The Gray Matter of History; Which Statues Deserve to be Pulled Down

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Picture from Forbes

Yesterday (June 22, 2020,) people tried to vandalize and pull down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square close to the White House.

Mr. Trump, an admirer (and kindred spirit) of the seventh President was not amused, saying, in a morning tweet, the people that tried to pull down the statue were vandals and called for them to be imprisoned for ten years.

Why would these people want to pull down Jackson’s statue?

He is credited with helping start the modern Democratic Party, preserved the union despite the antics of his own Vice President John Calhoun (another beaute from history), and was the hero of the Battle of New Orleans (after the war was over.)

Is it because he is admired by Mr. Trump? That probably did factor in some, if not most, of the people’s thinking when they were trying to pull it down.

It could also be that Jackson is also responsible for the deaths of thousands of Native Americans as he pushed for the western expansion of this country, at Indian expense, in the early stages of the United States “Manifest Destiny” imperialist designs.

Jackson and others previously revered individuals in inadequately written high school history books are coming under renewed scrutiny as the debate intensifies on whose historical statues should be pulled down along with Confederate Era Military and Political traitors.

On Friday (June 19, 2020,) protestors at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco pulled down the statue of Ulysses S. Grant.

It is the same Grant that won the military victory for the North in the Civil War and was a two-term President of the United States where he oversaw the passage of the 15th Amendment and went after the KKK.

What was his sin? He once owned slaves and he also waged a genocidal war against the Native Americans in the west (who do you think Custer was working for when he died at the Battle of the Little Big Horn?)

Francis Scott Key had his statute pulled down as well that evening. He was also a slave owner.

Decision-makers at the New York Museum of Natural History have decided to pull down the statue of Theodore Roosevelt.

The reason is that the former President, known for his environmentalism and progressivism, is sculpted riding on horseback while the sculptures of the African and Native American aides are made to walk on foot.

It was not because Theodore Roosevelt was a product of his time, being both anti-Native American and non-white immigrants (at a time anyone south and east of Germany and France was not considered caucasian.) He was also an imperialist and a pro eugenicist.

The people (especially those who will be writing the future editions of history books) in this country are coming to a point where they need to grabble with the gray matter of the nation’s heritage and how to move forward with it.

We should be very careful about overreacting in this understandable quest to promote inclusivity and condemn those forces that obstructed it.

Do the statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson get torn down because, despite being founding members of the American Republic, they were slave owners? Jefferson had relations with one of his slaves (probably his wife’s half-sister) and started a separate family line by her. Should they be removed from the history books?

How about Christopher Columbus? He was a murderer as well as being a brave explorer who changed the course of human history? Do his statues go the garbage dumps? Do his contributions to civilization get erased from the chapter on the Age of Exploration.

How about Franklin Delano Roosevelt. While being the person credited with taking the country out of the Depression and a great war leader during most of World War Two, he is the one who interned innocent Japanese Americans and prevented Jewish refugee immigration into the United States after Hitler’s intentions were visibly clear?

Does he deserve a statue?

John F. Kennedy? He helped create the Peace Corps, what would become the  Apollo Moon Program and the Civil Rights Movement. He also womanized until the last days of his Presidency and his legislative achievements were overrated. Do his statues come down? Should be just getting a glancing mention in the history books?

Thomas Edison has statues across the country for his inventions. History has shown that his credited achievements were not all his. He even ripped people off like filmmaker George Melies by stealing a print of “A Trip to the Moon” and distributing it for himself and his wallet.

Should his statues come down because he was overrated and a swindler?

It is unfortunate that most of the people revered in the chronicles of World and United States History books have a dark side to their biographies as well as the positive contributions they have made to move the county and world forward.

These historical figures are also part of the less enlightened times they lived in.

Jackson and Grant lived at times when owning slaves and expanding the country at the expense of Native American lives was unfortunately permissible by sizable segments of the populations they led.

Theodore Roosevelt lived at a time when the American Empire was promoted and the Non-British-German immigrant was disdained by members of the then snobby white supremacist  “elite.”

Franklin Roosevelt also lived in a time when xenophobia and Anti Semitism among the citizenry in this country were higher than today.

John Kennedy lived at a time when adultery, especially among the male chauvinist influential of the day, was condoned.

Thomas Edison still represents a business model that exists today.

History Books need to do a better job of presenting the complete picture of world events and the people who shaped them.

People should also take a deep breath and allow wiser figures to consider which statutes merit pulling down or letting stand.

We should not disintegrate into a mob mentality where people make knee jerk decisions on taking down statues or erasing people from the history books.

This is not how true Democracy is supposed to manifest itself.

These are not the ideals of the Republic that are supposed to be embraced.

That is not how the cause of historical truth is preserved.

