Featured Post

The Right of National Defense

Writing this post on Memorial Day, my thoughts, of course, turned to those who fought and died to preserve our country. My thoughts also tur...

Friday, August 25, 2017

Statute of Limitations on Statues?

I was in Spain during the tumult following the death in 1975 of long-time dictator Francisco Franco. One of the things that struck me during those unsettled early years of the transition from dictatorship to democracy was the Spanish passion for tearing down statues and renaming the hundreds of streets and plazas that bore the name of Franco or of some other now politically incorrect former dignitary.  As an American, I found it curious and hypocritical (more below).

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.

31 comments:

  1. Well said. Keep this up and you may break through to double digits in readership. ;) All the best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Start a campaign: double digits by 2020!

      Delete
  2. Thank you, Dip. Very well said. And it needs saying -- not that the people who need to read it will do so. But you tried, and that's what we all have to do.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A lot of those statues, it is my understanding, were put up as the Confederate veterans were dying off. That was about 1910 or so. Before Woodrow Wilson resegregated the US Civil Service.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Excellent, very well said. Yes, it is about control. George Orwell: " Those who control the present, control the past, and those who control the past control the future."
    Swedish lady

    ReplyDelete
  5. A couple of weeks ago, a socialist mayor had a Franco cross torn down. Down it came, broke into large pieces, striking the mayor and seriously injuring her.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I wonder how the Czechs have handled the statue problem, with their long and complicated history. They seem to be such a wise and sophisticated group of people. Does anyone know?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Years ago we had a guided tour in Brussels. Our guide said, quite unselfconsciously, "In our golden age under the Dukes of Burgundy ....". I wonder what the Czechs consider their golden age.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Very well said, and I fully agree. Sadly, we have few statesmen among us; many blowhards, lots of hot air, but no wisdom.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I don't comment here often, because I only think I answer the really stupid or the people who are technically wrong about that which they know nothing. I have been following the Diplomad since the days he posted that the answer to global warming was for everybody to open all their windows and turn up their air conditioners. I have seldom commented because Mr. Amselem is very wise and very perceptive. (by the way, my job at that time was to design and install atmosphere monitoring stations for the government, and I was flabbergasted that a diplomat understood the AGW problem).

    On todays post, Bravo Mr. Amselem

    ReplyDelete
  10. When it comes to Confederate statues that were erected in the South during the '50s and '60s as a way for the Jim Crow locals to give the finger to the civil rights movement and Washington, I have no particular problem with their removal.

    In the city where I live, there's a Forrest Street -- named after Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, part of a series of streets named after both Union and Confederate generals -- and a movement to rename it. Since Forrest was a) a KKK member of some note after the Civil War and b) most of the length of the street runs through a black neighborhood, I don't see why the street's name shouldn't be changed. (I do have problem with renaming the street named for the largely rehabilitated Robert E. Lee, though.)

    However, the statue hysteria that's the cause of the hour has less to do with the individual merits of the statues and streets than with the Left's drive to impose its fantasies of reality on everyone. It's almost as though they think "1984" is a documentary in which they play the role of the Party, erasing and rewriting history to reflect their own obsessions.

    As someone recently wrote, every car needs a rear-view mirror, and every society needs to be able to see where it came from, the better to understand where it's going.

    Ideally, for those so inclined, the statues of Confederates and explorers and politicians and missionaries ought to provide "teachable moments" for those who dissent from their accomplishments, giving them the opportunity to explain why those being memorialized don't deserve such an honor. Instead, the dissenters are simply hell-bent on crushing those who dissent from their dissent.

    Orwell's boot on the head...they seem to like that image.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Perhaps we should ban (Constitutional amendment?) all statuary, namings, literature, artwork, etc. commemorating any historical event or person? All such nostalgic nonsense can be replaced with random words or images generated by politically-correct computers. United States of Alphabet anyone?

    ReplyDelete
  12. A bust of JFK has been vandalised in London. I do object to the vandalisation of other people's property.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Since a fair election hasn't made the point, that leaves the simple solution: You're going to have to kill them. ALL of them. These little fascists have no clue how close they are to all dying. And when it starts? Turning it off won't be an easy thing

    ReplyDelete
  14. The Left ( in general) has several targets in pushing groups to agitate for the erasure of reminders of the Confederacy.

    1. States Rights as cause of the war. By removing remembrances of the Confederacy, they also start the erasure of the idea that there was anything respectable or honorable in Confederacy by distilling its' causes down to the question of slavery. The chief goal of this is to discredit the idea that state's rights were a major (and honorable) cause of the war. The idea that state's rights was a concept worth fighting and dieing for is an idea the left badly wants to kill to further consolidate their control.

    2. General intimidation of the populace. The militancy of the so-called 'anti-fa' (whose tactics, ironically, bare a striking resemblance to the Brownshirts of the 1920s) and Black Lives Matter, give the Left a standing force that can be used to intimidate regular people from voicing their opinions, forcing a Leftist friendly consensus int he resulting vacuum as nobody is speaking against them.

    3. Tarring and Feathering Conservative Groups. Conservatives generally believe in the 1st Amendment and could be expected to try to defend the statues even when they don't believe in what they stand for. This would allow the Left to tar them as racist, secessionist, and potentially planning a new civil war.

    4. Republican Party unity. As mentioned in 3, Conservatives will defend speech even when they disagree with it, while GOPe types will consider sacrificing this as cutting losses and not worth the potential price of fighting the battle. This will exacerbate the fissures int eh Republican party. You can see this happening already with the widespread bashing of Trump and defenses of him. The GOPe capitulation will also serve to alienate those in the South who serve as a solid core of support and weaken the support of the 'Reagan Democrats' from the South who support Trump and tend to be more patriotic to both their country and their states.

