Claim that statues preserve history ignores history

Maine’s governor says the effort by communities to remove Confederate monuments is like taking down a 9/11 memorial.

“Whether we like it or not this is what our history is and to me it’s just like going to New York City right now and taking down the monument of those who perished in 9/11,” Paul LePage said. “It will come to that.”

Will it? How?

A better analogy would be if people went to New York and took down the monument to the men who flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

There is, of course, one problem with that: There aren’t any. It would be hideously inappropriate if there were.

But, like Robert E. Lee, they’re our “history” too and, according to LePage this is how we learn history.

“I think what they are standing for is equally as bad, they are trying to erase history,” LePage tells the Portland Press Herald. “How can future generations learn if we are going to erase history?”

Books? History class? A visit to the Gettysburg battlefield? Pretty much the way most people have always learned history.

And future generations won’t need a statue of Mohamed Atta, or Marwan al-Shehhi, or Hani Hanjour, or Ziad Jarrah to learn about 9/11.

In other news, Green Bay, Wis., is taking down its 9/11 Memorial.

It seems it was cheaply built and contained factual errors.

  • MrE85

    So, just how many Confederate monuments are being removed in Maine?

    • And if taking one down erases history, does that mean the South won?

      Does it mean there wasn’t a civil war?

      If so, how does that explain this one, one of the few statutes/monuments that actually DOES teach history?
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b0135d05867fd0c7c3e9b1ba24af5acad28efe1082882610f19c32bbf7cb7f92.jpg

      • MrE85

        I have only been to Boston once, to staff a medical convention. I made only two side trips. One, to see Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment in bronze, second, to eat at Legal Seafood.

    • RBHolb

      Maybe, for the sake of fairness and balance, he would agree to take down any memorials to the 20th Volunteer Infantry.

      Or some of the other dozens of Civil War memorials that seem to blanket the state.

      • king harvest

        False equivalence.

  • Jerry

    Paul LePage is also a man who would have fought for the Confederacy if he had the chance.

    • MrE85

      Even the Confederacy rejected recruits thought to be “mentally feeble.”

      • Jerry

        Nice

  • Matt Black

    This seems like such a uniquely American idea: That a group of people who led an armed rebellion against the Federal Government would be honored with statutes and that the government wouldn’t step in to destroy them. Had we lost the War of Independence, I can’t imagine that colonies would have been able to keep status of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, or any other person who actively supported the war.

    I have to say, I really don’t get it. The statues honor those who tried to break the country apart. There’s no part of history that is being erased. The books still hold information, letters written at the time by participants, newspapers from the era: all these contain the history of what happened.

    • KariBemidji

      I had this same argument with a friend yesterday and finally had to walk away. Yes, we can teach and learn history without those statues.

      • I’d ask him if he has a library card and if so, what was the last book on the Civil War that he read and what revelation did he find therein.

        • theoacme

          I’d suggest “Master of War”, by Benson Bobrick, for that friend…shucks, I’d recommend it to everybody who doesn’t hate Bruce Catton…

          …comparing Robert E. Lee with his fellow Virginian, George Henry Thomas, is quite illuminating…

    • Nicholas Kraemer

      There is a statue of George Washington in London.

    • AL287

      Let’s hope we don’t erect any statues of Donald Trump. It is bad enough that his portrait will hang in the White House.

      • Rob

        Thanks for that uplifting reminder.

  • Postal Customer

    Other countries have had civil wars.

    Serious question: do any of them have statues for the losers?

    • Jerry

      I have to think Spain and England do

      • MrE85

        You’re right. In addition to the Chuck 1 statue I mentioned earlier, there is a statue of Manuel Azaña in Madrid. He was on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War. And yes, Generalissimo Franco is still dead.

        • JustAnother70sName

          But his mountain sized grave still exists.

      • Postal Customer

        I was thinking of Spain but in 30 sec of googling I couldn’t find a military personnel analogy to Robert E Lee during the Spanish civil war.

        • MrE85

          In most civil wars, the losing military commander either dies in battle, or shortly soon after. We were remarkable generous to Lee. We were also weary of bloodshed.

          • Jerry

            It helped that he was a remarkably gracious loser. Jefferson Davis and some of the other leaders of the confederacy, not so much.

          • RBHolb

            I don’t know if Lee was so gracious. I have heard he was very bitter about his defeat. On the other hand, he had the class to keep his mouth shut about it in public.

