I remember, in particular, a small monument across the street from my aunt's home in San Sebastian, on the Avenida de Colon, in the now posh Gros neighborhood. Erected, I think, in the 1940's, it recalled the September 13, 1939 liberation/occupation (you decide) of San Sebastian by Franco's forces under General Mola; it stood in a small square, more of a triangular space really, near the Santa Catalina bridge that spans the Urumea river. If memory serves, it was a small, rectangular plinth with some kind of bronze laurels or swords on top and a greenish plaque that read along the lines of, "In commemoration of when the Marxist chains that held down San Sebastian were broken." Every September 13, the local Movimiento types would hold a short ceremony in front of the monument; they would lay a wreath, sing the national anthem, and maybe some other nationalist ditty. With the death of El Caudillo, this monument became an issue of contention, along with the names of various streets which had been de-Basqued during the long Franco regime. It must have been in 1976 or so, can't remember exactly, when somebody took a sledgehammer to the little monument, and ripped off the swords or laurels and the plaque and threw it all in the river. The Movimiento sorts, still around and fighting a losing battle to preserve Franco's legacy, rushed out, put up a new temporary wooden plaque and laid a wreath in front of the battered plinth. The new plaque and wreath, in short order, were floating down the Urumea to the sea. The Franquistas came back, put up another temporary plaque, and this time stood guard for a couple of days. As soon as their vigilance came to an end, well, you guessed it, more debris in the river, and another couple of whacks at the plinth. This went on for some time. As far as I know, the little monument is now gone and most youngsters in San Sebastian probably don't know it ever existed. I also doubt they know what September 13 was about.
All this, at the time, struck me as odd. I understood, of course, that Franco had not been everybody's cup of tea, to say the least. His regime initially had been exceptionally brutal--so brutal, in fact, that in the 1940s, the German Nazis, yes, those Nazis, the real ones, not the ones with Tiki torches, urged Franco to ease off on the executions as he was on the verge of wiping out the skilled working class. As the years went on, however, the regime settled down to a drab almost comical routine of pomp, empty pronouncements and corruption, but one that also brought unprecedented stability and prosperity to Spain, and even allowed a relatively high degree of personal liberty: Spaniards could travel abroad freely, open businesses, own property, worship, and complain about all sorts of things. It wasn't exactly Athenian or Jeffersonian democracy, but not exactly the USSR or the DPRK, either. Watching a Franco statue being removed in Madrid, I remember asking a somewhat lefty Spanish friend of mine what he thought this would accomplish. He said, "We want no trace of that odious dictatorship." I asked him if he thought all the dams, highways, bridges, airports, housing blocs, etc., built under Franco should also be removed in the interest of erasing the dictatorship. What about all the stuff built by Spain's long-line of autocratic monarchs? He smiled sheepishly and invited me to a drink and some tapas. Conversation over.
I used to bore my Spanish friends with how in the US we didn't go around tearing down statues or trying to erase history, and that it seemed we had greater respect for history than they did. I remember, quite specifically, citing the streets named for and the statues to Confederate generals, and the Confederate-inspired state flags in the South, as a sign of our greater enlightenment. I also pointed out that the US military names weapon systems after formidable Native American opponents. I guess, if my Spaniard interlocutors remember those long-ago conversations, they are probably having themselves a laugh at my expense. Go ahead, I deserve it.
I know the story of some of those statues and Confederate-inspired state flags. A lot of them appeared well after the 1861-1865 Civil War, and many were acts of rebellion by Democrats against growing demands for racial equality and against--horrors!--the Republican Party and its support for those demands. Democrats continued to control most of the South well into the 1990s, and had been the creators of the KKK, and the foremost proponents of Jim Crow. I have stated before (June 23, 2015),
My view on the Rebel flag and other Confederate symbols is clear. I do not, never have, and never will fly or paste any Confederate symbol, flag . . . over my house, or on my vehicles, clothing, or coffee mugs, etc. I spent my professional life representing one flag, that of the USA, and have no loyalty to any other. I admire the courage and fighting spirit, as well as the tactical and strategic talents of Confederate Generals and soldiers, love reading about the Civil War and visiting battle sites such as Gettysburg and Vicksburg. I, however, am pro-Union, pro-Stars-and-Stripes, anti-slavery, pro-Lincoln, pro-Grant, pro-Sherman, pro-Frederick Douglass just about all the way. I do not share in the sympathy for and romanticism of some for the Southern cause in the, ahem, "War of Northern Aggression." Slavery was an inherited curse on our nation which we should have dispelled long before it came to war--and, yes, I do see slavery as the overriding reason for the great 1861-65 war, and, of course, as the proximate cause for the creation of the Republican Party shortly before that war. Men such as Washington and Jefferson, both slave owners, knew slavery was evil, but compromised with that "peculiar institution" to our long-standing misfortune. Great men, great flaws. I fully understand why black Americans could and would find Confederate flags and other symbols offensive.What we have going on in the United States, however, is not some movement led by offended black persons who want to remove offensive symbols put up, often, in the 1920s and 1950s. I personally know no black person who has ever told me that we should remove Confederate statues. Most, apparently, seem to agree with ex-NBA star Charles Barkley--Why doesn't he run for office?--that they have never paid any attention to those "stupid statues."
What we have is something else going on. As I hinted at in The Target is Never What it Seems, the real targets of progressive ire are not statues, rebel flags, gay marriage, bathroom signs, use of plastic bags, transgender military, gay Boy Scouts, climate change, gender neutral pronouns, etc. The real purpose of the progressives is
to create turmoil, chaos; keep society and its institutions reeling from one punch to the next. The only solution to this turmoil? Why, naturally, more progressive government and regulation.It is an assault by trivia: the tyranny of trivial pursuit. If you give in on one, you are set up and undermined for the next assault. It is the old Indian chess story of how one grain of rice on a chessboard square becomes acres and acres of rice. The assault is not just restricted to the USA and Confederate items. We see the beginning of demands to tear down statues of Columbus, Peter Stuyvesant, Captain Cook, Admiral Nelson, Cecil Rhodes, Winston Churchill, Junipero Serra, and on and on. Soon it will be demands to tear down or close symbols of ancient "white repression" such as California's Spanish missions, or Europe's castles, manor estates, and other reminders of monarchy. It seems all must be seen though the lens of our present day sensibilities; if a great person who did wonders for the welfare of humanity is revealed to have had doubts about, say, gay marriage, or did not speak up about the evils of denying women the vote, well, then that person must be expunged from our memory.
All this, of course, is aided, abetted, and furthered by Western schools and universities churning out legions of uneducated, self-entitled, emotional brutes full of grievance and hatred for their own society and civilization. These are the children of the 1960s; I shudder to think what their children will be like.
Meanwhile, of course, the jihadis continue to murder us and North Korea to develop nuclear weapons . . . but at least that statue of Robert E. Lee won't attack anybody anymore.