Let democracy decide statues‘ fate

We have a monumental problem, one that is statuesque, too — monuments and statues falling victim to vigilantes of the cancel culture.

Should we rename this beautiful boulevard? (Photo: Visit Philly)

It’s happening across America, but I will focus on Philadelphia, the Birthplace of America, a land designed by and for the rule of law, or so we thought.

Mayor Jim Kenney, a.k.a. Mayor Weathervane, made and reversed plans on how to handle the Frank Rizzo statue before stealing it in the middle of the night, and now his hand-picked Philadelphia Art Commission is expected to announce today the preordained decision that the Christopher Columbus statue will be evicted from Marconi Park.

The Rizzo statue honored a “racist,” said critics, presenting no proof other than that he led an admittedly heavy-handed police force during a “law and order” era, and that he once shouted, “Get their black asses,” to police defending Philadelphia school headquarters, which was surrounded by students, mostly black.

I have seen zero reporting that Rizzo ever beat up a Black person, or specifically discriminated against them. 

I also have seen zero reporting that Kenney objected to the statue when it was installed in 1999. Just the opposite — Kenney actually proposed renaming the Municipal Services Building for Frank Rizzo, the twice-elected mayor, who received the biggest funeral in city history when he died in 1991. 

So, too, Columbus has been rebranded from a great navigator to a culprit guilty of genocide. Well, maybe not him personally, the story goes, but he opened the door. 

Most of his critics would not be here had he not opened the door, and he certainly was not among the most brutal of the conquistadors plundering the New World. Each man existed totally in the framework of his times.

Anyway, statues and monuments have been falling like autumn leaves, most often torn down by mobs of self-appointed vigilantes. In Philadelphia, curiously, the two doomed statues honor men of Italian ancestry. No WASPs were harmed in making this commentary.

A democracy does not turn decisions over to rioters — that is a mobocracy. 

I previously suggested putting Columbus on public trial — with a prosecutor and a defense attorney to determine his crimes, and then let voters in the next election decide to keep him or kick him out.

That idea gained no traction, but here comes the Philadelphia Inquirer with a similar idea.

Apart from the editorial’s smarminess, it presents an idea lifted from New York — a commission to review all public art, statues, memorials and monuments, including street and school names. “The rest of our symbolic landscape should receive the same level of scrutiny as a single statue of Columbus,” said the editorial, assuming there was a level of scrutiny.

The city “must ensure the shared network of spaces maintained and created in our names lives up to our highest democratic values,” the editorial says.

It wants a panel of experts to make the decision.

That’s where it goes wrong, because an appointed panel will not support democratic values. That would come from a referendum allowing the people to decide the heroes and the goats.

I haven’t compiled a list of all public statuary and monuments, but I know — and have said — this: If the city removes Frank Rizzo, on vague accusations of racism, and Columbus for murky charges of genocide — how can Mayor Weathervane bear working in an office located under the statue of William Penn, an unrepentant slaveholder? How can an Ivy League university bear a name that triggers so many students?

Slaveholder George Washington is honored with a statue and the name of a major thoroughfare. Slaveholder Thomas Jefferson has a university named after him, even though he was arguably a pedophile and rapist, meaning Sally Hemings. Slaveholder Ben Franklin has a science institute, a bridge and a parkway named after him. Anti-Semite (and slaveholder) Ulysses S. Grant has a statue. Racist Walt Whitman has a bridge. Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrongly imprisoned Japanese Americans and has a large park named after him.

This is not an exhaustive list.

That no one in the city government, and this includes harridan Councilwoman Helen Gym,  have even mentioned these slaveholders opens a question about their sincerity to a truly just and equitable America. Are they cowards?

If you are honest about going after villains, you have to go after them all. To not do that is sheer hypocrisy.

Should we wash the names of Penn, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, etc. from our national memory?

Let the people decide if they are to be judged by a single evil flaw, or by the totality of the good they created. 

I trust they will get it right — and end the ridiculous self flagellation that approaches suicide of our national pysche. 

14 thoughts on “Let democracy decide statues‘ fate”

  1. HAPPY WEDNESDAY !!!
    Pallie,
    A topic that requires a lot of thought, for sure. As in life, serious situations and problems can not be decided on a whim. If we hand over the decision of a statue – or any work of art, will the facts be told ? Will we only hear twisted versions of the truth, delivered by the fake media ?
    What must be understood is that these statues, monuments, MURALS and other viewable, touchable readable, learnable………. you get the idea. When viewed in the time of the person, or thing, it then represents history. I mentioned murals. Are they safe ? Philly has a collection of wall murals ( minus one or two ? ) that are a representation of life ( history ) from a previous era. It is a well known collection that may still have tours .
    If we let the public decide, and they’re not given a full disclosure of that particular item, we risk losing it forever. Do we want to chance the works of art depicting, Kisses, Holocaust victims, Kites, Clothespins ?
    BTW. To belabor this blog with one more FACT . A statue of a mounted rider, who is obviously military, is only that. A tribute to that person. The number of hooves on the ground is a fabled story as to the riders’ death.
    Tony

  2. Stu – a great article that brings practical thought to the forefront of a current “problem” that shouldn’t be a problem.

    But you did get me with the word “harridan” and had to look that one up. I guess I spent too many years with engineering speak LoL.

