Chris Gargan: Removing monuments sets us on a path to cultural wasteland

Chris Gargan: Removing monuments sets us on a path to cultural wasteland

Dear Editor: Few would argue that the erecting of monuments to Confederate heroes was done specifically to inflame supporters of Jim Crow-era segregationists and designed to humiliate Black Americans and serve as permanent symbols of their subjugation.

So now an increasingly common event is mob actors pulling down and destroying those statues. But the mob hasn't stopped with Confederate honorees, it has now extended to any individual who has transgressed, by contemporary standards, the rights, freedoms, dignity and aspirations of those people deemed most victimized.

This is hardly new. The Christian Church, first under Catholicism, made a great display of destroying evidence of past religions and cultures they found offensive to their beliefs. In the internecine wars of the Reformation, protestants desecrated churches, monasteries, convents and other places sacred to the Catholics they had displaced. Imperialists and colonialists in the Americas did their best to destroy all traces of indigenous cultures and civilizations. In China, during the Cultural Revolution, right thinking young enthusiasts destroyed the history, culture, literature and art of previous millenniums. The Chinese government did a better job eliminating traces of Tibetan Buddhist culture and religion than the Nazis accomplished destroying Jewish culture in Europe. All in the name of what was thought to be right in the moment by those in power. Just in our own recent history we have witnessed the barbarism of ISIS in obliterating many of the world's oldest and greatest treasures lest they offend observant fellow Muslim adherents.

Now Teddy Roosevelt has been removed from the portals of the Museum of Natural History in New York. There are calls to remove memorials to Thomas Jefferson and his fellow travelers. Frances Scott Key and Ulysses S Grant have been on the receiving end of similar treatment.

This is the arc of history. We destroy what we cannot understand, what offends us, what makes us politically uncomfortable, and what reminds of who we were. There is the false hope and belief that by discarding history it can no longer oppress us or define us. We are engaged in the same kind of cultural revolution that has made China the barren wasteland of culture that it is today.

Is this really what we want?

Chris Gargan


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