any occupational segment of any size. They constitute 0.4% of the workforce and their mean compensation is 3.3x mean compensation per worker in the labor force as a whole. Their median is quite close to the mean. No clue what you think should be the compensation for an occupation which requires cognitive ability, diligence, physical stamina, and emotional stability in such large quantities. While we’re at it, physician compensation accounts for 11% of gross output in the medical sector.

5 Dick the Butcher August 19, 2017 at 12:34 pm

They don’t hate the statues. They hate us.

ACA?

The US will not achieve adequate economic growth without reducing/repealing ACA taxes and mandates. In addition to added taxes, ACA kills growth with skyrocketing health insurance premiums and escalating deductibles; with three-times the out-of-pocket maximum costs than before Obamacare supposedly lowered rates by $2,500/year…er,…allowed us to keep our health care plan…er, promised us we could keep our doctor… er.

* – Incomplete list of ACA taxes:
ACA Tax Hikes:
Medicare 1.45% to 2.35% – 62%
Top Bracket 35% to 39.6% – 13%
Cap gains/divs 15% to 28% – 87%
RE Trans tax 0% to 3.5% (62% of Americans owned their homes)

6 Hadur August 18, 2017 at 4:31 pm

The most terrifying thing I hear about statues in the DC area is from those who believe the National Mall is “complete” and no new monuments should be built there. These folks come out each time a new monument is proposed.

We should hope that American history is not yet over, that we will still produce many generations worth of heroes, and that these future heroes will require monuments. I hope the National Mall is one day as littered with monument as the Roman Forum.

7 msgkings August 18, 2017 at 4:32 pm

+1, although they could always sub in the new heroes for the old.

8 Tom T. August 18, 2017 at 9:36 pm

We could rip out the guy who sent the Japanese-Americans to internment camps.

9 Anonymous August 18, 2017 at 10:30 pm

We can vote on anything, but I think that guy is safe

10 Thomas August 19, 2017 at 9:13 pm

Why vote, we can just show up dressed in black to deatroy it anf if you object will call you a racist and stab you. Two can play Democrat.

11 Potato August 19, 2017 at 12:02 am

I hope they don’t. It’s important to have a sort of national mythology/narrative that binds people together. Especially because it counteracts the blood and soil idiots. That means we need both monuments to our past and future. Confederates do not count, given that they’re traitors, of course. Traitors do not get monuments.

In the future there will be Hispanic and African names on the GWOT memorial, alongside Italian, Chinese, German, etc. Our descendants will wonder what the fuss is about over Hispanic immigration, since Lopez and Hernandez will be etched into stone alongside Zhou and O’Malley. The future Ken Burns will have a documentary about it, and the diversity will be there for all to see. National narrative.

My 2c

12 msgkings August 19, 2017 at 12:44 am

+1776

13 Anonymous August 18, 2017 at 4:51 pm

I was pro duck ramp, fwiw

14 msgkings August 18, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Good column, well said Tyler.

15 Carson August 18, 2017 at 6:36 pm

-1

Tyler entirely misses the key point of “government erected statues” versus “privately erected statues”. He very loosely uses the terms “we” and “public”… and pretentiously claims to present “general principles for public honors”.

Government should not be erecting public statues or memorials for any reason. That is not a government function in a free society.

Private citizens and private organizations are free to erect whatever statues/memorials they want, at their own expense.

“Public” statues/memorials are erected to express a specific point of view in hopes of influencing others.

16 BC August 18, 2017 at 7:04 pm

If the “specific point of view” is the foundational ideology of the nation, in a nation built on ideology, then it would seem an appropriate function of government. If the function of government is to secure unalienable rights, then erecting memorials that reinforce the idea that the function of government is to secure unalienable rights would seem to help government perform the function of securing unalienable rights.

17 Borjigid August 18, 2017 at 7:47 pm

+1

18 Carson August 18, 2017 at 9:35 pm

…the US National Archives is where we find such “national ideology” with the Declaration of Independence & US Constitution. The idolatry of public statues is primitive superstition.

19 msgkings August 18, 2017 at 8:30 pm

Then there has never been a free society in history, as all governments have done statues.

20 Carson August 18, 2017 at 9:42 pm

Yes, free societies are certainly rare — that does not at all support the argument for public statues.

21 msgkings August 18, 2017 at 9:54 pm

Rare? Name even one that fits your standards.

22 prior_test3 August 19, 2017 at 1:28 am

Iceland, arguably the world’s first democracy, did not have a government that created statues, at least during the time the Icelandic sagas describe, when Iceland was independent.

‘The Alþingi (anglicised as Althingi or Althing) is the national parliament of Iceland. It is the oldest parliament in the world. The Althing was founded in 930 at Þingvellir (“thing fields”), situated approximately 45 kilometres (28 mi) east of what later became the country’s capital, Reykjavík. Even after Iceland’s union with Norway in 1262, the Althing still held its sessions at Þingvellir until 1800, when it was discontinued for 45 years. It was restored in 1844 and moved to Reykjavík, where it has resided ever since. The present parliament building, the Alþingishús, was built in 1881, of hewn Icelandic stone.’.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Althing

23 BC August 18, 2017 at 6:56 pm

Yes, very insightful. We honor Washington and the Founding Fathers because we view ourselves as a, yes, exceptional nation that is built on an ideology of Limited Government and Natural Rights instead of ethnicity, religion, or historical accident. As even non-American Margaret Thatcher recognized, “Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.” The Founding Fathers are human embodiments of that philosophy, which is why their slave ownership (and any other personal character flaws) is beside the point. That Natural Rights philosophy was the ideological foundation for the eventual abolition of slavery and the subsequent Civil Rights movement. That same philosophy is also responsible for much human flourishing over the subsequent 200+ years. We keep those statues, not because the Founding Fathers were perfect as men, but because we continue to elevate the Natural Rights ideology as our nation’s and humanity’s aspirational ideal.

Not surprisingly, many of the people that want to diminish the Founding Fathers’ status aspire to a more collectivist socialist ideal, perhaps mixed with some group identity politics. Following Tyler’s insights, the Founding Fathers’ personal character flaws are just subterfuge. The true opposition is to ideals of Natural Rights and Liberty, which stand irresolvably in conflict with many socialist and group identitarian ideas.

Many (most?) of the Confederate statues were actually erected as defiant white opposition to Civil Rights, desegregation, and racial equality.
Regardless of the statues’ historical origins, these statues today represent the aspirations of white nationalists.

As Tyler predicts, views on statues indeed seem to align pretty well with “which political faction you wish to see assume more authority”.

24 Carson August 18, 2017 at 9:51 pm

You are clearly unfamiliar with the libertarian point of view. Tyler knows better but finds it uncomfortable.

25 msgkings August 18, 2017 at 9:55 pm

More like immature and hopelessly utopian than ‘uncomfortable’

26 Oblong August 18, 2017 at 4:33 pm

The whole theory sounds like someone writing from the point of view of a young nation still trying to forge an identity (Macedonia being an extreme example of that, but applies to some extent to the US too).

A good number of statues in many ‘old’ countries have been around longer than your nation.

The Taliban, the Bolsheviks, the Cultural revolution… they weren’t afraid to make changes. How did that work out for them?

27 Jack August 18, 2017 at 6:57 pm

Very interesting observation. The Chinese communists’ destruction of representations of thousands of years of their civilization is viewed pretty dismally by most people these days. My guess is that the US’s current infatuation with identity politics and attempts to eliminate the history of those who do not fit neatly into this vision will not be viewed favorably. We honor the dead for lots of reasons not just the three that Tyler mentions. In today’s WSJ there is an interesting column that points out that Cromwell is still honored by bust in Parliament notwithstanding that he fomented a civil war — because he is a great figure in British history. Not because the Brits want to provide incentives for others in the future to foment civil wars. Perhaps some of the great Confederate generals were also great men notwithstanding they fought for a cause that was largely ignoble.