    5. Coordination and unity on the right in general. By using a "Unite the Right" rally as a pretext for bringing together white supremacists and neo-nazis, the Left can leverage this to tar and future efforts to unite the various factions of the Right as supporting white supremacists and neo-nazis, preventing efforts at unity in the future. The primary organizer of the Charlottesville rally was a member of Occupy Wall Street until last November. As time goes on, this seems less coincidental.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ironically, those progs in California who want to leave to union must believe in states' rights ...

      Delete
    2. In addition to removing monuments and statues of Confederates as well as anyone associated with them in that era, said removal also allows removal of visible reminders of Democrat Party history. Sanitize your own history and you become justified and blameless to the younger uninformed. Textbook early stage communism.

      Delete
  15. Up here in Canada the movement to discredit our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, has in the past couple of weeks emerged from the fever swamps and taken over national conversation.

    I have at the same time given up and lost all spirit of charity. Probably give up will prevail, but any downturn in the left's fortunes will be met with no sympathy from me.

    ReplyDelete
  16. There is at least one key difference between tearing down Franco's statues and tearing down the various Confederate memorial statues.

    The Franco statues, just like the Lenin, Stalin, Hitler etc statues, were imposed "top down" by dictators while they were in power. To tear these statues down down when the dictatorships that imposed them finally end is a celebration of freedom from state-imposed oppression.

    The Confederate statues, in contrast, were voluntarily erected after the fact as it were, from the "bottom up" with contributions voluntarily given. They were memorials to men who risked their lives for a lost cause, not symbols of existing dictatorships and were allowed to stand in peace for over 100 years in peace with no one worrying about them.

    The current move to remove them is a form of cultural cleansing that is reminiscent of the Taliban, ISIS, Hitler and Stalin, all of whom erased cultural monuments which did not fit into the tyrannical world view which these dictators sought to impose wherever they could.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An illuminating point because the leftist rejoinder would be that the offending statues were erected by white Southerners -- who were no better than an occupying army, oppressing the African-American population, who had been legally freed but then returned to a state no better than slavery by Jim Crow laws, legal disenfranchisement and the terror of the KKK.

      The ‘woke’ son of an acquaintance, admonished last week that blasting the Confederate carving off the side of Stone Mountain would not feed a single hungry child, responded that such was not the point. The point, he said, was the state of spiritual ‘oppression’ that the very existence of the carving imposed on African-Americans. (Being ‘woke,’ he is capable of discerning the inmost feelings of large groups of people, most of whom he has never met.)

      Delete
  17. I only think I answer the really stupid or the people who are technically wrong about that which they know nothing. I have been following the Diplomad since the days he posted that the answer to global warming was for everybody to open all their windows and turn up their air conditioners.

    หนังเกาหลีใหม่

    ReplyDelete
  18. Long-lasting memories of more interesting, if naive times... First "Liberty Call" in Spain, Palma, Mallorca. The muses, bless them, arranged an invite to Faye Emerson's House Party, it was well attended by the hoi poloi and eccentric but beautiful women galore! Following the soiree, at crack of dawn, a few of us all-night revelers were invited aboard Nora Dockers yacht, of course I didn't know who she was either, nor was I able to make it aboard, as my presence was required, that beautiful morning, aboard another leaky boat! Aided by a friendly local I was able to hail a cab. It was driven by one the ugliest human beings I ever encountered that early in the morning, from beauties to the beast! The Senor agreed to get me back to my boat, but we didn't settle on a price at that time... Off we went on what was beginning to feel like a Circle Line excursion around Manhattan. I kept staring at his Licence, photo, and Name displayed on the back of the Drivers seat. Jorge Santos etc. I vaguely remembered the Chief of the Boat cautioning the Liberty section on a Taxicab scam where the cab drivers were ripping off sailors so regularly that Generalissimo Franco himself had issued orders that any cabbie that got caught doing the deed to American Sailors, were going direct to the dungeon! Of course the ugly one, tried to gouge me good! Well, at only until I mentioned the name of my good friend Gen. Franco! His head snapped around on a swivel and he turned sheet white! My meestake sir, I am so sorry, please accept my aplogees this ride is free! In almost perfect border-English no less, he even attempted a sheepish smile, which made the SOB look even more sinister! I said okay then, stepped out of the cab and he blasted off in a cloud of dust! That day I began to understand more fully how dictators are able to gain genuine compliance from thugs and thieves!

    P.S. with a brief closing reference to this latest assault on the Confederates: I'm glad to say, I bought one of those Johnny Reb license plates w/stars and bars on my first drive down into the Deep South. It musta been the chicory in the coffee that made me do it-- FORGET, HELL!
    On Watch~~~
    "Let's Roll"

    ReplyDelete
  19. This isn't about statues. It's about erasing 200 years of Democrat history.
    They have done a really good job up till now but, they need the final denouement...
    I am not a minority and I don't live in the south but the tell is NYC putting Columbus and Grant on the chopping block.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Joe Stalin was good at airbrushing history.

    His modern day acolytes have learned well.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Diplo- I tell my pupils that, in the Spanish Civil War, the bad guys won, but the worse guys lost. Deferring to your expertise, is that a fair assessment?


    ReplyDelete
  22. And the obligatory:

    Is Franco still dead?

    ReplyDelete