Friday, June 26, 2020


This issue deals with how protesters are taking down statues of historical figures considered as racists. I am not terribly fond of the practice of removing statues. First, let me clarify that I do not take much issue with statues to confederate leaders being removed. Those statues were erected for propagandistic purposes. The figures glorified by those statues do not have much a historical legacy other than attempting to advance a racist and morally repugnant cause. Likewise, I take little issue with statues of Christopher Columbus being taking down. George Washington, Winston Churchill, and Ulysses S. Grant I have much more of a problem with, however. I know that each of those leaders held views which were problematic. I have long despised the way we are taught about the founding fathers and other historical figures in America. They are portrayed as unambiguously good and infallible superheroes. I take issue with portraying history in that manner. I think that we should be more willing to acknowledge the flaws of historical figures that we idolize. On the other hand, I do not think they should be written off entirely. We should take a realistic view of historic events and not go to the other extreme by portraying historical figures as simplistic, self interested villains. Human beings are complicated and contradictory creatures, neither wholly good or wholly evil. Our history and our greatest leaders reflect this basic truth. Washington was not perfect, nor should he be presented as a perfect human being, still, he advanced liberal values that are precious to me. He might not have been progressive by our modern standards, but he paved the way for further progress to be made. We must acknowledge that progress does not come easy, and it takes often takes painful centuries of work to complete. Naturally, our Republic had to begin somewhere, it had to go through stages of progress, and it is easy to look back from our modern era and find that what came before is inadequate. That is the essence of progress. We should celebrate that our country is more fair than today than it was at its founding. Still, we must not forget that the intermediate phase, wherein only one class of people could vote, was a necessary phase of our Democratic experiment. Without it, we would not have gotten to the place we are today as a society. It is impossible to go from a monarchy to a modern constitutional republic with universal suffrage in one single step. I think that we ought to consider the time period these figures were from when we judge them. We should consider whether or not their overall contribution to history is good or bad, taking into consideration all of the positives and all of the negatives. In some ways I am not sure whether any human being is good enough to have a statue erected of them at all. Nonetheless, we do have statues of these people, and we ought to be more careful before we vilify figures who, while they might have been flawed, stand on the right side of history overall. I did not touch upon this in the issue in the comic, but I likewise take issue with the idea of censoring problematic works from the past, like Gone With the Wind. I have no issues with leaving it up while including additional context(As HBO is doing), but it troubles me that there are some people who would remove problematic works entirely. Again, I think the overall intent of the work should be considered. If a work is intended strictly as propaganda, then perhaps it ought to be removed from circulation. I do however, think we should be free to study works like Gone With the Wind and look at their cultural impacts while separating the racism of the work from other aspects of it. We ought to have the intellectual capacity to study problematic works of art in this manner. The censorship issue also bothers me because works like Huckleberry Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird sometimes get thrown up as texts which should be banned for racism. Perhaps there are parts of those works that are troublesome, still, the overall message of those texts are anti racist. Once you begin censoring artistic works, it is easy to get carried away with it. I question where the censorship ends once it begins. I can scarcely think of a single piece of classical literature that does not have some viewpoint which is problematic by modern standards. In spite of that, works of classical literature are still important and should be studied. Part of me thinks that people should be taught even maliciously racist works. They should be exposed in their education to these views and be given the proper context behind them, much like what HBO is doing with Gone with the Wind. As people go out into the world, they will invariably be exposed to racist views anyway. In my view, it is better for people to be exposed to these views in some old, long, and some would say boring, movie than from trolls on the Internet. If decent people are banned from seeing or talking about these views, then people will first be exposed to these ideas by racists. These ideas will not be refuted, instead they will be glorified by those who present them and some people will get sucked into the vile ideology of racism. That is why I believe controversial things must be allowed to stand and to be placed into the proper context. People have to learn about racism from decent human beings who reject it so that they can recognize it and defeat it when it rears its ugly head in the real world.