Why do we have monuments? Because memories are fleeting. People easily forget about history. Monuments act as a reminder. They are like historical Post-it notes in our lives.
We build monuments to memorialize and idolize great leaders, people who’ve made significant contributions to mankind in sports, music, arts, and other areas, as well as historical figures, religious icons, and even Gods.
The birth of Confederate monuments is a matter of false idolatry in my opinion. They didn’t idolize these men because of their greatness or significant contributions to history. They have a myopic view. They idolized men who did big things for white people and white supremacy. They’ve ignored all of the grievous harms done by their idols just to celebrate what these men have done for their kind, not mankind.
Consequently, after the civil rights movement, they erected monuments, statues, memorials, and changed names of streets, buildings, and other locations as symbols of white supremacy.
These monuments and statues became symbols and beacons for their supremacy. They wanted to provide a daily reminder that even though blacks had attained civil rights, white people still had the power and we’re still superior.
So they don’t honor them as great men who did benevolent things. They honor them as men who were great at doing white supremacist’s things. They honor them as men who were great at doing big things for white people.
I have a genealogy book, that traced my family tree all the way back through President Theodore Roosevelt to the Dutch, who came to New York in 1624. So these monuments have manufactured a monumental mess in my mind.
Should we tear them down? Should they be removed? I have concluded no. These monuments should be left standing. However, they should be modified to place full historical context and give a complete accounting for the lives of these icons. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
History books should be re-written to reflect, to update, and to teach our children, as well as the public at large, about the real history of our great leaders. Time to stop white-washing history and to tell the truth.
Destroying, removing, or defacing these monuments may act as a relief or outlet for anger, frustration, and despair. But it does not advance our goals of obtaining social justice, police reform, or racial equality. These are inanimate objects that can’t help us.
We have the freedom to worship any God, or no God if we choose, thanks to the first amendment. We also have the freedom to idolize any person, creature, or object we want. So just like people can’t tell us who to worship or idolize, similarly, we can’t tell them.
Currently, there is a raging debate across the country about the removal of monuments. Not only the removal of Confederate monuments but also the removal of some of our founding fathers’ memorials.
Many advocates for monuments are saying George Washington was a great man. But, he owned some slaves, and took their teeth and used them for his dentures.
Thomas Jefferson was a great man. But, again, he was a slave owner with the predilection or affinity for young girls. In today’s terminology, he was a pedophile.
And now it’s Donald Trump. Some say he’s a “great man” because he’s president, even though he is a money-laundering, tax-evading, serial sexual-abusing, virus- promoting, mass-murdering, wannabe dictator. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but facts are not fungible.
Becoming president does not absolve you of your crimes, or your sins. Your greatness does not erase your vile transgressions against humanity.
If you want monuments and memorials to these great leaders, then we must attach the full context and descriptions of their crimes against humanity to their epitaph.