Monday, August 28, 2017
Put Up A Statue For Books
When discussions of remaining statues of Confederate General Robert E. Lee came up in the wake of the Charlottesville riots, my first reaction was these statues should come down. They have come to be symbols of racial segregation and rallying cries for Neo Nazis. Why honor someone who lost a war, a war that nearly destroyed our country and could’ve left it with slavery?
On the other hand, is a statue a form of speech, for if it is, then the statues, once erected, shouldn’t be taken down. I would never advocate for the ban or destruction of books that depict the statue.
Or is the statue public art? If so, again, I believe it should stand.
But, if the statue is just a statue, created for political reasons, then it should die a political death. Our history books should accurately portray the Civil War and who General Lee was, but I don’t see a good reason to memorialize a figure that nearly toppled the United States of America.
Streets get renamed. So do schools and hospital wings. Statues get erected; they can come down, too. Of course, once we look to scrub the public view of the morals or symbols that we no longer value, where does one draw the line?
Will we, as President Trump suggested, look harder at Washington and Jefferson, and start to remove them from public statues, maybe even our currency? The slave owners lose many points for owning human beings and hypocritically assigning them a three-fifths value, but Washington won freedom for the nation and eventually freed his slaves. Washington had children with his mistress slave and was a great president.
All of this discussion of statues shows that humans are flawed, that a few can stand the test of time for what they accomplished. Maybe statues make little sense in the first place. When they are erected they usually reflect popular sentiment of the day and as a few generations pass, people forget or fail to discover who is depicted in these statues. Many become irrelevant.
Statues would be better off memorializing moments rather than individuals. Honor 9/11 responders, WWII veterans, or American ideals like free speech; you can’t go wrong there. But honoring people by name just means that over time, people will either put you in obscurity or come to despise you. Columbus, General Lee, and others, over time, have become less-liked figures.
What we really need is to mount statues across the nation – in every community – that highlights books and supports reading and literacy. We don’t need to champion a specific author or even a book or publisher. Let’s simply praise and honor the love, value, and beauty of books.
Now that’s a statute, if erected that should never come down. But General Lee’s statue? Start the demolition!
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