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flutherother's avatar

Should we tear down statues once they become unfashionable?

Asked by flutherother (34432points) August 15th, 2017

This question was prompted by the decision to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville but it could apply to any statue.
What about the 4th century statues of the Buddhas of Bamiyan? Was their destruction justified?

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27 Answers

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

No. For better or for worse, these are monuments to the past. If times change and their presence causes civil unrest, they should go into museums.

If we are going to tear down monuments, then why stop with southern generals? We should tear down every Spanish mission on the West Coast, monuments to slavery, torture and forced religious indoctrination. We should tear down every statue of every military hero on the west side of the Mississippi—those who took part in the annihilation and subjugation of the aboriginal tribes. Tear up the railroad tracks through the Sierras, a monument to slave labor and brutality toward Asia immigrants. .

MrGrimm888's avatar

Short answer is no. But it’s much more complicated. I would almost say it varies by statue…

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Not unless you are willing to have being considered that the statue of liberty be taken down too for bogus reasons. Like that the copper is stained and moldy green. Or we don’t want the starving huddled masses anymore? How would you feel about some nut saying that all landmarks should be removed? Like Mount Rushmore is an offensive defacement of native lands.

jca's avatar

It’s all history, we can’t erase it, we can’t change it, we should learn from it. Monuments and statues should stay. Next we’re going to say every street and town named after a slave holder should be changed (i.e. Jefferson, Washington, etc.).

Pachy's avatar

I mosty agree with @Espiritus_Corvus. If we tore down statues whenever we deemed their symbolism outdated, the Statue of Liberty, one of America’s oldest and arguably greatest symbols of freedom and national hospitality, would surely be in danger of demolishment by the current administration.

LostInParadise's avatar

Maybe if slavery were not such a prominent issue of the Civil War and if the Confederate flag was not adopted by white supremacists, it might not be so bad to display Confederate generals in public squares. Symbols do count, and at least in this case, it is appropriate to move the statues to a museum.

Bill1939's avatar

Like the addition of “In God We Trust” to our currency and Pledge of Allegiance that in the 1950’s was to make a sharp political distinction between U.S.A. and U.S.S.R., the purpose of erecting statues celebrating Confederate persons and the promotion of symbols such as the Confederate Flag in the 1960’s was to make a political statement of opposition to the progressive movement in our country. Current events reveal that many mostly white Americans continue to wage this social/political war. With the exception of those venerating our Founding Fathers, I think that historic and religious symbols belong displayed on private property and in museums.

PullMyFinger's avatar

Man, we really do have some thoughtful, smart people around here.

I can’t add a thing to the above posts, but just clicked on ‘Great Answer’ for all seven of you….

ragingloli's avatar

What a convenient euphemism.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. What more is there to say.

ragingloli's avatar

Remembering history is for history books and museums.
Public statues exist to celebrate the depicted.
Only a fool can not recognise the difference.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

They’re not being put in museums though and to be honest museums don’t have the same effect. I could care less but for younger people who cannot easily understand the reality of how brutal the past was physical connections like artifacts and historical markers like statues are a strong influence. We should tear down every physical reminder of the holocaust by that logic. No sir, you germans should never be permitted to forget about what was allowed to happen in your country. Same goes for slavery here in america.

Sneki2's avatar

Of course not. So much time and effort put into making that work of art so you could destroy it?

I feel sorry for the sculptors whose work gets destroyed by politics.

Patty_Melt's avatar

A monument to historical fact, whether populur as times change or not, it a legitimate marker, and should remain. There are many ways to show disapproval without resorting to defacement or removal.
Attempting to hide aspects of our past does not make us better, just ignorant of facts.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Well we would object to a statue of a dictator.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

It is not the statue but the neo-Nazi, KKK and white supremacist that line up beside because they “want to make America great again” A KKK slogan from 90 years ago

Aster's avatar

I am not sure what an “unfashionable” statue means but I hope it’s illegal to even attempt to pull down Lincoln’s statue. If they start on the Statue of Liberty or Lincoln I hope a truckload of pepper spray is brought in followed by baseball bats and handcuffs. We aren’t civilized anymore.

Soubresaut's avatar

In the abstract, I don’t like the idea of the destruction of monuments becoming normalized. I don’t want histories to be sanitized. I have a hard time with vandalism of public artifacts. I like the idea of putting decommissioned things in museums, especially since museums are great places to provide context to complicated history.

I also think it’s a mark of the country’s strength that it holds together even while so many within it celebrate those who fought to divide it—that we don’t fear, in a “nationhood” sense, even that kind of speech, because we know that we’re a stronger country for our collective freedom to speak our minds.

At the same time… I have a hard time with the confederate statues. While there were, I guess, many reasons for the Civil War… the overarching one was the fight over slavery. I guess monuments aren’t ever going to be known for balanced coverage (their point is kind of to idealize), but it feels weird that there are so many statues celebrating the war figures of the confederacy, many of them depicting the same figures, while at the same time there are very few statues, if any, depicting abolitionist heroes and similar figures in the south (unless I’m mistaken? If so, please correct me). If we’re saying memorials serve as important historical context, shouldn’t we expect a more diverse cast? And if we’re saying memorials serve important symbolic value, isn’t it worthwhile to examine what that value is?

I’m also not sure that individual towns choosing to decommission (some of) their own statues is comparable magnitude to dismantling statues representing national ideals. Taking down the Statue of Liberty (which has layers of national significance) seems like many times the magnitude of taking down one of the confederate statues. Does one really lead to the next? I’m not sure.

ragingloli's avatar

It really is no different from renaming all the Adolf Hitler streets after WW2 during the DeNazification.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^That incident united us here in Charleston. Roof should have chosen a different city.

I hope that some good comes from the Charlottesville incident as well. I have seen white supremacists claiming it as a massive victory. Perhaps this will expose their evil more, and help root them out. I’ve heard that some have already lost their jobs over being there on the hate side. That’s great. Let the world know who these cowards are,so they can be shamed and ostracized from the communities they don’t deserve to be a part of.

Soubresaut's avatar

Thanks for sharing that article, @Hawaii_Jake. It’s well worth reading

rockfan's avatar

It makes absolutely no sense to publicly display a statue of a slave owning traitor who lost the Civil War.

si3tech's avatar

@flutherother I see the whole thing as a means to change/deny/manipulate history.

DominicY's avatar

People have been destroying statues for all of history. In the past it was often a thing that conquerors did. They destroyed the statues of the people’s heroes and gods to show that they were powerless and meaningless now that the conquerors were in charge. Some statues are erected in a fit of vanity, often by dictators (statues of Saddam and Kim-Jong Il), others are erected in the midst of the Civil Rights movement as a “fuck you” to civil rights (many of the Confederate statues that are so contentious today). I personally don’t have much issue with statues of historical figures that are regarded positively for various reasons, whatever the impetus behind their erection. But I also don’t have an issue with communities that get together and decide that the statues are no longer fashionable. Statues, when they’re built, are intended to be forever, but history indicates otherwise.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Yes, and many historians are awfully frustrated by these destructions.

Soubresaut's avatar

This well known guy just put together a what I think is a good and easy-to-listen-to discussion about this topic. (Easy to listen to because of the way it’s presented, not because the topic is itself easy to discuss).

Not sure how many people are still following this question, but I thought I’d share the link here anyway. Didn’t want to start a new question just to post a video.

Anyway, I think it’s worth a watch whatever your feelings about the subject, so I thought I’d share.

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