28 chuck martel August 18, 2017 at 11:47 pm

The Puritanical Cromwell was so detested by the general English population, not to mention the native Irish, that after the restoration of the monarchy his remains were disinterred and his head displayed on a pike for 18 years. The return of Charles II sparked the greatest celebration in English history.

29 Mark Bahner August 18, 2017 at 7:34 pm

“The Taliban, the Bolsheviks, the Cultural revolution… they weren’t afraid to make changes. How did that work out for them?”

Yes, *destroying* things that are old (Bamiyan Buddha statues) is very bad. I don’t see anything wrong with removing a statue from one place and putting it in another.

30 M August 19, 2017 at 4:25 am

Ah, so the Taliban should’ve taken the Buddha’s, buried them in a basement, then sealed it, and then no problem?

31 Hoosier August 19, 2017 at 8:18 am

Would have been WAAAAAAAY less bad you have to admit. I’d have taken that bargain if the Taliban offered it.

32 Mark Bahner August 19, 2017 at 9:41 am

“Ah, so the Taliban should’ve taken the Buddha’s, buried them in a basement, then sealed it, and then no problem?”

Of course. But they were 53 and 35 meters tall, so they wouldn’t fit in any basement. If they’d simply built a brick wall to shield the Buddha’s from their delicate religious Nazi eyes, that wouldn’t have been a big deal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_Bamiyan

33 FYI August 18, 2017 at 4:37 pm

Well, the problem is the people who are choosing “what we want to be” are not exactly representing the majority. In many cases, they represent a very specific group of people who are really different than your average American.

And this is not just an American phenomena… http://www.dw.com/en/why-a-marx-monument-is-still-controversial-in-germany/a-37948036

34 Rich Berger August 18, 2017 at 4:39 pm

The current left wing mania for statue destruction is just the American Taliban’s latest hate initiative. And people like TC believe it’s a real thing.

35 Lanigram August 18, 2017 at 4:43 pm

+1

36 The Other Jim August 18, 2017 at 6:31 pm

Shorter Tyler:

(1) Take whatever the left is whining about this week, and pretend that by definition, it must be the Most Important Issue Of Our Time

(2) Write a Bloomberg article agreeing with the left

37 dan1111 August 18, 2017 at 5:17 pm

-1

Your ridiculously over the top language aside, the argument that a certain figure should not be honored with a public monument is not even anti-freedom.

Nor is this solely a leftist thing. As a conservative, I think Confederate monuments should come down, and I’m certainly not the only one.

38 prior_test3 August 19, 2017 at 2:33 am

And I, a born Virginian, actually do not have much of a problem with statues to Stonewall Jackson or Robert E. Lee. But then, when I was taught Civil War history, one of the most prominent things taught about Lee was his career after the Civil War, along these lines ‘President Grant invited him to the White House in 1869, and he went. Nationally he became an icon of reconciliation between the North and South, and the reintegration of former Confederates into the national fabric.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_E._Lee#Postbellum_life

And of course, his association with Washington and Lee College – ‘After the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee turned down several financially tantalizing offers of employment that would merely have traded on his name, and instead accepted the post of college president for three reasons. First, he had been superintendent of the United States Military Academy, so supervising higher education was in his background. Second, and more important, he believed that it was a position in which he could actually make a contribution to the reconciliation of the nation. Third, the Washington family were his in-laws: his wife was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, and Lee had long looked on George Washington as a hero and role model, so it is hardly surprising that he welcomed the challenge of leading a college endowed by and named after the first president.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_and_Lee_University#Lee_years

Of course, one is free to find Lee far too flawed a man to be worthy of respect and honor, though one should at least acknowledge he attempted to make a stronger Union after the end of the Civil War, an attempt that was one of the reasons he was held up as gentlemanly figure in my history lessons. True, ‘gentlemanly’ likely has not been part of school lessons for decades in Prof. Cowen’s NoVa, and even longer in most parts of the U.S., but Virginia continues to hold certain romantic notions about itself and its history.

It is a bit like how many Germans (and a number of other people in other countries) look at Rommel – an honorable military commander under an evil regime that he initially supported. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erwin_Rommel

What is really strange is to try to imagine how Lee and Lincoln would have worked together to reconstruct the nation, as Lee would have been as devoted to the task as Lincoln, two figures of possessing immense respect in the parts of the nation they represented.

39 peri August 19, 2017 at 10:48 am

Why is this such a bad way to tach history?

Why is it intellectuals never wish for people to be reconciled?

The problem is that history has not been taught this way for quite a while – and the current unrest (not just the statue business, by any means) is effectively part of the modern lesson plans.

40 Thomas August 19, 2017 at 9:16 pm

No one cares what an American who decamped for Nazi territory thinks.

41 Bill August 18, 2017 at 5:45 pm

Bet you felt the same way when they knocked down Sadhaam Hussein’s or Stalin’s statues as this was a part of their culture too.

42 Thomas August 19, 2017 at 9:17 pm

The same people taking down Lee and working up to Washington adore Stalin.

43 Chip August 18, 2017 at 7:27 pm

Tearing down a statue when a violent mob demands it is exactly when you don’t tear it down. As an economist, Tyler should recognize the power of incentives, and rewarding thuggish behavior will only bring more.

More generally, it’s bizarre how fragile our modern society has become. The other day my family had ide cream in a public square and a storefront had a large flag with Che’s face waving for all to see.

I can see the flag AND know he was a murderous, racist sociopath without picking up a large rock and smashing the storefront window. And that’s how it should be.

We’re sitting at the edge of a very slippery slope and so many supposedly intelligent people are ready to jump, intoxicated with moral righteousness.

44 Anonymous August 18, 2017 at 8:08 pm

What if an election, or a city council, decides a thing, and at the same time out on the front lawn, a real asshole demands the same thing.

Would you really say we can’t? We have to ignore the democracy, the civil change, because the asshole?

That seems to be your surface logic, and very silly, which makes me think you are really coming from someplace else.

45 Anonymous August 18, 2017 at 8:15 pm

Oh can you think of an example where a right wing asshole stopped you from believing in some good thing?

That is something you believed in, but something you dropped because he believed in it too?

46 prior_test3 August 19, 2017 at 2:37 am

‘Tearing down a statue when a violent mob demands it is exactly when you don’t tear it down.’

So, how about a wall?

And how do you define violent? Obviously, any mob that wishes to destroy something can be called violent if one so wishes. After all, the DDR’s government certainly felt that the mob tearing down the Berlin Wall was violent mob.

47 Mark Bahner August 19, 2017 at 10:35 am

“Tearing down a statue when a violent mob demands it…”

Please name some cities/towns where “a violent mob” has demanded a statue be torn down.

48 Komori August 19, 2017 at 11:54 am

Like Durham, NC?

Oh, sorry. That angry mob wasn’t demanding statues be torn down, they just went ahead and did it, so I guess it technically doesn’t meet your criteria.

49 Anonymous August 19, 2017 at 12:48 pm

And then we had this amazing scene. I don’t approve of unlawful removal, but if you are going to do it, the classic “civic disobedience” move is to accept the consequences.

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/8/17/1690803/-In-a-show-of-solidarity-hundreds-lined-up-to-turn-themselves-in-for-toppling-a-Confederate-statue

50 Mark Bahner August 19, 2017 at 7:16 pm

“Like Durham, NC?

