In his Sept. 7 column “Heeding Robert E. Lee’s advice,” Jim de Bree told us of how, as a youth, he was “obsessed” – his word – with Civil War-era history, and how statuary and monuments to Confederate heroes helped him understand the context of that conflict.
He goes on to say that perhaps the time has come to reassess the propriety of the continued display of such monuments, particularly in light of the current political climate.
Though many of his points are well-taken, the “statue problem” of today doesn’t fall into the orderly historical model.
If municipalities (for example) want to erect public monuments, they usually go through a public democratic process to decide whether or not to do so. The ongoing process of installing a monument to our local war KIA in Veterans Plaza is an excellent example. It’s been going on for over a year, and now we’ve finally broken ground to actually install it.
The same process is available to determine whether or not to remove such monuments. And in my opinion every jurisdiction certainly has the right and power to determine for itself whether to erect or remove such monuments. It’s a deliberative mechanism.
Of course, it’s even simpler on private property. The property owner can erect, or remove, pretty much whatever he or she wants.
But what’s different now is that we don’t have an orderly process taking place. We have mobs, ginned up with sanctimonious outrage, running around creating riots, threatening and carrying out violent acts, and defacing statuary.
More than anything else, they remind me of the Taliban taking over in Afghanistan, then destroying thousand-year-old statuary because it didn’t conform to their religious fervor.
Further, the current “outrage” doesn’t confine itself just to Civil War Confederate figures. There have already been calls to shun, or even take down, the Jefferson Memorial because Jefferson owned slaves. The Lincoln Memorial has been defaced.
There’s no end in sight to the iconoclasm of the fanatics in their efforts to impose some undefined and amorphous requirement for political “purity” on historical figures.
The very first step toward putting an end to this nonsense is for the legitimate institutions of this country – the city councils, universities, media, state governments, everyone – to stop giving credence to these outlaws – which is exactly what they are – and meet their violence with a “blue wall” of cops, backed up with high-pressure fire hoses and tear gas, ready to deploy at the very first hint of violence, followed by the arrest, prosecution, and incarceration of any and all offenders.
Then we have to stop treating the demand for purity with any legitimacy at all. It should be met with the scorn and mockery it so richly deserves.
Until those things happen, I think the lunacy will simply continue.
Brian Baker is a Saugus resident.