A solution to the statue problem

I wish Jonathan Holloway well.

The 53-year-old educator and historian recently became the president of New Jersey’s flagship university, Rutgers, and said, no, it would not be changing its name.

Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway (Photo: The New York Times)

The school is named for Col. Henry Rutgers, a Revolutionary War hero — and slaveholder.

“We are not going to change the name of the university,” said Hollloway. “Names have value that exceeds someone’s existence.”

The name is not tantamount to the Confederate flag, said Holloway, the first African-American president of the university, and someone aware of the evils of slavery.

Some things, sometimes, can be simultaneously good and bad and we will see if Holloway can stand firm against a sometimes-brainless wave of self-purification that is sweeping the country.

Brainless? Yes, and lawless, too.

Why would statues of abolitionists, such as Marcellus Baldwin, be vandalized, if not brainless? And a monument to Black Civil War troops? And U.S. Grant, the Union general who beat the Confederacy?

Lawless? Any time a self-righteous mob attacks or vandalizes public property — be it Robert E. Lee or Frederick Douglass — it is breaking the law, transforming indignation into indignities. 

Statues of Confederate generals and politicians have no place on public thoroughfares, unless… they are there to teach about the traitorous Confederacy rather than honor its leaders.

The other day, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, was asked if she would take down monuments to George Washington. Duckworth lost both her legs when she served in the army in Iraq and is being considered as a candidate for vice president. I had the highest regard for her, until she ducked that question, with some jazz about it’s something we should discuss.

George Washington with slaves at Mount Vernon

No, we do not have to “discuss” whether to tear down the Washington Monument.

I would refer Duckworth to Holloway: “Names have value that exceeds someone’s existence.” Whatever his faults, Washington remains the Father of Our Country. He was an outstanding general, statesman, and leader.

Or I would refer her to Philadelphia lawyer Michael Coard, a leftist firebrand.

Philadelphia lawyer Michael Coard. (Photo: Philly Voice)

When it comes to Washington, Coard gets the lion’s share of the credit for enhancing the skeletal outline of George Washington’s house at 6th & Market, on Independence Mall.

When it was being planned, the National Park Service was challenged by Coard and a group called Avenging The Ancestors Coalition, a broad-based organization of African Americans founded in 2002. It wanted NPS to install a prominent Slavery Memorial at the President’s House to honor the nine African-Americans who were enslaved there.

The NPS resisted at first, but eventually recognized the validity of the demand. “Under the leadership of Cynthia MacLeod, who has been superintendent of Independence National Historical Park since 2007, things have remarkably improved,” Coard told me.

Story boards were added to the structure to tell of the nine slaves. Washington was not deleted — his household was added. The larger picture told a larger truth. It allowed America to look its past in the eye, and understand the truth in its embarrassing totality.

Addition, not subtraction.

Coard is on record as opposing removing the names of slave-owning Americans from schools, statues and monuments. Instead, he believes explanations should be prominently posted. “With rare exception, instead of discarding these memorials to the dust bin of history, I prefer to publicly, conspicuously, and permanently ‘out’ the men in them as the horrifically racist monsters they were.”

This can be done with Washington statues, the Jefferson Memorial, Mount Rushmore, and wherever statuary stands to honor our American heroes. As an example, instead of tearing down Mount Vernon, Washington’s Virginia home, it is used to tell the stories of people enslaved there. 

That George Washington — and other Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin — were slave owners does not diminish their iridescent achievements, which in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

The declaration of liberty made in 1776 was not legitimized until 1863, with the Emancipation Proclamation. We also know “liberty” did not bring equality, that we still are a work in progress.

The way forward is to acknowledge our history, not to delete it.

 In the words of Rutgers’ Holloway, “Names have value that exceeds someone’s existence.”