Oh, sorry. That angry mob wasn’t demanding statues be torn down, they just went ahead and did it, so I guess it technically doesn’t meet your criteria.”

Funny you should mention Durham, NC, because that’s where I live. I did not ask where “angry” people tore down statues. I asked where “violent” people tore down statues…or demanded statues be torn down.

The only person hurt in Durham was the statue. (He tells me he was ashamed to be standing in front of a *courthouse* all these years, anyway.)

51 Thomas August 19, 2017 at 9:19 pm

To pretend that antifa isn’t violent suggests that you may be a Stalinist like them.

52 Mark Bahner August 19, 2017 at 10:31 pm

“To pretend that antifa isn’t violent suggests that you may be a Stalinist like them.”

Again…where has a violent mob–a mob that committed violent acts–demanded that statues be removed? There certainly wasn’t any violence in Durham.

53 Mark Bahner August 18, 2017 at 7:38 pm

First of all…how many statues have been destroyed?

And hating public honoring of people who fought to preserve slavery. How is that such a bad thing…that it is equivalent to the “Taliban”?

54 Hadur August 18, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Another favorite example of mine is the city of Cluj-Napoca in Transylvania, which today is part of Romania.

Transylvania, which once spent 150 years as an independent country (and was the first European nation to grant complete freedom of religion to all of its inhabitants), was once a multi-ethnic state with a Hungarian nobility, German urban middle class, and Romanian peasantry. After World War I, control of Transylvania was given to Romania, which through a combination of superior birth rates and low-level ethnic cleansing came to dominate the region. Today Transylvania is mostly Romanian, with a small Hungarian minority and some gypsies. The Germans are mostly gone.

Cluj-Napoca is, among other things, the birthplace of Matthias Corvinus, one of the greatest kings of Hungary (who, as any Romanian will tell you, was half Romanian). There are a bunch of monuments to him there, as well as Catholic and Unitarian churches from the days when Hungarian Catholics and Unitarian Italians (yes, Unitarian Italian refugees!) lived in the city.

In the 1990’s, a Romanian nationalist was elected mayor of Cluj-Napoca. He began building ethnically Romanian monuments, basically as a huge middle finger to the Hungarian minority. He built an enormous statue of a relatively obscure figure from Romanian history, whose big contribution was helping to defeat the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. This statue is on a huge pedestal, taller than any of the Matthias Corvinus monuments in the city. It is surrounded by loudspeakers that play the music of the Romanian national composer. There is also an enormous Romanian Orthodox church being built in the area, which is probably complete by now (it was still being built when I was last there).

This aggressive building program clearly had one intent: to show that the Romanians were now firmly in charge.

55 mkt42 August 18, 2017 at 11:44 pm

Sounds reminiscent of how in the post-reconstruction American South the white-dominated local governments erected hundreds of Confederate statues to show that they were still in charge.

56 Art Deco August 20, 2017 at 8:41 am

This aggressive building program clearly had one intent: to show that the Romanians were now firmly in charge.

Hungarians constitute about 8% of the population of Roumania and are outnumbered by Roumanians nation-wide by 10-1. Just who else but the Roumanians would be in charge?

(They’re maybe a quarter of the population of historic Transylvania, but a majority only in Szekely Land, which has fewer than 700,000 residents).

57 Bob from Ohio August 18, 2017 at 4:49 pm

This naval gazing about statutes and neo-Nazis is already tiresome after a week.

Its an obsession of a small sliver of politicians, pundits and tweeters, not the general population, who barely cares and much of which disagrees with the “elite” consensus.

In fact, there is a poll today that says that 49% of the population either agrees with Trump on “both sides” or blames the left for the violence last weekend.

You’d never know this from the lockstep agreement of the anointed. To use a cliche “this is why you got Trump”.

58 Anonymous August 18, 2017 at 5:21 pm

It’s funny, the marchers might have opened the discussion, but neither they nor you have power to say “it’s over.” It reverberates.

http://amp.timeinc.net/time/4906341/charlottesville-va-home-racism-confederacy/

59 Tanturn August 18, 2017 at 5:41 pm

You remember a tome when they went discussing this subject of “racism” constantly?

60 Anonymous August 18, 2017 at 7:09 pm

You might be right. There was a time when we could pretend it was about birth certificates or death panels, but even then …

61 Thomas August 19, 2017 at 9:31 pm

Death panels were racism lol.

62 Chip August 18, 2017 at 7:30 pm

The public at large is probably too busy to react to every perturbation on Twitter, whereas the elites feel the need to frequently signal their social status.

63 jorgensen August 18, 2017 at 4:53 pm

One of the early proponents of the theory that rule of law promotes economic development:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absalon#/media/File:Copenhagen_statue_of_Absalon.jpg

A worthy statue.

64 Thiago Ribeiro August 18, 2017 at 4:54 pm

So that’s what America has become. A country where rivals gangs squabble like Slavs. Was this what Nathan Hale and George Washington died for?

65 FYI August 18, 2017 at 5:12 pm
66 Thiago Ribeiro August 18, 2017 at 5:31 pm

There have been some mistakes. Even so, São Paulo is much safer than 20 years ago when it was ruled by the PMDB. Campinas, where I live, is much safer than has been in a long time. My home state also got much safer. Things are getting better in Brazil fast. It is different from electing a Russian asset who consorts with Nazis. Also there are no Nazist marches in Brazil. Brazil fought against Nazism. According to famous American statesman Dean Acheson, Brazil was a loyal and decisive ally in the fight for freedom. Even more important: Brazilians are too dignified to be bickering the way Americans do.

67 Mark Bahner August 18, 2017 at 7:51 pm

“Was this what Nathan Hale and George Washington died for?”

Ummm…George Washington didn’t die for the U.S. He died for…medical malpractice, shortly after retirement. At what was then a reasonably old age of 67:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/dec-14-1799-excruciating-final-hours-president-george-washington/

68 Thiago Ribeiro August 18, 2017 at 8:05 pm

From the little Spanish I speak, it is clear he died for America. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jjQ20Sjg60&t=2m40s

69 Mark Bahner August 18, 2017 at 9:16 pm

Well, the Simpsons writers are well-respected for their historical accuracy. After all, they were the first to discover the hatred between George Washington and Jebediah Springfield…as well as being the first historians to reveal that Jebediah Springfield was actually Hans Sprungfeld:

http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/George_Washington

So you’re probably right. The PBS account is probably just agitprop against for-profit medicine.

70 Thiago Ribeiro August 18, 2017 at 10:07 pm

Everyone knows PBS deals on fake news. Ask Mr. Trump.

71 rayward August 18, 2017 at 4:55 pm

If the British had given Washington the commission he believed he deserved (after fighting the French and native Americans) and the Ohio Territory he believed he deserved (after he surveyed it), then perhaps we’d have avoided the civil war (the British rejected slavery) and joined the war against the Germans/Nazis much sooner and avoided the worst of the holocaust On the other hand, there’s the issue of the other British colonies and the brutality with which the British treated them, not my idea of a favorable history. I suggest Cowen stick to the history we know rather than trying to create an alt-history. As for those statues of confederate heroes, Cowen, a native of New Jersey, cannot appreciate just how large a presence and significance they have in the South and how offensive they are to the descendants of the slaves who suffered as the result of those heroes. Alexander the Great died in 323 BCE. Didn’t humanity progress in almost 2200 years?

72 M August 19, 2017 at 4:34 am

Regarding your comment on Alexander, are you familiar with fall of Rome? Are you an exceedingly simple minded person who views history as a linear progression?

73 Lanigram August 18, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Tyler’s “pointers” are the product of his mood affiliation.

