Monuments: Lessons Learned? Or Mistakes Repeated?
Will we learn anything from the current social uprising? Probably not, but we should recognize one thing. As a society we must stop making statues, naming buildings and naming roads, etc for people. How many times do we have to be reminded that people are human, and humans can have an ugly personal history?
Both sides of the monument’s argument have it wrong. We can’t forget, nor ignore our history, it’s who we are. At the same time, we can allow for a false rewriting of our history. It’s a needle that we have to thread, but both mobs, pandering politicians and woke people, will make it hard to do so.
To those people who say that the current protesters are rewriting history when it comes to the Civil War, they clearly do not know our history. In the three decades after the conflict there were no statues or monuments to confederates. They were viewed as traitors, which they were. It was only after Grant left the presidency and Reconstruction was ended that confederate groups began a campaign to “rewrite” history with their own fake version. These rewriters created a false concept that the war was all about “states’ rights”, it wasn’t. It was about slavery. You wouldn’t have known that after 1890 if you grew up down south. Which explains why our country is still fighting the Civil War today. It was all fake news once Grant was gone. It is time to correct our history and view it correctly.
The military bases named for losing confederate generals, that didn’t happen until the 20th century. All these bases are in southern and border states. Once again it was a false rewriting of history that allowed confederate sympathizers to rewrite the history to honor traitors, by renaming military installations in their honor. Why would we honor Braxton Bragg, one of the worse and most hated generals of the confederacy? Why would we honor George Pickett, who failed at Gettysburg and later faced war crimes for ordering the execution of union prisoners? These bases should all be renamed, but not for individuals. Name them for what America stands for. Camp Freedom would be a nice start.
I totally agree with native Americans regarding the Spanish conquistadors. The 15th century was a brutal time; we should learn it and remember it. Do we praise the people (on both sides) who acted in brutal ways? There are more accurate ways to remember our history, building statues to honor individuals isn’t one of them.
What is better? Build a monument to the event that tells a historically accurate story of what really happened. We do that at battlefields. In the past decade there have been several monuments detailing the horrors of slavery. This is the way to teach. This is the path forward.
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber had it right when he, without needing a media protest moment (shout out to Mayor Keller), took down the statue of de Vargas. I hope Webber reconsiders the two obelisk’s that he is considering removing. What I would like to see him do is have new engravings on the obelisk’s, engravings that tell the history but do not honor any individual. The obelisk’s have been around for well over one-hundred years and they can serve a great purpose. Replace the current language with details that are more historically correct. Don’t remove the obelisk’s, use them to teach the real history of New Mexico.
The lesson we can all learn as we go forward is this, when you investigate the past it’s not going to be pretty. Humans are by nature violent and mean to each other. If you erect a monument, or name a building, or a park, for someone you think was a saint, you will be disappointed when the entire truth of that persons’ life is one day exposed. None of us are saints and therefore we should not build monuments to any person. We should build monuments to events and ideas. That is how we remember and honor our history.