23 thoughts on “A solution to the statue problem”

  1. As I walked many of the streets in Salzburg, Austria, I saw small brass plaques fixed to buildings or set into the concrete of sidewalks on which were shown the name or names and dates a Jew or several Jews were forcibly taken from that very spot and hauled off to concentration camps, never to be seen again. Rather than hide their complicity in the Holocaust, Austrians have faced the truth and done what penance they can to remind themselves and visitors of a terrible time in their past. Perhaps we can do the same (along the lines of what was done in Philadelphia that you cited, Stu): have the statues, but each should have a clear explanation of the person’s action in the Civil War or complicity in the support of slavery. We MUST face our past honestly, not destroy it and pretend it never happened. Finally, we MUST find peace with each other or surely the nation will be torn apart. Let us try to remember what President Lincoln said in his second inaugural address: “With malice toward none, with charity for all…let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up our nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his window and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves…”

  2. Stu,
    I have a simple solution, why not place them all in the court yard of Eastern State Penitentiary. There they can be preserved as a rouges gallery or a prison of political thought. Mayor Rizzo can be placed at the front gate reputation of Law and order. There is more then enough room for all the Columbus statues And the felled Viking .
    Thanks again,

      1. Stu,
        There could be a wing for The Founding Fathers a wing for unpopular Presidents and in the case of Multiple Christopher Columbus you can mount them on the walls just like Gary Cooper did in ‘Beau Geste’

  3. For years, even before Ferguson in 2014, when the far left was demanding the removsl of Confederate monuments, flags, etc…those of us who have a full grasp of history and ideologies sounded the warning that these villains were not only after anything Confederate but anything American of white European descent. We were pooh-poohed; non-Southerners assured themselves that the far left was “only after those evil Confederates”, but now you see we were right all along.

    Talk about schadenfreude and “Deo Vindice”.

  4. Good Piece Stu—maybe i will use some of it in the upcoming injunction hearings i have on the Rizzo and Columbus Statue—George Bochetto.

  5. I would also like to reach out to Michael Coard, and ask if he would be willing to testify at the upcoming hearings regarding his views on how best to address these issues? Michael—what do you say?

  6. I am not sure about the Eastern state Penitentiary as anything inside any building that has negative connotations would be worth the entry fee. I think unlike the Hollywood walk of fame of questionable characters we could consider a Wall of shame somewhere in the east stating some positive statements of their accomplishments and a similar number of words describing their failures as a human being. Maybe in Washington or on the steps at the Art Museum with each step written as school project to both teach History and have an opportunity to change it.

    Good jog, pallie.
    Mr. Holloway will have his hands full with the collection of liberal teachers and students. Maybe (hopefully) he’ll insist on required reading. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution. Plenty of good reading (thinking)material.
    I vaguely remember Mr. Coard and his coalition. It was quite the stir. Somehow, when there’s a fight for value, there is always a lot of quiet coming from the powerful. The complete opposite as everyone jumps on the bandwagon for destruction. The idea of plaques on statues is worthy of action, not rhetoric. We would go to libraries and museums and do a search on the statue/person of interest. Amazing what reading does to the brain.

  8. All well and good Stu, but “Give an inch and…. And who decides what statues and where to put them? And if they disagree? Is there a line ever drawn? Does Joe Citizen have a say? Acquiescence is not, in my opinion, the answer. We are under assault. Look who we are bending to…BLM, an avowed Marxist organization, who have been in the process of violently taking over city after city. Crazy! This is only the beginning, and I don’t like what I see as the outcome. Many have said they want to change America. And Biden is being dragged behind to lead…right!! Will we be burning books next!? And then what? We have to go more slowly. We have a leader and two posts ago I stated thus (17th comment). Set me straight, I’ll always listen, because I never stop learning.
    Thought provoking! Thanks.

    1. In a previous column I suggested Columbus be put on public trial, with prosecutor and defense attorney, and let registered voters Be the jury to decide if the statue remains.

      1. I remember the column. I don’t believe I commented on it.
        What I am saying is why are we even entertaining these people? It’s insanity. We used to laugh at the snowflakes, now we give them credibility. Each time we give in a bit, they Demand something new! The guilt ridden whites for the most part, are naive, young and have been indoctrinated! There has to be a backlash, before they gain more momentum! It’s a bizarro world!!
        For 244 years this idea, this experiment, has been tested over and over and stood. Are we going to let the mob break this streak?

  9. In my humble opinion, Stu, this is one of your finest pieces regarding this situation, hands down.

  10. As is our custom, my husband and I watched the TCM broadcast of the musical “1776”
    on the fourth of July.

    We have seen it many times, but a line spoken by Benjamin Franklin (Howard Da Silva),
    had a special resonance this year. (This is probably not exact, but the meaning is the same).

    FRANKLIN: “We are not demigods, only men”.

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