Questioning a monument doesn't deny the history that led to it

Thursday , September 14, 2017 - 7:00 AM3 comments

Ogden Standard Examiner contributor D. Louise Brown (“America Shouldn’t Be in the Business of Taking Down Statues,” Aug. 31) compares monuments honoring those who led the fight to uphold slavery with preserved sections of Parliament that were bombed and blackened during prolonged German blitzes — an architectural symbol of democracy held up next to an emblem of the Confederacy that has been appropriated by certain hate groups. (A more apt analogy to Southern Civil War monuments would be those of British colonialism – not World War II.)

Brown decries hate groups, yet says monuments should not change. Why is passionately opposing groups that are offensive to her OK, while exploring the implications of certain statues is not?

A monument is no more inherently permanent than architecture. There’s no rule about whether to leave it up, take it down, or place it in a new context. Perspectives change, and history by nature gets reframed. It is the right of citizens to re-evaluate and influence public, state endorsed expressions.

This is in contrast to individual free speech, which is regulated by a different set of rights and restrictions. A close-to-home example were anti-Semitic posters recently found on the WSU campus (which SE reported on).

Her confusion deepens when she likens removing “evidence” of dark times in a nation’s history (i.e. taking down a monument) to what Holocaust deniers do. Hold on: Puestioning the placement or use of a monument does not constitute denying the history that led to it.

Holocaust survivors, their descendants, governments, and curators have long discussed how relics from that period should be used and contextualized. If this darkest of human episodes is subject to evolving approaches and standards, surely the Civil War and others are, too. Besides, other forms of “evidence” on the Civil War exist and more are being investigated, economic studies, DNA, historical reenactments, other art forms, the plight of African-Americans, and more. Also, a private collector or museum is free to acquire a monument and display it how it chooses.

To settle these individual instances and others, there’s a lot of conversation to be had.

Erik Stern


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