74 mulp August 18, 2017 at 5:00 pm

How many statues of George Washington are there relative the number of Robert E Lee and Jefferson Davis statues, two men who together served the same role as GW, but for less time, and much less successfully?

Hitler accomplished more than Robert E Lee and Jefferson Davis before their efforts ended in disaster. All three fought for their version of a better future for their deserving citizens, white men, creating a lasting legacy.

75 shrikanthk August 18, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Tyler –

Sure. Statues represent who we want to be.

But do we ever see a similarly vehement protest against erecting a statue for Malcolm X who preached among other things that “Black people are superior to white people” or that “white people are devils” or worse that “the demise of the white race is imminent”?

If you want to bring down statues of Robert E Lee, please recommend the same course for Malcolm X statues!

76 FYI August 18, 2017 at 5:11 pm
77 Anonymous August 18, 2017 at 5:26 pm

Funny. Not technically a monument. A sale item, possibly for ironic purchase by a friendly capitalist.

It would look good by a McMansion swimming pool.

78 Moo cow August 18, 2017 at 6:57 pm

It’s for sale. Has been for some time. Evudently theres not much of a market for that kind of thing even in Seattle. You could buy it and melt it down if you want.

79 Thomas August 19, 2017 at 9:32 pm

Derp

80 JSC August 18, 2017 at 5:25 pm

As Tyler said, it doesn’t help to debate the facts of this or that person’s life. Just like no one uses George Washington as a way to lord over Native Americans today, so a statue of George Washington would not be a symbol of anti-Native American sentiment, the legacy of Malcolm X, together with any statue, are not used to lord the superiority of blacks over whites. In the simplest symbolic sense, Malcolm X is called up in the same spirit as Martin Luther King Jr., and that matters more than the facts of their lives. Keeping those statues up represents only a commitment to racial equality.

81 shrikanthk August 18, 2017 at 5:32 pm

The moral equivalence that is drawn here between George Washington (one of the greatest men who ever lived) and Malcolm X is what is troubling him.

Malcolm X was ALL about civil rights. And as a part of this campaign, he preached hate. Period.
Washington may have owned slaves, as did several other southern whites in his era. But we don’t remember him for his slave-holding. We remember him for helping create the first successful Republic in human history. And for STEPPING DOWN voluntarily from power at the end of his 8 years as President, something without a precedent in human history.

Here was a man who could’ve been king, in an era when kings and queens were the norm. Yet he chose to step down!

82 shrikanthk August 18, 2017 at 5:32 pm

*troubling me

83 JSC August 18, 2017 at 6:16 pm

You’re once again ignoring the point about symbolism, preferring to do some kind of balance sheet analysis of which of the two lived a more moral life. In 2017 both GW and MX are symbols of certain ideals, and those ideals are ones we equally cherish. The point Tyler was making about GW was that anyone can argue that by today’s moral standards he was a monster because he owned slaves and believed he had a right to take Native American land by force, but such an argument is disingenuous because to celebrate GW today means to celebrate a broad set of ideals rather than any particulars about his life.

84 stephen August 19, 2017 at 3:35 am

“the first successful Republic in human history”

Several existed before the USA. When people spoke of “the United States” in the early seventeenth century, they meant the Dutch Republic. Then there was the Roman Republic, the Venetian Republic … And there still is Switzerland (beginning 1291, recognised as separate from the Holy Roman Empire 1648.

85 shrikanthk August 19, 2017 at 8:20 am

Those weren’t successful

86 Someone from the other side August 19, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Last I checked, Switzerland was a republic. Granted that was yesterday when I was digging through the upcoming referendums but I admit I may have missed the revolution around me.

87 M August 19, 2017 at 4:41 am

If anything, the existence of Malcolm X statues allows Whites to laugh at them as pathetic idols (which I suspect is the main actually used function of any such statues).

Which is why this is all so silly – social and cultural stigma for Black people today is rooted in the relative economic and intellectual production. Fiddling with statues generates nothing but contempt for petty government individuals. Art, public art, does not really change society.

88 Todd August 18, 2017 at 5:25 pm

to which public Malcolm X statues are you referring?

89 shrikanthk August 18, 2017 at 5:35 pm
90 Todd August 18, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Appears to be a building where you could go inside and learn about him and his wife in the form of an educational center which appears to be in some way affiliated with Columbia University. A mural and a statue of Malcolm X are inside the building.

91 Art Deco August 18, 2017 at 5:54 pm

Malcolm Little was the press secretary to a religious sect which had about 20,000 members at the time its founder died. I wonder if Columbia University will be building educational centers on the life and work of whoever it was who took the calls for Cdl. O’Connor.

92 SanD August 18, 2017 at 6:15 pm

According to your link, this appears to be a private museum built on the site where Malcolm X was murdered by the Nation of Islam.

I haven’t heard any proposals destroying Appomattox Court House, and I would speak out against any such calls.

93 Benny Lava August 18, 2017 at 6:26 pm

You mean a privately owed statue on private property? Lol try harder next time you google Malcolm X statue.

94 Thomas August 19, 2017 at 9:35 pm

The anti-white racist socialists make distinctions between public and private property if you were to listen to them and also be daft. Lol. I bet Benny actually believes that he believes this. Sad.

95 Lanigram August 18, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Wrt Robert E. Lee, he is symbolic of major event and an important inflection point in US history. He was a top tier graduate of West Point and his era, personal honor and loyalty were likely very important to him. He had to choose between loyalty to the US and the US Army or loyalty to his home and family in Virginia. Not an easy decision. He chose and he lost and many lives were lost. To see this as a slavery vs abolition issue is to view it through the lense of our present era.

Another thing to consider is the issue of secession from the Union itself, whatever the reason. The Confederacy chose to leave the Union over slavery. Lincoln resolved the issue of secession decisively at Appomattox.

That should be memorialized.

96 Lanigram August 18, 2017 at 5:28 pm

I meant: “…West Point and, as a man of his era, ….”

Arg!!!

97 msgkings August 18, 2017 at 5:50 pm

It probably should be memorialized in some kind of Museum of the Confederacy. There are probably many of these, just as there are many Holocaust Museums, but maybe the former CSA states can pick one to represent the official history. Put up a bunch of statues and murals and exhibits there, and take down most of the random statues all over the South that were put up mainly to let black people know who’s in charge.

98 chuck martel August 19, 2017 at 12:02 am

How about a memorial consisting of a pile of 650,000 pairs of boots to represent the men and boys sent to their deaths by Lincoln in his effort to free the slaves, preserve the union and retain tariffs?

99 Potato August 19, 2017 at 12:12 am

Battle Hymn of the Republic should be played often, and loudly. We’re proud of what our forefathers did. Note the “Volunteer” in the unit names and lineages.

They were not “sent.” Draftees were a small %, even by the end. Yes, as if the war was about tariffs. This is why people like Art Deco make fun of libertarians.

100 prior_test3 August 19, 2017 at 2:43 am

Robert E. Lee would disagree with you, though he was likely too gentlemanly to call you a fool to your face.

101 A.G.McDowell August 19, 2017 at 12:55 am

Is it possible that the romance seen by some in figures like Robert E Lee originates in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_cohesion? Suppose that we hold to the view that, regardless of whether their cause is good or bad, soldiers bond not with the cause they are fighting for but with the small number of comrades they work with every day, and suppose that the memory of that bond persists after they have returned from war, win or lose. Most veterans – or their descendants – cannot arrange for a statue to be put up for the particular unit they served in, but they can agree to venerate any figurehead they can find that didn’t end the war with a reputation for being more dangerous to the side that they led than to the enemy. In this case, if we were to search for a “real meaning” for the statues and their cult, it would be not the man, nor a way of life founded upon slavery, but the bonds formed within small groups of men who risked their lives for each other – whether in Gettysburg (on either side), on the Somme, on D Day, or right on up to the anonymous roads and trails where IEDs take their toll today.

