G’ Day Mates! It’s Cam Lev here, back from a long, over hundred day hiatus (the longest yet in the history of this blog!), but still nonetheless here to talk about some recent events here on Cam Reacts! So, what are we here to react to today? None other than the aftermath of a recent rally in the quaint town of Charlottesville, Virginia, home to the University of Virginia and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello villa, resulting in injuries, deaths, and a national mandate against racism.
The Question of the day is: Should we keep statues of notable Confederate or anti-abolitionists up?
Readers Note: I believe in equal opportunity for all people, regardless of many factors, especially race, and wanted to use these events as a thought experiment into what the statues of these people (being taken down) really mean, and what they stand for.
The Unite the Right Rally, held on August 11 and 12 of this year was an amalgamation of several far right (conservative) groups, including the likes of white supremacists, to keep up a statue of distinguished but infamous General Robert E Lee, an acclaimed army man of the United States, and later Confederate States, which he joined when his homeland of Virginia seceded from the Union. Because the event was designated as a hate crime (as it rightfully should have been designated), it was shut down by state police, where the majority of the days violence issued, and now the alternate right as a political faction is definitely not any closer to keeping those statues up.
This event sparked mass controversy online (once again, as it should have), especially when President Trump didn’t immediately dismiss the protesters, instead putting the blame on “both sides” in his initial address on the issue. With all these factors playing together, it eventually led to the highly politicized issue of the removal of Confederate monuments and statues once again, which were being defaced and torn down all over, across the nation. The removals have yet to die down after about a week, and many high profile sites, such as Duke University, continue to publicize their removal.
As someone who likes to see the county united on important issues, I obviously am not a fan of the actions taken by the Confederate States of America during the 1860’s secession; it goes against the very concept of the United States, which is a federation, the opposite of a confederacy. However, I’ve always thought about what removing these statures would actually do, in the long run: what does it accomplish? Does it make people feel better? For the remainder of this article, I’m going to be addressing my personal take on the issue, and why I think that way, and of course would appreciate your comments down below, but first: what do I think? Well...
As I’ve stated before, I am a bit of an equal opportunist. I’m meritocratic by nature, which means that I think society should be organized around talented people who are good at their jobs, and not something superficial, like gender, or skin tone. However, I don’t personally see how taking down statues of famous people who did “bad things” as helpful in any way. I also can’t directly oppose taking down some of these statues, because those who do usually have valid arguments for doing so, often relating to the historical context of why most of the statures were constructed, to how traitors to the nation should not have memorials on public grounds. In short, I don’t oppose people removing the monuments, but think that they’re doing it for the wrong reasons, and that keeping them standing in the long run won’t do anything, or may be used as justification for worse things in the future, so why bother?
So, why do I say this? Well, three main reasons: 1.) taking down the statues is inherently reactive, 2.) no great man is without controversy, and 3.) removing the monuments doesn’t really do anything
1. Reactive Policy
“Reactive” means to react, or change, although as I use it here, reactive also means doing something suddenly, or right after something else. Obviously there’s lots of problems with every issue, and our nation as a whole is going though a very large, very dangerous rough patch, but I can’t help but feel that the only reasons this is happening is because of events that came before it. Nobody wants to actually remove the Confederate monuments, but because white nationalist protesters caused a massive raucous, now everybody wants to remove them. It makes since, right? I mean, if a mugger came and took your money dressed as a clown, you would suddenly start to be a bit more cautious around clowns. Same goes here, but it still doesn’t feel very genuine.
In the article I did on feminism last time, we discussed how the feminist movements around the world were generally unorganized; happening progressively over time until they eventually amalgamated into voters rights, such as the 19th amendment here in the US. I’m not really getting that from these statue removals; it doesn’t feel like this is a well thought decision. The Charleston Shooting happened in 2015, we took down a few objects, then the rally occurred, and now it’s happening in overdrive. Like I said, there are many valid reasons for getting rid of them, the monuments, but we as a collective shouldn’t do things because the mob demands it, right?
All I’m saying is that we have to be careful when and every time we think of a first response to everything, because it sets a precedent. If we take down all the statures of Confederate leaders now because of a rally, another rally might happen in the future, and before you know it, were taking down monuments to George Washington, because it was ok in 2017 when we did it to Stonewall Jackson and the like.
In fact, after I had originally finished writing this article, twitter was abuzz with news of complaints about Alabama schools having the LGBT flag in classrooms, citing this (confederate flags and statues being taken down) and other recent events to justify the removal. I’m not going to agree or disagree with this one, but just one of the first of no doubt many other “ground dwellers” in this can of worms about ready to burst out.
