Monday, June 22, 2020

The anti-statue movement has taken a turn into absurdity

The United States’ frenzy of statuary iconoclasm has taken a turn into the theater of the absurd. Knocking down or defacing statues of national founders or heroes not only displays ignorance of history but also assaults the principles of Western civilization that allow for racial progress to continue.

Destroying statues is often a part of revolutionary movements. Patriots tore down a statue of King George III as the American Revolution gained steam, and those seeking freedom from communism’s vile yoke pulled down the monuments to their oppressors, Lenin and Stalin. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the protests over the killing of George Floyd have targeted edifices honoring the heroes of the Confederacy. As the Confederacy’s vice president, Alexander Stephens, said in his “cornerstone speech,” the Confederacy rested on “the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.” Monuments to this revolting sentiment have no place in a United States that is dedicated to the opposite principle — that all men are created equal.

That principle was first politically enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, and it has been America’s cornerstone ever since. All reasonable people acknowledge that it has been inconsistently applied throughout our nation’s history, but that principle has been the fuel of every movement that brought further emancipation. The early suffragists explicitly appealed to it at the first women’s rights meeting, the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. Abraham Lincoln opposed slavery under its banner, and Franklin D. Roosevelt created the New Deal by citing its promise. The greatest speech of the 1960s civil rights revolution, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, is a masterful disquisition on that immortal principle. It is America’s gift to the world.

Protesters who tear down statues to brave warriors who fought to more fully implement that principle mock and dishonor the idea that enables us to become a more perfect union. George Washington owned slaves, but he also founded a nation dedicated to the idea whose incompatibility with slavery made its eradication inevitable. Defacing or toppling his monuments dishonors the country. More than any man save Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant destroyed the Confederacy with his magisterial generalship. As president, he tried to extend the Civil War’s purpose by presiding over the Reconstruction of the South, an effort that was abandoned only after he left office. Toppling his statue — as protesters did in San Francisco, citing a slave whom Grant was gifted and later freed before the war — is ahistorically ludicrous.

There are those who say that Western civilization itself ought to be undone — that monuments to people such as these ought to be destroyed because of their participation in an endeavor that included global colonialism and racism. This fever has extended elsewhere, as statues to the English sailor Capt. James Cook, the man who brought knowledge of Australia and New Zealand to Europe, have been defaced in both countries by people who believe he paved the way for colonialism and the oppression of indigenous people. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s courage saved the world from Nazi barbarism, but his statue in London has also been vandalized for racist statements he once said.

Read the rest here.


Gerry T. Neal said...

There are good points in the article, but the movement was absurd to begin with.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Good points, but not all men are created equal and we really should reject that framing. The context for Jefferson's statement is surely a narrow one relating to hereditary aristocratic privilege and not the self-evidently untrue generalization that all men are created equal.

Stephen said...

AG, surely you aren't saying that all men are not created equal in the eyes of God? Are some less His children than others? If this is indeed what you are arguing, by what yardstick do you suppose the Good Lord uses to discern this inequality?

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Sure, by the measure of the infinite God and His Cosmos we're all equal. And, it follows, in the eyes of the natural law we're all (and certainly should be) equal.

After that, equality of inputs will never, ever yield equality of outcomes. Equality does not exist in the biosphere.