Comment of the Day: Statues of Limitations

COMMENT OF THE DAY: STATUES OF LIMITATIONS “There’s a theory that says the important thing the person is known/celebrated for should determine whether a statue stays or goes (i.e., “describe this person in 50 words or less”). George Washington is not known for fighting a war with his own country-people to own slaves, but as a founding member of our country. Though he was a slave owner, it was the practice at the time. Contrast with the Confederate leaders, who rose to prominence as fighters for a practice that was known to be evil. If there are Confederate leaders who are also known for something that is to be celebrated (such as putting Lee in front of an orphanage he founded), then there’s a strong argument for keeping that statue. Otherwise it’s merely Lost Cause glorification, which isn’t historically accurate, and with most of these statues, completely out of context (e.g., middle of a park, usually reserved for someone who deserves high praise).” [travelguy, commenting on The Great Texas Confederate Statue Roundup] Photo of monument to Confederate Lieutenant, Houston saloon owner, and gas-lighting and firefighting pioneer Dick Dowling in Hermann Park: Edward T. Cotham, Jr.

15 Comment

  • This is where one of the definitions I learned as a kid for “Conservative” vs. “liberal” rings true. It’s a huge generalization but most conservatives are concerned more about tradition and status quo than liberals. And so maybe that’s why I think the statues should stay.
    But even though I think they should stay, if they were NOT there and someone said “hey let’s put up a statue of Lee”, I’d say “Na”. Likewise if someone whines and says it should be removed, I’d say “na”
    Your mention of Washington is telling though as I can see a time in the not too distant future when those most vocal about removing all these status will want to remove the Washington memorial next. And we’ll hear the same arguments .. “If you support it you must support the white power structure and be a racist”.
    Calling someone a ‘racist’ is the new way people on the political left frame all arguments and to be honest, it’s worked for them so why not. No one wants to be called a racist so if someone says your view is racist, you’ll worry about having that view — no matter how benign it is.

  • Allow me to point out that the petition to remove the Confederate statue in Sam Houston Park was started by the Houston Young Communists. The Workers’ Party was quoted often regarding the Charlottesville debacle.
    For all the hand wringing and bead clinching we have had to sit through regarding Russia’s impact on our election, we sure seem to be responding to the real Communists. I realize that Russia interfering with our election is a different subject from taking down statues, but seriously, people, consider the source of so much of this brouhaha.

  • Let’s see, in the two responses we have a straw man and an ad hominem. A few more responses and I can win fallacy bingo!

  • Public monuments should reflect the cultural ethos. The statue fights are a larger symptom of increasingly disparate cultural values. It should be okay to re-evaluate interpretations of historical events, as they are frequently fraught with bias (like suddenly glorifying the Confederacy in the face of the burgeoning Civil Rights movement). It’s a shame that each side feels like they have to fight so hard against the other to make their voices heard, but it’s necessary when neither side is willing to sit at the table and listen to the other’s perspective. Would be great to have some real leadership at the national level to bridge the gap and bring people together :|

  • Actually Washington DID fight a war with his own country-people, England. He was technically a traitor and today might even be called terrorist. Of course the history is written by the victors and is entirely one sided and full of self gloryfication. If the south had won, Lincoln would be described in history as the aggressor who started a war with a peaceful agrarian and righteous citizens of his own country and Lee would be the greatest protector of freedoms this side of the Atlantic.

  • Wake me up when we can tear down all statues. I’ll take abstract monuments for the win please.

  • I like how Commonsense is now more willing to call George Washington a traitor than admit that the Confederacy was in the wrong.


    Also, I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Sam Houston is the man our city was named after and one of the greatest heroes of Texas. He was not a fan of the confederacy and ended his own career in political exile trying to stand against it. Confederate statues are a slap in his face. I have no problem with moving these statues to a museum to contextualize them, but they should hold no position of honor is Houston.

  • Heightsresident, I suppose you could tell me a bit about ad hominem attacks.

  • To the slippery-slope arguments surrounding this question in general, and to Cody in particular: Washington is one of the founders of our federated, constitutional democracy; Lee sought to destroy it. Those are historical facts that will stand up to anyone—real, or more likely, imagined—who might agitate for tearing down monuments to Washington.
    The liberal vs. conservative description that Cody gives isn’t just a generalization. It’s a canard pretending at balance and objectivity. To set the matter straight, conservatives and liberals equally want to preserve and promote tradition. They just disagree about what traditions and how those traditions are interpreted or understood.
    In the case of Confederate monuments, liberals are seeing them as one-sided, Jim Crow-era whitewashes of Civil War history. Conservatives and/or Cody see them as a reminder, if not celebration of our collective history and heritage. Those two perspectives have been plenty well argued, here and elsewhere, so I’ll close with something else: Cody, to be absolutely clear, I think your opinion on the matter is wrong and lamentable, but I certainly don’t think you’re a racist.

  • heights: You don’t see a simple trajectory where by what’s offensive today will easily .
    My guess is if you polled some of the more liberal cities, they’d already want things like the Jefferson memorial removed. hell, Seattle has a Lenin statue. A few liberal schools outlawed the US flag. A few liberal areas were flying flags at half mast during Columbus day.
    Don’t put your head in the sand.

  • Houstonreader: “I don’t think you’re a racist”
    Thanks. That’s the nicest thing someone has said to me in several weeks! :-)

  • So, at what point is someone going to try and change the name of every building/road/etc. named after Robert Byrd and remove statues of him?

  • It is really not in play in the “tear it down” vs. “leave it there” debate, but it has always been my considered opinion that that nothing should be named for anyone until 10 years after their death. So many things are named for recently deceased, relatively unimportant politicians these days. Few remember who they are 10 years later. If there is still a hue and cry to memorialize someone ten years after their death, so be it. As stated in a quote attributed to Cato the Elder, “I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue, than why I have one.”

  • The biggest problem with the Confederate figures is that they have acquired a secondary meaning in white supremacist circles. All of the other slippery slope examples (Columbus, Jefferson, Byrd, Washington, etc.) have no such secondary meaning in white supremacist circles. Confederate figures and symbols were important to segregationists because they represented resistance to integration and civil rights for African Americans. Once civil rights laws passed, there was a somewhat reasonable debate between civil war aficionados and descendants of civil war soldiers as to whether these statues and symbols were still symbols of racism or part of southern history and heritage. That debate got blow to the side when white supremacists made the statue of Robert E. Lee the center of their big Unite the Right rally. Now, the Confederate figures and symbols are again regarded by white supremacists as symbols of their movement. And they need to come down to show the growing threat of these white supremacists groups that they are not part of our civil society.

  • @Houstonreader

    “Conservatives … see them as a reminder, if not celebration of our collective history and heritage”

    I can’t speak for Cody but there’s a fair amount of conservative-leaning people that aren’t crazy about the statues either – I just don’t like the feeling that my options are siding with racist nationalists on one side or Marxist brown shirts on the other. Houston has always seemed to find a different way to resolve these kinds of seemingly intractable conflicts, at least since the Camp Logan days.