I am a white woman whose father fled Cuba in 1959, so I have Latinx in me, but I grew up in a white culture. I acknowledge my white privilege and welcome others’ comments about this topic. Question: Does my being white completely discount my thoughts? Curious.
While I despise many of the men (and they are all men so far) who are depicted in the statues being removed and what they have done to Indigenous People, Blacks, migrants, etc., I believe there is another way to handle this besides getting rid of them.
History is Watching
From the beginning of time, when one culture takes over another, the new folks pillage and destroy the other people’s libraries, churches/mosques/temples/etc., statues, buildings and sometimes, whole civilizations.
Then a few hundred or thousand years go by and those looking back wonder what was in their heads that they destroyed these beautiful icons. How could someone throw that exquisite vase down? Why would all the stained glass have to be broken? What was the point of burning the books? Did they really have to bomb the thousand-year old building?
While it seems a good idea at the time, to force people to change and teach them a lesson, is it always right to force people to adhere to one religion, one belief system, one mindset? Eons of civilizations seem to believe it is.
I asked a history buff friend of mine how people can justify forcing others to convert, asking if they got bonus God points for nearly killing someone until they “confessed” and “converted.” How can that even count towards God being happy? Wouldn’t you want people to voluntarily change their religion/minds? Why not just let the heathens go to hell and suffer for their original religion? He told me many religions find it meritorious to have converts, no matter how they get there.
But I have to ask, don’t they know the “converts” are faking it to stay alive? I mean, if they were forced to convert themselves, they would hide their own true religion, practicing in darkness, wouldn’t they? How can they not think others are doing the same thing?
History Comes Around Again
When I was in Humanities classes, looking at drawings of buildings that were destroyed by war and/or hate, it seemed absurd to have destroyed so much beauty.
And now, with the statues of Confederate soldiers, Presidents, Christopher Columbus and others being pulled down and destroyed, who will be looking back in 300 years wondering where the history went to. Did we totally ignore the Civil War? Why are there no markers of that tumultuous time?
Alternatives to Destruction and Removal
I’ve wondered why we can’t leave the statues and have markers or co-statues that share the new attitudes of the day. New York City is doing just that:
“For the Columbus statue, the city would add historical markers and commission a new monument to honor indigenous people. Other markers would be added elsewhere to give additional context for other statues and monuments.”
Isn’t art all about the reaction to it? Loved or hated, art has had its share of controversy. Robert Mapplethorpe‘s works freaked plenty of folks out as he unveiled his X Portfolio male nudes and BDSM photos. When Michelangelo‘s Pietà was attacked with a hammer in 1972, controversy surrounded the decision to restore it.
“After the attack, some art historians and restorers wanted the statue to remain as it was damaged as a sign of the violent times. Others said it should be restored but with clear marks delineating the damaged parts as a historical testament.”
The decision was made to restore the statue.
So what of the artists’ who created the statues being defaced and/or pulled down? Are we censoring their art? Aren’t we all about not censoring, but allowing freedom of expression?
Why isn’t this discussion more prevalent as the atmosphere becomes more politicized and beautiful works of art disappearing? Shouldn’t we be reminded of our history through statues? Can’t we find ways to honor both sides of the anger?
What happens when a George Floyd statue is erected and the winds of change are Trumpian 100 years from now. Should that statue be removed? Of course not! But there are people who would find it extremely controversial and offensive to be erected.
Which statues do we fight for?