Those statues, that Confederate flag, symbolize slavery to many people. The primary issue of the Civil War was slavery, and the statues of Robert. E. Lee and other Confederate generals are a constant reminder of our past. In this case, a sad and sordid past that should not be commemorated. Nor should it be forgotten.
But where do we stop? George Washington was a slave owner. Thomas Jefferson was also a slave owner, and we all know about his personal peccadillos. Yes, they are the Founding Fathers of the United States. They were among the earliest American heroes. How many statues and monuments and portraits are there of Washington? How many towns and cities are named after our first president?
What about Andrew Jackson, “Old Ironsides”? He was the hero of the War of 1812. He was also the one who was responsible for the death of thousands of Native Americans. Read about the Trail of Tears; it will make you cry. Should the name of Andrew Jackson be revered or defiled? And Teddy Roosevelt was a big game hunter, slaughtering who-knows-how-many animals for fun and adventure. And listen to this quote by Teddy, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indian is a dead Indian, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely about the tenth.”
These men are our American history, our presidents, our heroes. Are there any among them who aren’t flawed? Are they any better than the Confederate heroes?
John Lennon wrote the lyrics to the song Imagine.
“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too”
That song used to bother me, but he certainly had a way with words. But man is a social animal. We live with other humans; we form communities. These communities grow into countries. We create a common culture and lifestyle. We develop national unity and we build boundaries, and in doing so we create adversaries and conflicts and, ultimately, wars. We elect leaders, in both war and peace. If we win the wars (and even sometimes when we don’t), we have heroes. And we erect statues to those heroes.
And if we tear down all the statues, scatter the lifeless limbs like the stones of Ozymandias, destroy all the monuments, whom do we have left to admire, to respect? Who portrays greatness, but without the flaws of normal human beings? Maybe the only one who should have a statue is Mother Teresa, although somehow I think that is the last thing she would have wanted.
“Imagine all the people
Living life in peace”
Not going to happen. Humans are flawed, and our leaders are just men and women, some good, some bad, but all flawed. You can try to imagine a life with no racism, no bigotry, no wars, no need for heroes. But that will only happen when we die. Heaven and hell will divide the heroes from the villains, if you believe in an afterlife. I don’t imagine there really is one.