So I have been doing some reading and thinking about the "culture war" which seems to be escalating in the United States (at least if you listen to the media you will believe so) and I have a few thoughts in relation to the tearing down and vandalizing of statues across the U.S.
First, I am 1000% aware of the crimes and atrocities caused by various American "heroes" we are told to worship and admire as children. This is something I have been aware of since I was a young kid. I always questioned the fairy tale version of history we are fed in public school. Also, as a native person I see many of these people as colonizers and conquerors. I am generally supportive of efforts to expose these lies and make history reflect reality more accurately.
With that said, I do not think it's effective or wise to tear down or vandalize statues as it is simply an emotional reaction and also fails to actually address these deeper underlying issues that have plagued America since the beginning. I am totally in support of putting the statues of murderers, tyrants, slave owners, and colonizers in museums or in gardens (as in Russia) with the context of who these people were. People are complex and most of the time it's not as simple as saying someone was a piece of shit and discarding them as historical trash.
Second, some of the people pushing to take down statues or defacing them have no sense of history and seem to be literally attacking any statue that looks like a person of European descent (aka "white person"). For example, recently protesters defaced a statue of Philadelphia abolitionist Matthias Baldwin, covering the statue with paint and spray-painting the word “colonizer” on the pedestal. Baldwin argued for the right of African Americans to vote in Pennsylvania during the state’s 1837 Constitutional Convention, and helped establish a school for African American children where he paid teachers’ salaries for years.
( https://news.yahoo.com/park-volunteer-outraged-over-vandalism-162539906.html )
Then you have the statue of John Greenleaf Whittier, the poet, abolitionist and Quaker. Whittier was a delegate to the first meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Convention, edited anti-slavery newspapers, helped to establish the Liberty Party, wrote numerous poems supporting the abolitionist cause as well as an 1833 tract in favor of immediate and unconditional emancipation of enslaved people.
So now we are attacking abolitionists?
Statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson - both slave owners - have also been attacked recently. (Remember when people said it was just the Confederate statues?) Again, as an anarchist I do not support these men YET I can recognize the historical role they played in the US. Check this statement on Washington:
"Without George Washington, there would be no United States of America; there would be no Constitution, which allows the freedom of speech, assembly, and protest, as well as the separation of church from state and without Washington we would not have civilian-led military. If we fail to honor George Washington, because we understand him only as a slave owner, we will lose the story of the United States, for it will have no beginning and very little direction," said Mount Vernon President and CEO Dr. Douglas Bradburn in a statement.
Here's an interesting quote from an Albanian professor about the tearing down of statues that took place at the end of the reign of the Albanian Communist Party ( https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/14/albania-statues-communist-freedom-history ):
"In Albania, toppling the statues has only served to give the illusion of freedom, to clean up the mess only on the surface. Statues were removed, schools and roads were renamed, Marxist books were burned. The elimination of cultural markers buried the responsibilities of hundreds of thousands of citizens on whose complicity a system relied to survive. It was simpler to condemn our history, to pretend we had all been oppressed. Concentrations of power, nepotism and violence persisted, and in a newly capitalist society they found fertile ground. But there was no alternative. By declaring ourselves victims of history, we made it impossible to be agents. And since humans had already settled accounts with their past, it became fashionable to say that, in the future, only a God could save us."
Finally - and most importantly - as an Anarchist, I do not support the ideology of the people who are pushing to tear down statues, rename buildings, cancel tv shows and movies, etc. Obviously the folks involved in this activity are a wide ranging group and many involved might not have ANY understanding of political philosophy or history. However, the push is largely coming from radical left activists (I don't mean radical as a pejorative) who have their own vision and ideology they are pushing.
Again, as an anarchist I do not support communists, socialists, nationalists, republicans, democrats, etc who ALL want to use the state to achieve their goals. Most of these radicals simply want to be the ones in control so they can deal out their own vision of justice. (And to make it clear for the slow kids in the back, I don't want to live under the extremists of the Right or the Left).
I will write more about this later, but as far as I can see we are dealing with a battle between left-wing extremists of various kinds and right-wing nationalists. Historically, this does not end well for those who value liberty, privacy, freedom of speech, etc. Despite the right pretending they are the only defense against left-wing tyranny, they are equally dangerous for other reasons.
Those are my current thoughts on this whole situation. I'd love to hear yours.
- Derrick Broze