When it comes to removing any statue there must be some balance between the judgement motives and action and accomplishments of the subject and any negative reaction based upon today’s standards alone.
The Egyptian God Anubis, guarding the afterlife, weighed the heart of a person against the feather of Ma’at, the goddess of truth, which was depicted as an ostrich feather to determine whether a soul would be allowed to enter the realm of the dead. You entered if your heart was lighter than the feather.
Recently, Victoria BC, removed a statue of Canada’s first Prime Minister and founding father, Sir John A. McDonald. The excuse was McDonald’s part in the creation of the Residential School System which eventually became the source of suffering and pain to the indigenous children who attended.
The system had its origins pre-Confederation but was formalized by Sir John A McDonald’s government in the Indian Act of 1876 and amended in 1884. The purpose was to help provide practical education and assimilation into Canadian society. The intentions were good. The execution by the Catholic Church and others who controlled the schools was horrific. It was not done by Sir John A. with malicious intent.
Sir John A McDonald was Canada’s foremost founding father. He was the first Prime Minister. He had a vision of Canada stretching from sea to sea. He built the railroad and made Canada a reality. If not for him it is unlikely that BC, and much of the West would Canadian.
When you balance Sir John A’s accomplishments against his transgressions he more than passes the test.
The people of Victoria should be kissing the feet of McDonald’s’s statue. They should thank him and God that they are not part of the United States. There would be no universal healthcare, no sane gun laws, and dysfunctional political chaos.
Victoria. Get with the program and be proud and grateful for John A. McDonald and Canada
Tattoos, and Statues have always been permanent reminders of temporary feelings. A statue however is slightly easier to remove. As a symbol, statues have themselves become a much larger issue. What do we do about our troubling history? How do we judge yesterday’s conduct by today’s standards? What is the purpose and effect of what we include or exclude in the telling of the story of humanity?
A professor of mine, the great historian Gabriel Kolko, taught me that history was perception. Winston Churchill famously said that he was sure that history would treat him kindly because he planned to write it himself. As a general rule, history is written by the winners.
In the United States the issue of statues and symbols, especially relating to the American Civil War, have become a divisive issue. It took until the 21st century for the Confederate flag to be removed from state capitals. Disputes have erupted over the removal of statues of southern Civil War leaders and Generals. These statues and symbols represent the defense of slavery. This was an evil so great that it is understandable that it would be offensive.
There are those who argue that to remove these statues is to deny history. There is no shortage of written materials, records and other reminders of history. There are museums where these statues can join the other mementos of the best and worst humankind.
Statues of the losers and tyrants are symbolically torn down to mark their fall. There are no public statues of Adolf Hitler in Germany, Stalin in Russia, Saddam, Gaddafi, Idi Amin, and a legion of other tyrants and losers in the progress of humanity.
Truth like water find its own level. Statues rise and fall with the march of history and the values and sensitivities of the people who raise and live with them.