By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT — Just over a year ago I noted that the slippery slope was real with regard to the movement to remove historical monuments and place names once the Confederate monuments started falling at the whim of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Landrieu, you may recall, after a conversation with musician Wynton Marsalis whose great-uncle hated the Lee Monument, decided to take four monuments down.
About that same time, the radical group “Take ‘Em Down NOLA” released their target list for street names, buildings, monuments, hospitals, schools, etc., that are now offensive and must change which included New Orleans Touro Hospital and Tulane University. Not content with the removal of four prominent monuments, the group is still protesting in NOLA. Now they want the statue of New Orleans founder, Bienville, to come down and the iconic Andrew Jackson statue in Jackson Square which commemorates his victory at the 1812 Battle of New Orleans.
The lesson here is that these groups will never, ever be satisfied and there is no clear end to what they want to erase. There’s no end plan.
Now, the craziness has spread all the way to California where in Arcata they are planning to take down a monument to President William McKinley for “directing the slaughter of Native peoples…”. And it continues:
Other states are joining the movement. The city of Kalamazoo, Mich., said last month it would take down a park monument of a Native American in a headdress kneeling before a westward-facing pioneer. In Alcalde, N.M., and El Paso, statues of the conquistador Juan de Oñate have become subjects of renewed debate.
In Baltimore, a city councilman has vowed to replace a smashed Columbus monument with something that better reflects “current-day values.”
Where in the world does this end?
Let’s just take down all our monuments, statues, busts, everything, and start over. Because surely we’ll all agree on what’s necessary, right? We will all be of the same mind in who to honor in granite.
Here in Shreveport, Louisiana, we have a bronze statue of Captain Henry Miller Shreve on the riverfront; he is honored for breaking up the great log jam in the Red River and opening it back up to navigation by 1839. But, Shreve never actually lived in Shreveport, so let’s pull him down! Let’s put up a monument to someone who actually lived here! (insert sarcasm).
Is that too trivial a reason to remove a monument? Says who? Who gets to make the rules?
In downtown Shreveport we have a bronze statue of musician Huddie Ledbetter standing on the curb in front of the library. Why don’t we remove that one too, while we’re at it? After all, he was imprisoned multiple times for violent offenses! Pull him down!
I really don’t want this to happen – I love Leadbelly’s music.
The point is, at some point we have to return to reason and set aside our offended sensibilities. What happened to all of those “Coexist” bumper stickers? When did we stop believing that? The message was that we need to learn to live together in peace. I guess that’s not a priority any longer?
We can sift through all of our collective history as a nation and as people and there is no doubt we will find many things that offend us. Our leaders, generals, presidents, all those we have memorialized in bronze, granite, acrylic, oil, marble, and in print, were not perfect people and sometimes they made poor choices in both their public and private lives but the point is that they brought us where we are today. They were a product of their time and we can not judge them by today’s sensibilities.
By destroying these monuments or by hiding them, we learn nothing except that those who whine loudest win.