  3. This is simply what Marxists do: abolish history so they can start anew: out of chaos, order. Its the cause of the antifa riots/vandalism too.

    I do find it interesting that Kenney chose to target 2 statues of importance to Italian-Americans as well as several policemen of Italian heritage.

  4. Stu,your correct about Rizzo,a bully but never a racist.Remember his body guard was an african- american and saved him at the south philly refinery fire.

  5. In the old Soviet Union, when the rulers wanted you gone they turned you into an unperson. Your photo was airbrushed out of all old snapshots, your name was erased from all printed and written references…in short, you never existed. How will future teachers deal with Columbus and all the other soon-to-be unpersons?

    A commission to deal with this ‘problem’ reminds me of the days when Hollywood was subjected to a Board of Censors. In their wisdom, the censors dictated (among other nonsensical rulings) there had to be two single beds in a married couple’s bedroom (lest any theater patron think SEX might take place!). And in my days at CBS I remember our ‘censor’ in New York who deemed a woman’s SBE (the corporate censor’s abbreviation for ‘side breast exposure’) to be unacceptable to viewers.

    I may not like a lot of what I see or hear on TV or in the theater, but it’s not my place to tell YOU or OTHERS what you can or cannot see or hear. Ditto for this whole statue debacle.

    1. Vince – your “unperson” description reminds me of an additional meaning for “persona non-grata.”

  6. STAY has been issued by Judge Patrick!!!!!!!!!

    No statue movement until Court has a full opportunity to review all of our
    legal arguments.
    YES!!!!!!
    George Bochetto
    Attorney At Law
    1524 Locust Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19102

    FURTHER – 
    As expected the Art Commission ruled for removal of statue today.  George immediately moved to Common Pleas Court where the intelligent, able and wise Judge Patrick issued a STAY – which means hands off our statue. 
    Much More work to follow – continue with the petitions please. 

    SPOKESPERSON – Until we can find and hire a reputable spokesperson, our attorney George Bochetto is the best and only person authorized to speak on our behalf regarding the Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza – Phila. Pa. 
    Please refer all requests from the lamestream media to George 
    His office line is 215 735 3900

    MORE GOOD NEWS –
    White Plains, NY has good news. Their Mayor formerly endorsed the Columbus statue there.  
    In Pueblo, we’re engaged in a mediation with the indigenous groups and with the approval of the Mayor. 

  7. sorry for the double email blast today – but I thought it was vital that you see – we are meeting the enemy and engaging in mano e mano combat!  

    The Inquirer is a disgrace – and George told them so.  They continue with their false headline – and once he gave them a potent statement of the facts, the Inquirer moved the whole story to the bottom!   

    Keep the signed petitions coming in – I picture dumping them on the Court at some point!  We will video it for all to see! 

    A FURTHER STATEMENT FROM GEORGE TO THE STINKQUIRER.  

    Dear Managing Editor—

    I am literally shocked that the Inquirer refuses to properly cover the fact that Judge Paula Patrick has stayed any removal of the Columbus Statue until a full court review can be had. Such an Order would not have been issued without a substantial showing that the Art Commission, and before it the Historical Commission, proceeded in an illegal fashion. The Statue clearly is not going anywhere.

    That Reporter Goodin-Smith barely made mention of such in her revised article is a disgrace to balanced and objective journalism. That the Inquirer site still boasts the headline that the “South Philly Columbus Statue to be moved from Marconi Plaza and placed in Storage” is flat out wrong in view of the Court Oder and calls into question whether there is some anti-Italian bias permeating the news coverage.

    Please do the right thing, and write a new article fully explaining to the public what is going on.

    George Bochetto, Esq.

    1. HAPPY WEDNESDAY !!!
      Charles & George,
      HOORAH !
      As was said to me by an esteemed member of the bar, past PA Supreme Court member and Marine for life , “If they’re dumb enough to hold a hearing against you, we’ll shut down 10th & market sts”!
      The day of the hearing, a lot of support out on the street couldn’t hurt.
      Tony

  8. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu & readers,

    Right. You don’t remove a statue because a mob on the streets doesn’t like it.

    Its perhaps important to note that Columbus was important in American history long before being adopted by Italian-Americans. The Chicago World’s Fair was devoted to him, as I recall, more than a century back. Are we forgetting, “Columbus, Ohio”? There is also a “Columbia river,” in the far Northwest of the country, there is a “Columbia,” in Maryland, more recently named, and then, of course, we have the “District of Columbia,” which is the location of the nation’s capitol. I think that many other examples could be found. The veneration of Columbus has a long history and it seems to have to do with the appreciating the distinctiveness of the “New World,” and the distinctive ideals of the American republic. Part of the idea was to be that of a new start for the human race generally. Are all such ideas and ideals to be forgotten?

    It would be a shame to keep removing whatever is associated with Columbus, without even reviewing how he came to be so prominent in the first place and the actual reasons given for his historical place in U.S. history. What has been thought about Columbus also belongs to the history of the country. He did open the New World to European exploration, even though he did not perhaps “Discover America.” Are we to believe that everything would have been better if the Americas had never been explored and settled from Europe? Our new immigrants are just fine, but the old lot were no good?

    There seems to be a antagonism involved against New World societies based on immigration and integration? Only societies based on ages-old sitting populations are legitimate? They have some sort of moral superiority? None of this seems very plausible.

    H.G. Callaway

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