By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – This is the saddest thing I’ve read this week: it’s the removal instructions for bidders competing for the job of removing three Confederate statues in New Orleans.
In a disappointing decision last week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals gave the go ahead for the removal of the monuments:
In the ruling, the three-judge panel with the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found that the groups trying to block the removal of the monuments, Monumental Task Committee and the Louisiana Landmarks Society, failed to present a case that contained a legal argument that showed the monuments should stay up. The court wrote that the groups relied on two legal claims, “both of which wholly lack legal viability or support.”
Immediately following the decision, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s team opened up the bidding process, this time with the promise of confidentiality for the bidders. The last time bids were solicited, things turned ugly when bidders were threatened and in once case a Lamborghini was torched.
In an interview with NPR on Saturday, New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu said that it’s important to take the statues down for the reason that post-Katrina he and his staff decided to rebuild the city as “it always should have been and not the way that it’s been developed over time” – as if he is the only person that gets to decide that. Landrieu says the Robert E. Lee statue is there for the sole reason that Lee led an army against the United States of America for the purposes of telling African Americans that they were less than human.” I contend that Mayor Landrieu needs a few history classes.
In an opinion piece at The Hayride, Mike Bayham points out that public opinion is “tepid” on removal:
Why the city of New Orleans seems to be in such a rush to knock [the monuments] off their respective pedestals is curious as 1) two polls conducted in the city showed only tepid support for removing the monuments (34% and 50%) and 2) the city has yet to figure out what to do with the statues.
It is unclear at this point what the next step will be. There is growing sentiment now that at least with regard to the Lee monument, which stands 16.5 feet tall atop a 68-foot tall pedestal, the city should be required to remove the entire pedestal, which it is reluctant to do. Supporters do not want Landrieu to be able to plop a monument to a character of his own choosing atop the Lee pedestal.
Certainly once we begin to sanitize and remove history we are on a slippery slope. There is no end to it. Regardless of how one feels on the issue of the Confederacy, once we begin removing works of public art because of dissenting opinions we are no better than censors and become one with the propagandists who would have you stick your head in the sand, ready to rewrite history.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.