Attention to Charlottesville seems to focus more on the melee that killed 3 and injured 10 times as many than on the root cause of it all, Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Park (renamed Emancipation Park), voted to be removed by the City Council of Charlottesville 6 months before on Feb 6, 2017, sparking numerous protests and counter-protests prior to their climax on Aug 12, a pattern replayed at many locations and likely to brew more trouble and strife nationwide.
Note that at all times counter-protesters outnumber protesters by a large margin, nearly 3 to 1 on that fateful day, Aug 12, in Charlottesville. They have to, because they propose to take down centuries old monuments generations have lived with, taking them for granted. Like all revolutionaries overturning the status quo, they have to be vocal and proactive, and they have been for months, years, decades, doing all kinds of publicity stunts to catch attention. But, for a change, on this day in Charlottesville, the revolutionaries don’t have to do a thing, neither shout Black Power nor wave the Black Nationalist Flag. The dumb protesters, their opponents, do it all for them by flaunting Nazi swastikas, KKK regalia and insignia and other toxins, abhorrent to the American psyche, dug out of their underground dumps.
Do we as Americans really have to take sides, obsessing over these statues one way or the other at such cost? The answer is a resounding no, the reasoning both ideological and practical.
The Robert E. Lee statue and others of that ilk, reminiscent of those ubiquitous in the olden days to deify their emperors and kings, have no place in our day and age, and may suggest immediate removal, lest they rekindle the Losing-It Syndrome (8-18-2017, typakmusings.com) and wreck our democracy, a government of, by, and for the people, as projected by the Declaration of Independence, embodied in the US Constitution, and reaffirmed by Lincoln (see Manifesto of Radical Democracy, 5-25-2014, typakmusings.com). The fact that Lee was not quite the head of the Confederacy is irrelevant, because the same logic of non-aggrandizement applies to all individuals in public service, military, political, or otherwise: what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
However, our indignation against these symbols of abject servility in the bygone days may well be directed forward, rather than backward, prospective, rather than retroactive. We might as well forgive and let be these creations of our ancestors who knew no better. Such magnanimity probably underlies the Constitution’s prohibition of ex post facto legislation (Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3) and we may as well fall in line.
Moreover, their tolerance may have a real practical value: let them serve as reverse models, like channel markers for shipping to steer clear of, and help us uphold and preserve our emancipation from the Losing-It syndrome. For example, we won’t erect a statue of Donald J. Trump, the 45th President, however great a president he turns out to be. In fact, there won’t be any more presidential monuments built in Washington, DC, on Mount Rushmore, or anywhere else.