The French have a saying, Pas de statue pour les vaincus! It means, “No granite for blockheads.”
No, I might have messed up the translation. It should read, “No statues for the vanquished.”
Those crazy French and their Bastille-storming sense of democracy. They should know Americans have a far less corrupted view of these things, extending an olive branch to all varieties of seditionists who happen to have good beards and losing records.
The downing last week of Confederate statues proved good news and bad news.
Good news for Americans looking not to celebrate injustices of the nation’s past.
Bad news for pigeons looking for a high perch on which to relieve themselves.
For years, the statues have been a sore spot for many cities, particularly those in the South. You find on those pedestals the likenesses of men who betrayed the United States in favor of a way of life that capitalized on human suffering.
Please, let’s glorify that, traitors who killed thousands of their countrymen in the name of bondage.
But a reckoning has come as recent protests have branched out to address these odd monuments.
In Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy, an avenue dedicated itself to extolling these historical figures, Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart and Stonewall Jackson among them.
Jefferson Davis, president of the Civil War’s breakaway states, occupied one intersection of Richmond, his statue in front of an imposing colonnade and with a palm outstretched, presumably to beseech legions of southern farmers to join in a doomed fight.
The statue stood until protesters splattered it with paint of a Pepto-Bismal color and, one night last week, pulled it from its lofty base.
Pictures showed the statue prone on the pavement, its hand this time seeming to appeal to the heavens for intervention, oblivious to the moment. Talk about a Lost Cause.
In places like Montgomery and Mobile, Birmingham and Bentonville, icons of the Confederate States have been coming down, or they soon will. The sadness over this can not run very deep. The Davis statue, for instance, stood for a period 28 times longer than the Confederacy it honors.
My roots extend into the South. I can’t say for a fact that my middle name, Lee, pays homage to a Confederate hero, but I know two classmates in my very small school, guys named Bobby Lee and Billy Lee, had the same middle name.
Yet I recognize this part of our American past should not be flaunted on public ground. In history books, sure, because we need to remember, but not in an honored place.
Satan has a place in our collective discourse, yet statues of temptation in the Garden of Eden do not appear to proliferate. Maybe a fresco or two.
St. Joseph has its share of statues in open view, most with a nod to the community’s history and none giving particular offense.
The Pony Express monument breathes life into a period of American ingenuity, and the “No Turning Back” bronze across from City Hall honors women and the pioneer spirit.
Coleman Hawkins, native son and jazz legend, stands tall in the park that bears his name, and a Statue of Liberty replica watches over Civic Center Park.
The “Journeys West” statue in a park on the western gateway of Downtown might even be more culturally inclusive than actual history would suggest.
Gaining understanding of the world where we live has somehow been confused with a weak-kneed yielding to political correctness. Hopefully, people get smarter with the years.
And there’s no shame in righting some wrongs along the way.