102 prior_test3 August 19, 2017 at 2:41 am

Pretty close to the perspective I was taught in Virginia in school, actually.

103 daguix August 18, 2017 at 5:45 pm

As an alternative, keeping vandalized statues can be a symbol on its own, like the statue of Josephine Beauharnais, Napoleon’s second wife, in Martinique. She was the heiress of a slave owner dynasty and convinced her husband to re-establish slavery after its first abolition in 1789.

104 dearieme August 18, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Statues presumably belong to some person or institution. Shouldn’t their free speech rights mean that they can keep on display any statue they want to?

Naturally, one would welcome a diversity of decisions, wouldn’t one?

105 Slugger August 18, 2017 at 6:27 pm

These statues did not spring out of the rock spontaneously. They were erected by people at a specific place and time and for a specific reason. The desire to place markers of the Confederacy during the time period of 1945 to 2000 was impelled by the desire to legitimize the principles of segregation. I doubt that they were placed to remind us of the history of a genteel culture that probably never existed outside of a Faulkner novel. BTW, I think Faulkner was quite conscious of the reality hidden behind the myth.

106 Thomas August 19, 2017 at 9:37 pm

If you got your “fax” from NPR you might believe that the majority of these statues were created from 1960 onward. You would be wrong but you would be the right type of ignorant.

107 Donald Pretari August 18, 2017 at 7:07 pm

I don’t think there should be a a statue of Alexander Stephens anywhere, but I do believe everyone should read him, or, at the very least, about him. He’s a paradoxical and mesmerizing figure to me, and I’ve learned much from my association with him. Nevertheless, his faults should preclude him from being civically celebrated.

108 Thanatos Savehn August 18, 2017 at 7:12 pm

Given that Karl Marx was a casual dropper of the n-word, thought blacks barely more than animals, hated Jews and found Mexicans irredeemably lazy it’s certain that the Left’s kulturkampf will soon turn its attention to Marx’ evil and demand that his thought and that of his equally racist buddy be rooted out and driven from all of our fine colleges and universities. Or does the Left make exceptions you could fly a 747 through for the those honored in its Pantheon?

P.S. I note an awful lot of postmodern “criticism” in the comments assume without need of any need for evidence that all these statues were erected for the sole purpose of subjugating blacks (who curiously didn’t notice it until yesterday). Bloom was correct about the killing of history. The thinking of a scary number of people is now reduced to this: (a) make a subjective assessment about power relationship between two groups; (b) note some act undertaken by the group in power that you don’t like; (c) engage the post hoc propter hoc fallacy; (d) come up with a narrative that explains why the act led to the power difference; and, (e) denounce the act as obviously being intended to oppress and demand the act be repudiated. Hopefully these people are kept away from systems analysis or anything else requiring genuine critical thinking and put some place safe (for us) like HR departments, Studies lecturing and Starbucks.

For an alternative explanation of the statues I suggest sentimentalism instead of hate and the old yearning for a simpler and more honorable age than one of mindless world wars and constant unsettling technological innovation. Watch this and let me know if it evinces hatred or sentimentality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6jSqt39vFM

109 msgkings August 18, 2017 at 10:01 pm

Marx was Jewish.

110 Thanatos Savehn August 18, 2017 at 10:16 pm
111 Thanatos Savehn August 19, 2017 at 12:44 am

Your heroes are ghosts. But then, you knew that. You’re just another usurper; another parasite. Well, you can’t not be what you are. Enjoy your feast of insects.

112 msgkings August 19, 2017 at 1:08 am

Da fuq?

113 Thomas August 19, 2017 at 9:40 pm

“I sympathize with revolutionary Communists who idolize Stalin, but I’m the good guy” -msgkings

PS: your dumb response about neo-nazis is dumb, I am not a Neo-Nazi, I do not like neo-nazis, you cannot say the same about antifa, you coward communist scumbag would-be murderer.

114 msgkings August 20, 2017 at 1:27 am

Do you think anyone reads your spittle-flecked unhinged rants of idiotic mindless partisan inanity and goes “oh man that poster Thomas, he’s insightful! I’m totally going to support Trump now!” You need to up your troll game LOL

115 Unanimous August 19, 2017 at 12:36 am

Karl Marx’s anti-slavery articles published in American newspapers were his main source of income prior to his later communist books becoming popular.

You are just making stuff up.

116 Thanatos Savehn August 19, 2017 at 12:46 am

Dare to read what he wrote.

117 prior_test3 August 19, 2017 at 2:57 am

You really seem to have a problem separating being anti-slavery from racism. Many racists, such as Abraham Lincoln, were implacably opposed to slavery. Ranging from witty quotes to illustrate their position that humans are not property – “Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” to the clearly moral – “I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.” http://rogerjnorton.com/Lincoln95.html

118 Mark Bahner August 19, 2017 at 10:46 am

“Watch this and let me know if it evinces hatred or sentimentality…”

Please identify the black people in those films who were evincing sentimentality for the honorable days when slavery was worth fighting and killing for.

119 Bill August 18, 2017 at 7:34 pm

If you were to replace, say, a Southern General’s statue, what statue would you replace it with that referred to the tragedy of the Civil War?

Maybe, if the issue is thinking about the past, we should think about what replaces, say, a statue erected in the ’20s to symbolize Jim Crow.

Maybe a statue of a freed Negro slave.

With the chains cut.

120 Mark Bahner August 18, 2017 at 8:01 pm

“If you were to replace, say, a Southern General’s statue, what statue would you replace it with that referred to the tragedy of the Civil War?”

A very big wall with the names of all the dead.

121 Bill August 18, 2017 at 8:07 pm

+1

122 The Other Jim August 18, 2017 at 8:42 pm

But obviously many of the dead were slave holders.

Why do you want to create this monument to hate?

You sure sound like a racist. Can you post your work address please so we can discuss this with your employer?

Sincerely, The Democrat Party

123 Bill August 18, 2017 at 9:14 pm

How hard is it to build a strawman to knock down?

124 Thomas August 19, 2017 at 9:41 pm

How long until the Revolutionary communist that you are defending demand that slaveholder Jefferson’s Constitution is abolished? Isn’t that the real end game here, with you being a useful idiot rube?

125 Mark Bahner August 19, 2017 at 11:57 pm

“How long until the Revolutionary communist that you are defending demand that slaveholder Jefferson’s Constitution is abolished?”

Jefferson was in France during the Constitutional Convention.

126 Mark Bahner August 18, 2017 at 9:41 pm

“But obviously many of the dead were slave holders.

Why do you want to create this monument to hate?”

I consider it to be a monument to folly. I’m convinced that the Civil War could have been resolved with few (hundreds or less) deaths. The solution would be to offer to compensate slave holders on an extremely slanted scale, e.g.:

1-3 slaves at twice market value,
4-6 slaves at market value
7-20 slaves at half market value
21-100 slaves at 0.1 times market value
100+ slaves at 0.01 times market value

…or something along those lines. That would have split the people in the South who didn’t own slaves or owned few slaves from the large slave owners. As soon as the battle of Shiloh it should have been obvious to both sides that the chosen course of fighting was going to be a foolish bloodbath.