 

 

 

 

 

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David Gordon
Living in Arizona since his family moved to Tempe from New York in 1982, David Gordon has three degrees from Arizona State University and the University of Phoenix in History, Political Science, and Secondary School Administration. A highly qualified Social Studies instructor and Certified School Principal, Mr. Gordon owned his own charter school, Grand Canyon College Preparatory Academy from 1997-2016. The school served students in grades 6-12 in the East Valley of Maricopa County. Many of the graduates of GCP earned college credit for free while still attending high school, some completing the first year of college before graduating. Among the speakers at the school's graduations were noted figures in Arizona Politics like Harry Mitchell, David Schweikert, Juan Mendes, Andrew Sherwood, and John Huppenthal. Mr. Gordon also participated in the revisions of the Arizona History and Social Studies standards. In January 2017, Mr. Gordon started the political blog Twenty-First Century Progressive Bull Moose. It has a global following and routinely comments on the political events of the day. Mr. Gordon also helps administer the Facebook page Living Blue in Arizona. He is also currently writing a series of Young Adult science fiction novels which incorporate the themes of time travel and its impact on history. Mr. Gordon is very happy to be asked to join the Blog for Arizona team and hopes to spread the progressive word to make Arizona a better place for everyone.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Kennedy became more popular after he died and his legacy has been spruced up a bit over the years. He didn’t get much done, he wasn’t there long enough, and he hired his brother.

    Not exactly Ivanka but still a little iffy. For the record I liked Bobby a lot. Bobby got s___ done.

    Now if Gary Hart had been around before Kennedy, there would be a tape of Kennedy on the Access Hollywood bus with Trump and Billy Bush.

    That’s a Monkey Business reference. Prior to Gary Hart we didn’t know much about our leader’s naughty business.

    Kennedy would have said the “grab them by the pussy” line with a charming Massachusetts accent, he wasn’t the poster boy for good husband.

    As far as Francis Scott Key goes, he can pound sand in hell forever. The more sand the better.

    From the Star Spangled Banner, one of the verses they don’t sing:

    No refuge could save the hireling and slave
    From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    Our National Anthem has a verse about literally murdering escaped slaves.

    America owes Colin Kaepernick an apology and a contract. And we need to let him crash on our couch for as long as he wants.

    I keep trying to get some traction for replacing the National Anthem with “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang, because you can’t take a knee during “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang.

    Try it. Your knees will fight you and you will lose.

    And on a side note, damn, Wiley would be proud of his bud, spilling knowledge all over the interwebs. 🙂

    • Well Sharpie, that’s what happens when one drinks knowledge through one of those novelty dribble cups. :O)

  2. For what it’s worth, here’s how I see it:

    U. S. Grant was a slave owner but he was anti-slavery at his core. His two(?) slaves were a wedding present from his bride’s father. Slaves he treated well and freed after two years. And presidential career aside, he did defeat the South & preserved the Union. That’s why his statues AFAIK reflect his military success

    Can’t answer about Francis Scott Key though I understand he was a Southern slave owner whose slaves weren’t freed after his death.

    George Washington? I’ll defer to Malcolm Nance from his recent Real Time With Bill Maher appearance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WN-j1thjovs. Unfortunately the Andrew Sullivan upper class twit is also bloviating in the clip.

    Theodore Roosevelt is a hard one to call, he was an imperialist but fought for progressive values for the nation.

    Columbus? Nasty person/genocidal maniac so f**k him. If we want to celebrate an Italian how about Amerigo Vespucci whom two continents are named after? If we really want to honor the America’s discoverer, how about statues & cities named after Leif Erickson? Erickson Circle in DC, Erickson, Ohio, etc.

    FDR? The internments & refusal to admit Jews were major stains on his legacy but those are vastly outweighed by beating the Depression and winning World War II.

    Kennedy? Tragically murdered but I remember him being the epitome of hope to the country.

    I think the bottom line is do the positive accomplishments outweigh the sins? On the other hand, as I’ve said before “I don’t get cable (or satellite) TV so what do I know?”

  3. You’re right, womanizing should not be a reason for pulling down a statue, these women were chasing JFK, he never forced himself on any of them like a Matt Lauer or a Harvey Weinstein, who were sexual predators. But since most presidents helped to holocaust Native Americans off of their traditional lands (not respecting land rights), or almost all other presidents before Lincoln who were slave owners, these statues should be taken down, even U.S. Grant, who did indeed help to plan genocide against Native Americans.

    • I’m not sure if you think it would help to have names changed or you think I’m being sarcastic. In any case I was trying to express my sense of what the daily reminder of what your ancestors went through is like. The constant reminder must be hard to live with.

  4. I really don’t know where to come down on each of the people you mention but I do hope we don’t lose sight of the fundamentals. Poor education, discriminatory economic conditions, unsatisfactory healthcare, and systemic racism, along with other other contributing factors are what we should be addressing. Tearing down statues will not do much to help.
    It also would probably not help but have the African-Americans whose names are those of the slave owners in their pasts going to change their names?

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