2. “Great Man” Problems
Ever hear of the phrase, “no great man is without controversy”? Well, the same applies to people like Robert E Lee (which is the one confederate being removed the most), except his controversy was working for a government who wanted to keep people locked up like cattle via chattel slavery. However, you don’t get a statue for being a slaveholder; you get it for doing something of note. Because it’s the easy example, Robert E Lee has so many statues honoring him, because he was a brilliant general, and all round honorable person. It just so happens he was fighting for the Confederacy, which openly condoned the practice of slavery, which is deemed immoral and illegal today, for obvious reasons. As a side bonus, Lee didn’t even agree with the practice of slavery, saying that it was more damaging to the whites than the blacks, because the parents of white children in the south indoctrinated them into abusing their African peers.
Yet, we still take down these monuments: Why? Because slavery existed, and the Confederacy is related to slavery. Now, I’m not saying probable cause doesn’t play role here, or that there isn’t any, but this only opens up the door to other similar actions in the future. We’re judging people from the past based on the standards of today, but we can’t do that because perception is everything. Back in the early AD times, Christianity was seen as an extremely liberal movement in religion, but now is seen as a general symptom of being a gun-toting conservative. Likewise, supporting slavery in the south was a moderate position, but now it’s extremely, extremely alt right (for obvious reasons). The times change.
What I’m ultimately getting to is, we have to look at everything in a historical context before we judge, because perception is everything. If you want to take down a stature of Confederate soldiers because it was built in the 60’s to “put the black man in his place”, there would be a probable cause, because it would be not a monument to men, but un-American ideas. However, the majority of people advocating to take down these statues aren’t thinking that. There following a trend, and doing what pleases the crowd. Because some nutjobs who openly condone racism like the statues, that means we have to HATE them, unless of course, you’re a white supremacist. However, thinking in absolutes like this is dangerous; because it only further polarizes are already very polarized political landscape.
Much like with point one, this kind of action sets a precedent that makes similar actions easier in the future. For example, Martin Luther King Jr., famous civil rights activist, had anywhere from a moderate to conservative outlook on gay rights (CNN) (Huff Post), which for the time, would have made since because homosexuality was considered to be the side effect of a mental disorder. However, if someone today were to talk about gay rights in the way MLK treated them, the very same crowd who chants to take down Robert Lees stature might go for MLK’s next. George Washington has (or had) a complex relationship with the practice of slavery, should we rename the state and NATIONAL CAPITAL after someone else?
All I’m saying is, history can’t exist without context. In in the absence of perception, it’s nothing more than a timeline of events.
3. What will it do?
In addition to the rationale behind decisions, we have to look at the effect that our actions will have on the future. So, the question is: what will taking down these statues do? Stop racism? I think not, because the haters will still keep hating. The only thing it seems to be doing is self-congratulating the liberals on being “against racism”, anger the conservatives for not “knowing their history”, and awakening moderates like me who are just confused, mostly. If you ask me, I personally think that the whole business with the monument removal is only just ignoring the real problem. There’s a lot of built up racism in America that’s hard to get rid of because out country is so diverse yet similar, condensed yet sparse, and large yet small, depending on what part of the county you’re looking at. However, it’s much easier to rip down statues of people who did “bad things”, because it has a noticeable effect on the world. It’s hard to change the public consensus on something, and see it take effect, but it’s really easy to bring a crane up to a pedestal to lift a marble statue of some guy off of it and pretend like it’s doing something.
Will freaking out about these statures do anything? Probably not. America has a lot of big fish to fry, from healthcare, to the economy, to North Korea, and I have a feeling that this will eventually be forgotten within the coming weeks. We’ll stop worrying about the whole Charlottesville “thing”, because it’s come and gone, and now we have other things to worry about, although our focus on the possible racism of statues does detract from the deaths and injuries that occurred, which was the real crime here. This is sort of a good thing, because living for the future, and not in the past is beneficial to society in many ways. However, leaving things unresolved, like we’ll certainly leave this issue unresolved; only serving to further divide up chunks of the nation, and prep them for future conflict.
So to wrap things up, does the whole statue thing really matter? I don’t think so. Could it matter later? Probably not that much, although personally, I think this event will come into play in the future, one way or another. Lastly, because perspective is always, ALWAYS important, we have to keep open minds, look at things from all angles, and be slow (rather than quick) to judge people without knowing the context of it all first. Maybe if that happened, I wouldn’t have had to write this article.
Thanks for reading everyone! If you liked, hated, or want to talk about this article, please let others know what you’re thinking down in the comments section! Once again, thanks for reading and making it this far if you did! Also, please leave a like if you can to show your support (it really helps)!
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PS: If I used your image by accident and you want it take down, let me know! I’d be happy to oblige.
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