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The Virtues of Tearing Down Statues Depends on Where They are Standing

Remembering history's good; celebrating it, not so much

The monuments to the Confederacy in the US are much the same as those Mao statues in Shanghai: functioning as both historical memorials and as current objects of intimidation.

After the massive suffering and death caused by the Cultural Revolution and other Maoist campaigns during the years after 1949, many people in China didn't want to be reminded of it all by having to look at monumental edifices glorifying the psychopath responsible for those events. But of course there were many who also thought of Mao as the father of their country and revered him, sometimes, as with the cab drivers who would ride with a red-and-gold framed photo of Mao hanging from their rear-view mirror as a good luck charm, treating his image almost like an image of Buddha or Guanyin.

Just so, after the Civil War and Reconstruction, many people in both the South and North wanted to move on, and to forget the belligerence. But some people wanted to remember the cause by celebrating the leaders of the white rebellion that was Southern secession, and like those Party officials at Tongji and Fudan, they wanted to remind the freed black slaves who was boss: the resurgent whites who had lost the war. Hence a spate of erecting statues of the likes of Gen. Lee and Gen. Jackson.

My own feeling is that statues honoring the generals of the Confederacy, and the CSA's president Jefferson Davis, are not just an outrage because these guys are all traitors to the United States, and were fighting not for "states' rights" as often alleged by their defenders, but for the preservation of the vile and absolutely indefensible institution of slavery. They are also an insult to any black resident of the city in which they are allowed to continue to stand. (Richmond, VA, with its Monument Drive lined with statues of Confederate generals, is today 57% black.)

As two of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson's great great grandsons recently declared in a letter to the mayor of Richmond published also in Slate magazine, the Confederate statues erected a cross the South are not about glorifying heroes of some virtuous battle, but rather were erected later in the 19th Century and onward, after Reconstruction had ended, in an era when white supremacy was on the rise -- with the violent help of the Ku Klux Klan, a tsunami of lynchings, and the introduction of segregation and poll taxes -- as a threat designed to keep black people in their "place," terrified and blocked from political and economic power.

The two brothers, Jack Christian and Warren Christian, in calling for the removal of Confederate statues including those of their famous/infamous ancestor Gen. Stonewall Jackson, write:
 

Instead of lauding Jackson’s violence, we choose to celebrate Stonewall’s sister—our great-great-grandaunt—Laura Jackson Arnold. As an adult Laura became a staunch Unionist and abolitionist. Though she and Stonewall were incredibly close through childhood, she never spoke to Stonewall after his decision to support the Confederacy. We choose to stand on the right side of history with Laura Jackson Arnold.
 

They go on to write:
 



story | by Dr. Radut