Statues, monuments and revisiting history

I am not very comfortable with removal of statues and monuments as seems to be a trend going on right now.

The City of Victoria voted to remove the statue of Canada's first Prime Minister, John A MacDonald on the 11th, and its stirred some serious debate since.

Before I continue, I need to stress something. By no means am I glorifying certain individuals in our history with a shady or controversial history. MacDonald himself was not an angel. 

And lets get some context here too.

Many of the monuments and statues to important people were erected within their lifetime or shortly after. For example, a good number of battlefield memorials, monuments and the like were erected shortly after the conclusion of the US Civil War. Two sides fought a bloody war over slavery (or the "state's rights" to maintain the grotesque institution). Hundreds of thousands of men on both sides were drafted into a war and never came home to enjoy the years of peace afterwards; they're owed a final and peaceful resting place for all time so that nobody should forget what painful experience nation building looks like.

What wasn't legitimate was in the 1960's, in the height of the civil rights era, several former Confederate, southern US states begun a spate of building of more of these monuments to fallen Confederate Generals, etc. In that context, the statues and monuments weren't to honour anyone, they were a giant brass and concrete middle finger to Dr King and the civil rights movement he was murdered defending.

The initial building of our monuments mark important milestones in our nations' history. Its not so much a whitewashing of the legacy enshrined in such a monument, its perhaps that the dark side of said person wasn't well known. More accurately, I believe, that the person immortalized in cement was a product of their day. There is no way that John MacDonald could get away in today's politics with the unabashedly racist politics he engaged in; but that was where the nation was at (at the time).

We learn. We grow. We change.

The right approach would be to retool the plaques and offer the necessary historical context, and unvarnished look at the totality of the person. Or perhaps, erect counter-balancing monuments that tell the other side of the story as well. Canada is a complex nation and our journey to this day hasn't been easy.

What I see however, in removing a statue (etc) reminds me of this.

Canada isn't a perfect nation. Our leadership over the generation did some terrible things..and some good things. We deserve to know all of our history, regardless of the stains on the pages.

My 2 bits


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