127 Ricardo August 19, 2017 at 10:30 am

It is not as if nobody ever thought of this back then. There were several practical problems. First, where is the money going to come from (tariffs? Good luck getting the South to agree to that). Second, what happens to the slaves once they are free? States like South Carolina and Mississippi which were majority black at the time and even the significant population of non-slave-owning whites were not going to agree to fully integrate blacks into their societies. The question of what to do with freed slaves (Send them to Liberia? Redistribute wealth to them and grant them full civil rights?) was extremely contentious. Finally, the Dred Scott case said that the federal government had no power to prohibit slavery in federal territories so the Supreme Court may well have to put a stop to an effort like this even if it cleared all the other hurdles.

128 Thomas August 19, 2017 at 9:43 pm

Dishonest Ricardo implies that northern states would accept slaves, despite places like New York City, where racists like him live (I’ve read that it’s safe to assume that people who live in segregated neighborhoods are racist) still continuing economic segregation to this day.

129 John B Chilton August 18, 2017 at 8:01 pm

Tyler: Exactly.

The confederate monuments were about creating facts on the ground that would influence the future. Statements about who is in charge, putting blacks in their place, symbols of intimidation.

130 megamike August 18, 2017 at 8:46 pm

Statues of Confederate soldiers across the South were cheaply mass-produced in the North
https://qz.com/1054062/statues-of-confederate-soldiers-across-the-south-were-cheaply-mass-produced-in-the-north/

131 Laura S. August 18, 2017 at 9:05 pm

Statues also exist to heal. That is rather than demonize, when we come together as a country we should celebrate those who led their people to surrender. Our political discourse today is too polarizing. Harmonize and co-exist–don’t obliterate and destroy.

It’s hard to not see parallels between taking confederate statues down from Gettysburg and the actions of ISIS in Palmyra and Mosul.

132 Steve Sailer August 18, 2017 at 9:20 pm

Basically, there is a Scramble for America going on, much like the Scramble for Europe at present. It’s a mirror image of the Scramble for Africa of 130 years.

133 msgkings August 18, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Mostly online in chat rooms though. Once 99.9% of Americans turns off their TVs and computers they live their lives exactly as they did a year ago.

134 Thomas August 19, 2017 at 9:44 pm

Living rooms are considerably different from public spaces where people like you are currently demanding a uniform language which implicitly affirms communist values.

135 prior_test3 August 19, 2017 at 3:09 am

As this guy discovered, when he actually encountered the abbreviation ‘IRL’ – ‘Take “Millennial Matt,” whose catchphrase — “Hitler did nothing wrong!” — earned him tens of thousands of fans before he went to the rally, but his Twitter account has since been deleted, his real identity publicized, and he is now begging fans for money to flee his hometown because “my life is in shambles.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2017/08/18/the-rise-and-humiliating-fall-of-charlottesvilles-starring-fascist/

It is much easier to live in a bubble these days, thinking that sitting alone in front of a screen makes one part of a vast crowd. And I’m sure he will find that the ‘Hitler did nothing wrong’ just does not have much in the way of money – though I’m sure they already have an answer in their minds for why.

In contrast, IRL, Hitler and the beliefs of his ideology are considered to be evil, representing the sort of beliefs that no decent human being would even view neutrally, much less endorse.

136 Butler T. Reynolds August 18, 2017 at 9:46 pm

Looking forward instead of back is an interesting way to think about these statues. It would be more likely so if statues were privately funded on private property. As it is, most of these statues are under political control, which means their purpose is to fulfill short-term political objectives.

If governments were out of it, then maybe instead we’d be fighting over whether to build Kirk or Picard statues. I’d send my GoFundMe dollars to the Picard camp, with extra donations going to those proposals that include Deanna Troi.

137 Nate Rausch August 18, 2017 at 9:56 pm

-1

A key point is that statues are built to last a long time. While our moral fashions can shift quickly. That is why reasonable people usually don’t re-evaluate all our statues every decade, thank goodness. Certainly not by this weeks social justice outrage on Twitter. The only major exception to this has been the marxist societies (and cities in revolution or war, as the examples Tyler mention).

I don’t have to pretend to not be an American. And I can tell you Tyler, it looks pretty crazy to me as a centrist Scandinavian person. It more or less feels like what I used to think of as “Twitter-outrage” now seeps into the real world with devastating effects.

138 Anonymous August 18, 2017 at 10:07 pm

You may not be aware of an interesting contradiction. The same darn people who on this page want to preserve Confederate statues, have also on these pages said that the United States government should not have an endowment for the arts, should not support the humanities.

They actually literally did not find a public art role for the government they could support until they got to Confederate statues.

139 Sure August 19, 2017 at 12:06 am

Oh come now, a vastly simpler option is simply to keep the monuments and outsource their upkeep. It was a fine American tradition to take monuments, like the USS Constitution and raise private funds for precisely these sorts of reasons. This would allow for a nice face saving compromise as many people would be unwilling to part with their own coin to upkeep barely remembered monuments. We could kill a lot of birds with a compromise like this, but that would not allow one side to win, hence it will never happen.

140 Anonymous August 19, 2017 at 10:06 am

Is it funny that private funding for preservation was not on the table (to my knowledge) until just now?

Anyway, private preservation, in a private museum, would be fine. If it is a public square, I’d rely on a vote.

141 Sure August 19, 2017 at 2:21 pm

I suppose I should ceased being shocked by the historical illiteracy of people intent on obliterating it. Memorial day is officially set aside by act of Congress as a time for private upkeep of all memorials to all Americans who died under arms as a nationalization of the Decoration Days of both the North and South.

Many of these monuments were historically purchased and upkept privately. Public upkeep is pretty much a non-issue, the cleaning costs of the actual statuary is exceedingly small outside of vandalism. These are, after all, giant slabs of rock and metal designed to resist the effects of weather. My guess is that the upkeep costs are entirely recouped by various Americans stopping for photo-ops and a percentage of them buying dinner or ice cream in town when they otherwise would not (Civil War tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry) . The protests have absolutely nothing to do with the costs, which I am sure one Southern billionaire could cover for the next century for most of the monuments.

Reverting to the tradition of private upkeep is not on the table nor discussed because this is not about the funding. It is about who gets to dictate the “correct” observance of history and to whom those pronouncements are dictated. There are innumerable options to placate both sides – build memorials to slavery, the slave trade, abolitionists, reconstruction era black politicians, etc.; move the monuments to battlefields; drape them until they can be voted upon in a plebiscate; make their upkeep private expenses; rotate the new and old monuments – and none of them will matter because this is about winning. One side will lose, one will win.

142 Anonymous August 19, 2017 at 2:39 pm

That was a lot of text to avoid what I thought the central theme. Public display of statues should be a democratic choice.

143 Anonymous August 19, 2017 at 2:42 pm

(I hope you were not seriously putting forward that democracy is bad, because it is a “contest.”)

144 Sure August 19, 2017 at 5:11 pm

I have yet to see democratic choice for any of these stations. Tyler actively celebrated removing the Baltimore ones in the dead of night without warning. If this about the democratic vote of the people let us start with some actual plebiscates. Polling suggests that the statues would stay, particularly if done so on statewide ballots, so that will never happen.

What I have seen are mob demonstrations for and against the statues along with doxxing and third party coercion.

And yes I do not think statuary should be changed on a 50% + 1 standard. Like all attempts to change culture I suspect that the living are not particularly better at living than the dead, tradition counts for something if only because it managed to give some of the only few centuries in all of history with a positive trajectory for human flourishing. Changes should be made slowly, rarely in the face of mob demonstrations, and only after exploring real compromise. The fact that a majority might theoretically want to use symbolism to stoke division that leads to millions of wasted dollars and perhaps even people dying is not a terribly strong clarion call.

