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Saturday, May 20, 2017

New Orleans purges final Confederate statue.

From The BBC

20th May 2017

Masked city workers in New Orleans have removed the last of four monuments to the pro-slavery rebellion defeated in the US Civil War. The 133-year-old statue depicted General Robert E Lee, the top military leader in the Confederacy, crossing his arms as he faced north towards his old enemy. Critics say monuments to the Confederacy are racially offensive, but supporters say they are important symbols of the city's Southern heritage. The three other statues were all removed at night to limit clashes. The workers on the job were wearing bullet-proof vests as well as masks.

In a statement on Thursday, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the condemned statues "were erected decades after the Civil War to celebrate the 'Cult of the Lost Cause', a movement recognised across the South as celebrating and promoting white supremacy." Barricades went up overnight around the park where the 16ft (4.8m) statue was perched atop a 60ft column. The cables for a nearby streetcar were also temporarily taken down to allow construction equipment into the park. Before police cleared the area on Thursday, nearly 200 protesters gathered to voice support and opposition to the monument. Demonstrations were mostly peaceful, local media report. The only flashpoint was when a pro-removal protester snatched a Confederate battle flag. One man was arrested for climbing on to the monument's pedestal and refusing to come down. The monument to Lee was erected on 22 February 1884 - nearly 20 years after the Civil War ended. On the day of the unveiling, a crowd of nearly 15,000 people came to watch, the Daily Picayune newspaper reported the next day. At the exact moment that the statue was unveiled, a 100-gun salute was fired, and "a mighty shout went up from the soldiers of the Confederacy", the Daily Picayune reported.

City officials say the monuments will be moved somewhere such as a museum where they can be "placed in their proper historical context from a dark period of American history". But WWL-TV has found the removed monuments to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and PGT Beauregard in a city-owned scrap yard. Supporters of the monuments say they are a cultural legacy that promotes heritage rather than racism. The decision to remove the statues came in December 2015, six months after a white supremacist shot dead nine black worshippers at a South Carolina church.

[I do have a significant problem with things like this. OK, I can understand what they did after WW2 with the removal of Nazi emblems across Europe and the change of city names in Russia throughout its troubled history but I don’t agree with the attempted erasure and sanitation of the past to satisfy the popular sentiment of the moment. If past events are disagreeable, as many of them are, then rather than removing them from public view we should be using them as examples to learn from. As has been well attested to throughout history (oh, the irony) those who forget, or turn their backs on, their history are DOOMED to repeat it. On this side of the pond we are told that buildings and street names are offensive because they are named after slave owners. If such landmarks are erased and forgotten about there is the real danger that we will collectively forget about slavery too. A nation without a history, the good as well as the bad, will find designing its future much more difficult. Without knowing where we have been and the kind of people we used to be how can we chart a course to where we want to go and who we want to be when we get there? Leave history in place so future generations can at least wonder why we did bad things rather than walk by in (supposedly) blissful ignorance.]


Mudpuddle said...

in spite of feeling a bit sympathetic with the authorities who are trying to preserve public harmony by removing "disturbing" social monuments, I've never heard of an attempt to manipulate public opinion that turned out well...

Stephen said...

It's very Orwellian, is it? Down the memory hole. In a century the North will have won the propaganda war completely, with fewer and fewer people left to protest that the soldiers who fought the war and the planters who started it had different motives entirely.

I can see protesting a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was controversial to say the least, but disgracing Robert E. Lee is something else. I'll never go near that city.

CyberKitten said...

Orwell was *so* spot on: Who controls the Past controls the Future. Who control the Present controls the Past. 'Nuff said. The destruction of the past (as ISIS are trying in the Middle East) has but one aim - to prevent people thinking about things in certain ways, to forget that (or to be limited in how they think about how) things *have* been different in the past which implies that things *can* be different in the future. If we live (as *they* want) in the eternal present there are no historical alternatives that can be presented which make the 'System' far more difficult to oppose. If people believe that things have *always* been this way then there really is no alternative and any resistance is automatically deemed pointless.

VV said...

I can see your argument about not removing symbols of our past. It's my understanding the statues will eventually be placed on display in a museum, where people can learn about this history. That said, the statues were erected as a daily symbol for the black population, to remind them the whites were still in charge. All these years later, black children growing up in the shadow of these statues, had to understand that the whites around them celebrated these traitors to our nation as heroes. You should read the mayor's speech about this. He gives a much more eloquent explanation why the statues shouldn't be displayed in heroic celebration, but rather preserved in an appropriate setting to teach us about our dark past. I also think the removal of the statues at this time, is a sort of pushback against the alt right and rise in white supremacists since the election of Trump. It's like the greater community saying no, we won't continue tolerating this. Here's a link to the mayor's speech: http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/05/mayor_landrieu_speech_confeder.html

CyberKitten said...

I know what you mean VV about removing symbols of oppression. Like in Iraq they should have left a few so that later children can point to them and ask who they were. This would always keep in mind what happened and why. Without that people far too easily forget and repeat the same mistakes.