Hide the statue, hide the injustice: The failure of leadership to teach us a lesson

now-you-seethem

A statue is toppled.  A law is broken.  A Governor and Lt. Governor do nothing to stop it or seek punishment for those who did it.

Not because it wasn’t wrong.

But because they agreed with the actions that resulted in it being taken down.

They supported people breaking the law.

I want you to think about that for a long second.

The same Governor who called out the National Guard, putting men and women in harm’s way, to uphold the law has now capitulated to those who, with his advanced knowledge, broke the law.

They, along with hundreds of law enforcement officers, put their very lives on the line to protect public and private property from being destroyed by those who claimed they had the right to do so, and those who simply destroyed it because they could and did.

Within days the Governor and Lt. Governor and their Administration dishonored every desperate hour they spent protecting people and neighborhoods – every hour and day they were away from their families – away from their jobs – away from their life to protect someone else’s life.

The Lt. Governor’s smug condescension that most people who follow the law should accept that she feels better that the statue is gone is a level of elitism that is simply breathtaking.

That the Governor now lacks the courage of whatever personal convictions he has to enforce the law by allowing that condescension to go unchallenged is an indictment on him and his Administration.

I don’t care whether the Christopher Columbus statue is or isn’t on the capitol grounds.

If enough people want to go through the legal means and effort to remove it, more power to them.

The same should be true of any statue on public grounds whether it is Christopher Columbus or Hubert Humphrey or Charles Lindbergh.

Yet, I want to be clear: I think the idea that you can eliminate history – the good or the bad – by tearing down statues is meaningless.

If you want people to know of oppression, repression, and tyranny you don’t hide it – you make sure people know of it – and that they never forget it.

Do I believe we should remove the celebration of the Confederacy from public and private life?

Absolutely.  I consider every Confederate leader who led troops during the Civil War to be a traitor.

Those who willingly followed them into battle as nothing more than traitorous accomplices.

There is no glorious time of the Confederacy.

Nor should we ever celebrate it as though there was some laconic and genteel time when slave owners selling and torturing and murdering black people was the good old days.

The stain of slavery and our unresolved reckoning with it in America haunts us today.

I am weary of those who suggest that the Civil War solved the problem of slavery.  That when the war was done slavery was done.

It wasn’t.

And its impact on our life today isn’t.

The murder and lynching of black men and women.  The deprivation of their rights to vote.  To access public facilities.  Eat a restaurant.  Fight and die for America.

All these realities didn’t end in 1863.

In 1981 a 19-year-old African American man named Michael Donald was beaten and hung from a tree in Alabama by the Ku Klux Klan.

In 2020, a 46-year-old African American man and George Floyd was choked to death on the pavement of Minneapolis by a Police Officer.

But confusing our obligation to address racism and the historical sins of slavery and oppression with tearing down statues and hiding our history isn’t a solution.

What better solution for those who want to continue to celebrate it than to be able to hide it in the darkness, away from the disinfecting sunshine of public display.

What if instead of tearing down the Christopher Columbus statue, illegally and with the full consent and acquiescence,  of the Governor and Lt. Governor, we had provided information at the statue sharing the story Columbus in the historical context that we now know to be true?

What if instead of removing the idolatry of Civil Rights statues and parks and memorials we gather them together in a museum, and allow Americans current and future to understand better the horror that tore our country apart, resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of Americas, the murder of a President, destroyed the lives of untold black families, and has kept America from achieving its hallowed promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all?

How is that the millions of men and women who fought and died on beaches, jungles, hedgerows, cliffs, seas, the skies and in farm fields and pastures throughout our land and in distant lands from the beginning of our existence should sleep well in their graves knowing that our commitment to their sacrifice consists of burning our cities and tearing down statues?

Or allowing our state’s laws to be broken without consequence because the highest elected officials in Minnesota endorse the breaking of laws with their complicit silence because it has become fashionable in this moment of tragedy and despair?

The Communists of China, and the Soviet Union and every dictator and tyrant of past and current history have used the loss of memory through the destruction of history as a powerful tool to control their people.

When one forgets, or never knew, of the oppression, violation of civil and human rights, or the outright genocide of people because we removed their statues and memorials because we want to hide what they did then all they did continues without a reckoning that America is owed.

And those who suffered from the things that today we condemn are further denied their opportunity to ensure that the stories of their oppression and repression are never forgotten.

Shame on us.

Shame on us.

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