I have people die on me every day from back when people said that traditional opioid prohibitions were too moralistic and dependence should not be tied to guilt. Tens of thousands of people died because we changed opioid use culture too quickly; I would rather not go too quickly here and spark many more rounds of vigilantes fighting in the streets.

This is why I subscribe to a constitutional republicanism. The majority will get their way, but only if they can sustain their cause over time.

145 Thomas August 19, 2017 at 9:45 pm

This is a good point, that you don’t even realize. Both issues are direct attacks on groups of people by their political enemies. You want to destroy remembrances to the ancestors of your enemies and I want to destroy cash handouts to unemployable losers like you.

146 Ikonoclast August 18, 2017 at 10:17 pm

I am from a very distant country. It is about as distant as it is possible to get in terms of geography. However, given that I can speaks English goods, if I takes the effort, perhaps not distant enough culturally.

So, I understand that in the US there are statues of people who fought to keep their fellow Americans in chains? And the statues don’t have inscriptions along the lines of, “To the shame of North Carolina, this man was willing to kill to keep fellow Americans in chains”?

In that case, tear them down. Have fun doing it. Organize a day where families can come and pull on the ropes to topple them.

Why on earth would you want to keep them around?

147 anonymous reply to Iconoclast August 19, 2017 at 12:29 am

First, if writing in English, please use English spelling (Iconoclast). Second, please read Roe v Wade and a description of partial birth abortion. I, for one, would not spend a penny on an Obama statue, but if I am around a hundred years from now and if the future racialle calls for tearing down his statutes because he coldly did not hear the cries of the victims in their little abortuary chains (and those were real chains for every single victim – you know that, don’t you) I would say, no, leave the statutes up. Few of us are completely bad or completely good. And almost all of us are sufficiently bad that we need, every once in a while, to feel a little bit of compunction at stating, plain and simply, that others were wicked and we are not.

148 anonymous reply to Iconoclast August 19, 2017 at 12:36 am

And if you are as good as you seem to think you are, please write a comment of thousands and thousands of words so we can enjoy the insights of your goodness. Please do not, in that case, limit your reply to an obvious snarky comment (and – to pretermit your most obvious snark – yes, slavery was wrong! Just like Obama’s millions of approved abortions, often of fetuses who could feel pain… but I am writing as if this is 2117 instead of 2017. Leave the statutes up, I say … although , in my heart of hearts, I know that he just didn’t care. That is so true and so sad that I can’t even say anything more about it.) (Somehow I guess you are not tempted to write tens of thousands of words about your goodness. In that sense, distant lands are not unlike nearby lands.)

149 middle aged veterinarian August 20, 2017 at 1:09 am

My veterinarian (a real veterinarian, as opposed to someone who calls oneself a veterinarian on the internet) has a heart of gold and, in my heart of hearts, I do not want her to feel compunction for thinking others are wicked and she is not. Nada te turbe, amiga.

150 Sure August 18, 2017 at 11:30 pm

This is perhaps the worst thing I have ever read that Tyler has written.

Let’s start with the presumption for change. Exactly how much superior do you suppose the people of today are to those of previous generations? Somehow our ancestors (literally and figuratively) managed to survive conditions that would easily kill most all of us. While enduring trials far beyond most anything any of us have had to endure they managed to bestow upon us a set of ideals and practices that allowed the greatest engine of prosperity and freedom in the history of the world to run for centuries. We should awfully long and awfully hard before changing what has a proven history of working.

In medicine we have to burn through billions of dollars of testing before we alter treatment guidelines because even with a vastly simpler system with much more limited potential for unforeseen consequences the majority of the time we cannot adequately predict the outcome of change. We pore over the records of the dead to see what worked and what did not. Why we should expect national culture to be any less difficult or why we should assume that we can rationally find some higher plateau than we currently occupy is beyond me. After all virtually every civilization from the past died out and was far worse for human flourishing than our own. A good Bayesian would have some pretty strong priors that change is most likely going to be bad over a generational timescale and require compelling evidence of the contrary.

Next, let us suppose the we actually wanted to back a “faction” what exactly would that mean? After all when these monuments were built it was by Southern Democrats, which everyone knew would be advancing the cause of Southerners. Except for the fact that Democrats never independently elected a Southern democratic as their presidential candidate until 1976 without having the preferred northern leader die in office. The party of Al Smith, FDR, Adlai Stevenson, and JFK sure was lead by a lot of Northerners for a “Southern” party. But all the Democrats were pro-labor, right? Voting for the statues back then would have clearly helped the cause of labor … except that it was the Democrats who made the South right-to-work. But hey the Democrats stood solidly behind the fervent Protestants of the country, after all the was the party of William Jennings Bryan; except that it became the default option for Catholics and of course gave several the head of the party.

How on earth do you actually pick a faction for an issue like this? The parties are ever shifting masses that have shed “core” elements many times over. The likelihood that the faction you most value will reap political dividends from unrelated actions is approaching coin flips. After all Evangelical Christians surely should have backed any monument favored by Carter as he clearly lead their faction and his gains would be their gains.

“Focusing on the future” is even worse fluff. Say I am a 1950s voter considering the monuments planned in the run-up to the war’s centennial. Say my most pressing issue is immigration, which side of the statue debate should I take? After all the conservative Democrats behind the statues wanted to limit immigration to family members rather than economically skilled immigrants to limit demographic change – and yet they were hopelessly wrong as chain immigration dramatically reshaped immigrant flows.

A much more concrete option would simply allow time to work its course. New monuments are placed by plurality vote. Monument removal requires a vote that grows say 1% every election above the initial threshold each successive election. This would allow for tempered changes to national commemoration, but those memorials truly unfit to the populace could nonetheless be removed. This would certainly be far less silly than just doing simple who, whom politics into a crystal ball and hoping you picked sides rightly.

151 peri August 19, 2017 at 10:32 am

Re the superiority of Present People: this is what I find most disturbing. That we have only bad lessons to learn from Past People, and no regard for how easy we’ve got it in comparison. If one thought the goal of imputing unearned virtue was to make people be the thing you want them to be, out of love – but we know that’s not the case, because there’s so much hatred back of it.

When Chelsea Clinton tweeted out that thing about “we don’t honor Lucifer with statuary in our churches” yesterday, she made this view clear: the Rebs were the devil incarnate – and we – the current generation – are as God on Her Throne.

152 prior_test3 August 19, 2017 at 11:27 am

‘That we have only bad lessons to learn from Past People’

Please, the Lincoln Memorial is impressive, and the lessons to be learned there are just as applicable for future people as they are for present people.

153 Sure August 19, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Give it time. An avowed racist, who pardoned racist traitors, who personally dealt in graft in patronage, and took a harsh line against demonstrators and rioters is a difference of degree, not kind.

Lee was a racist slaveholder. He was also a tactical genius and a major force for reuniting the country and allowing the pacification of the South rather than dispersing for decades of ambush warfare. He personally sacrificed his wealth and comfort to protect the state he believed was owed his loyalty.

There are plenty of worthwhile lessons from people like Lee and Jackson; I suspect that in time Lincoln will follow Washington who will follow Jefferson and Jackson as unacceptable individuals to honor.

I have already seen that the whole “malice toward none” is lost in the fury of protests today; Lincoln will surely be rejected in his own time.

154 msgkings August 19, 2017 at 6:31 pm

Nah. Washington and Lincoln will never get retro-rejected. Maybe the rest will who knows.

155 prior_test3 August 19, 2017 at 2:11 am

So, not a single mention of Vienna? Undoubtedly, you at least were aware of this memorial/statue area – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_War_Memorial_%28Vienna%29

Travel can broaden minds, and considering how massive Soviet/Red Army war memorials exist in the capitals of two former Nazi strongholds, it would be interesting to compare and contrast, one could have thought, especially from the pen (so to speak) of a globe trotting columnist.

One of the three Berlin memorials is fairly straightforward – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_War_Memorial_%28Treptower_Park%29

The other one? Well – ‘The main approach on Strasse des 17. Juni is flanked by two Soviet T-34 tanks, the first to reach the city in 1945 with the advancing Soviet army. Two artillery guns stand at an angle behind these, level with the first set of steps. Volleys fired from these guns had proclaimed the end of the “Battle of Berlin.” The names of officers who fell in battle in Berlin between 14 April and 1 May 1945, honored as “Heroes of the Soviet Union,” are engraved on two stone sarcophagi halfway up the steps.’ https://www.berlin.de/senuvk/umwelt/stadtgruen/friedhoefe_begraebnisstaetten/en/sowjet_ehrenmale/tiergarten/index.shtml

Just imagine several monuments to Sherman and his conquering heroes in downtown Atlanta, built on a majestically heroic scale. And with this sort of arrangement – ‘As part of the Two Plus Four Agreement, Germany agreed to assume maintenance and repair responsibility for all war memorials in the country, including the Soviet memorial in Treptower Park. However, Germany must consult the Russian Federation before undertaking any changes to the memorial.’

Yep, the Germans are still paying for the upkeep of memorials that glorify the Soviet heroes of the Red Army. And nobody seems to much care about it, actually. Well, except the German Nazis, with more apparent sincerity than American Nazis have concerning Robert E. Lee.

156 stephen August 19, 2017 at 3:43 am

Looking for another non-US example: in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, France declared war on and invaded pretty well every European state (bar I think Denmark and Sweden), plus the Turkish empire. Millions died. These wars are not generally regarded as justified or worthwhile.

So, should the French demolish the Arc de Triomphe?

157 prior_test3 August 19, 2017 at 5:05 am

Is there an Arc de Triomph in the Netherlands? And if not, why not – that Kingdom resulted from French military action, after all.

Which might just provide an answer to your question The government that retains authority in its own territory generally gets to decide what statues and memorials are created. The Confederate statues tend to stand out as another example of American exceptionalism, actually.

158 stephen August 19, 2017 at 1:20 pm

No, there is no Arc de Triomphe in the Netherlands.

And as for why not: your comment that “that Kingdom resulted from French military action, after all” is a good candidate for the prize of Most Absurd Comment in This or any other Recent Thread.

For your information: from 1581 to 1795, there was a Dutch Republic with which the Dutch were, on the whole, content. In 1795, the French invaded and set up a puppet Batavian Republic with which the Dutch were less content, but military occupation is a good short-term cure. In 1806 that became the Kingdom of Holland, as decreed by Napoleon Bonaparte, the King being (astonishingly) Louis Bonaparte. He was an insufficient puppet, and in 1810 the Netherlands became part of the French Republic, with which the Dutch were even less content.. In 1815, the Congress of Vienna recognised the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, incorporating the old Catholic Spanish/Austrian Netherlands that broke away later to become modern Belgium.

Are you answered?

159 Arthur August 19, 2017 at 5:30 am

Statues are idols…and the traditional Abrahamic ten commands view of idols is well know….

160 dearieme August 19, 2017 at 6:04 am

Abraham wrote the ten commandments? That’s a novel view.

161 Crikey August 19, 2017 at 9:27 am

That’s nothing. A guy above said Obama had millions of abortions. Not bad for a someone without a uterus.

162 Art Deco August 19, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Protip for the aspiring smart ass: when you have to pretend you have no reading comprehension to pull off a quip, you’re doing it wrong.

163 Thomas August 19, 2017 at 9:48 pm

The Democrat Party does advocate for abortion which disproportionately kills black fetuses. It seems like the KKK and the neo-nazis are in agreement with the Democrats on the issue of black genocide.

164 msgkings August 20, 2017 at 1:33 am

Thomas is a tremendous friend of black people, you can just tell.

165 anonymous reply to crikey August 20, 2017 at 2:16 am

Crikey – White Supremacists loved Obama’s approved abortion policy. Apparently so do you. You should be profoundly ashamed of yourself.

166 dearieme August 19, 2017 at 6:05 am

“Statues Represent Who We Want To Be”: oh balls. We have a local statue of Oliver Cromwell. I have no desire to be Oliver Cromwell.

167 prior_test3 August 19, 2017 at 6:58 am

And the UK is not a republic, founded with these words – ‘When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.’

Another thing – Americans really don’t know the words to God Save The Queen/King, though they can hum along to the tune just fine in the UK. Though it would be rude to sing the words they grew up singing in the Queen’s realm –

‘My country, ’tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing;

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims’ pride,

From ev’ry mountainside

Let freedom ring!’

168 dearieme August 19, 2017 at 2:21 pm

The Declaration of Independence really is a heap of drivel – Alinskyite drivel. The contrast with that fine document, the Constitution, is stark indeed.

169 Vivian Darkbloom August 19, 2017 at 8:20 am

I would suggest constitutions (federal and state) be amended to require passing a referendum with a 2/3 majority in order for any public monument to be erected or demolished. This assures that, much like the constitution itself, any additions or changes are carefully considered and truly represent the basic and permanent values of the citizens (as nearly as feasible) as a whole rather than those of fringe groups on the right or the left, or of the legacy of some political rabble that happens to be just passing through. I think we’d save some money and avoid a lot of unnecessary division.

Of course, I’m the person who said that portraits of the head of government should not exceed a postage stamp in size.

170 MZ August 19, 2017 at 10:10 am

doesn’t Congress have nothing better to do than legislate about statues ?

171 peri August 19, 2017 at 10:41 am

If permitting some statues to remain because they represent who we want to be, and eliminating other symbols because they don’t pass the Rorschach (sp?) test – it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that who we want to be is “extremely superstitious,” since a 2-minute glance at the news this AM turns up Six Flags Over Texas theme park ditching 5 flags, to become Six of the Same Flag Over Texas; and subway tiles in Manhattan being ripped out because their cross pattern looks vaguely like the Confederate flag (and indeed like about a quarter of the world’s flags …).

172 prior_test3 August 19, 2017 at 11:25 am

A quarter of the world’s flags do not look like the stars and bars, though a number of flags based on the union jack might, depending on how you look at it.

173 Comprende? August 19, 2017 at 12:20 pm

The tiles, not the Confederate flag.

Just bars, no stars.

The cross itself may be problematic, but that hopefully will be an issue for another day.

174 prior_test3 August 19, 2017 at 12:42 pm

‘because their cross pattern looks vaguely like the Confederate flag’ is what was written. The name of the famous Confederate flag, and least when I grew up in Virginia, was the generally the stars and bars, and what was distinctive about it was not the stars – after all, the American flag has them too – but the cross or X patten. And now looking at wikipedia, it seems as if the term was not accurate in the way I was thinking about it, as the second/third official Confederate flag has the Union Jack style cross – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flags_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America#Second_flag:_the_.22Stainless_Banner.22_.281863.E2.80.931865.29 What you learn as time goes on.

Most flags do not have that cross or X pattern either – https://www.countries-ofthe-world.com/flags-of-the-world.html

Verstanden?

175 peri August 19, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Where u at? I’m looking at the flags of planet Earth, and seeing a whole lot of bars, and not a few crisscrosses.

176 dmcharette August 19, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Tyler, this column is an excellent example of why so many follow you. Great piece.

177 uair01 August 19, 2017 at 5:55 pm
178 Ryan T August 21, 2017 at 11:27 am

I also recommend the Vox Weeds podcast on this topic. I think it was from last Friday, Aug. 18.

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