            D.W. Griffith’s biopic of Lincoln spends an awful lot of time on a scene of Confederates urging General Lee to keep fighting, with Lee replying sadly that no, they have lost.

          • Sam M

            This has me thinking…. Did Lee fight out of duty or a belief? I seem to remember certain documentaries focusing on duty. It doesn’t matter either way in this argument but might change how a person were to view him in history.

          • RBHolb

            A misplaced sense of duty. It’s part of Lee’s legend that he was offered the command of the Union Army, but turned it down out of loyalty to Virginia.

            The legend should go on to note that Lee was offered the command on the recommendation of his former superior Winfield Scott. Scott was the actual commander of such Union Army as there was, but thought (probably correctly) that he was too old and out-of-shape to be an effective wartime commander. Scott was also a loyal Virginian, but concluded that his duty to the United States superseded his duty to Virginia.

            General Scott was also ultimately shown to be right about the strategy needed to win the war. If he had been listened to earlier, the war may not have been as drawn-out as it was.

    • MrE85

      There’s a statue of Charles I in Charing Cross in London. He was a civil war loser.

    • kevins

      Napoleon?

      • Wasn’t he post-Revolution?

      • JustAnother70sName

        Napoleon was only a problem for legitimist royal supports of the Bourbon line. Republicans (supports of the various republics) never had a complete problem with him.

    • Jay T. Berken

      Statues of Saints.

    • “Serious question: do any of [other countries with civil wars] have statues for the losers?”

      Japan does. But, it’s a bit complicated. In a nut shell:

      Saigo Takamori was the imperial general who defeated the Shogun’s army in the Boshin War (1868-1869) which resulted in the defeat of the Tokugawa regime and the restoration of the Emperor and imperial government control in Japan after 250 years of isolation.

      But Saigo, in 1877, would turn against the very same emperor he had previously championed. Because, among the many modernizations that occurred during the reign of Meiji, the samurai class was completely eliminated, including loss of the samurai “rice stipend” … and Saigo was a samurai by birth and rank. Saigo, reluctantly (much like Robert E. Lee, one might suppose), agreed to lead a rebellion against the imperial government.

      He was defeated after a nine-month civil war.

      From the wiki: “Multiple legends sprang up concerning Saigō, many of which denied his death. Many people in Japan expected him to return from British Raj India or Qing-dynasty China or to sail back with Tsesarevich Alexander of Russia to overthrow injustice. It was even recorded that his image appeared in a comet near the close of the 19th century, an ill omen to his enemies.

      “Unable to overcome the affection that the people had for this paragon of traditional samurai virtues, the Meiji Era government pardoned him posthumously on February 22, 1889.”

      Saigo was a folk hero; very popular among the common people; more because of his role in restoring the emperor to power, and the nobility he embodied, than for the rebellion that followed. A statue of Saigo was erected in Ueno Park in 1898, where it still stands today. The Meiji government, even though it had pardoned Saigo for his rebellion, insisted that, to the great displeasure of Saigo’s widow and family, the statue be cast of him dressed in civilian garb; not a military uniform.

      So, you can still see Saigo today, walking his dog, garbed in a yukata – something Japanese men wear casually after a hot bath or outdoors drinking beer on a warm summer evening.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0be06bb37da32ce9790dc22e849229a968406a78d4a4ed2f73b53866e713eb5d.jpg

  • jon

    Wonder what these folks thought when they saw the video of them toppling the statue of saddam hussein… probably “those poor people losing their history.”

  • Jerry

    The real problem isn’t the monuments, is that apparently the war isn’t actually over.

  • Sam M

    The statues were put up as middle fingers and and many of the people that want to keep them up want to wave that same middle finger. No one is erasing history because we have plenty of other reminders of that awful history.

  • Gary F

    When do we stop? When do we start burning books?

    Who makes that call?

    • Sam M

      The elected officials of the municipality that owns it.

      It’s not that complicated. If it is that near and dear it would have been put on a preservation list.

    • jon
      • DavidG

        “Burning Degeneracy” that’s not even subtle.

      • Wow – they really ARE taking that whole “Nazi” thing to heart

    • Dan

      That’s a weird response to a post that suggests books are the right place to learn about the history of the Confederacy, rather than statues intended to celebrate it.

    • Gary, that’s the last comment I’m going to approve today. It’s the same one over and over again and it’s a monumentally (no pun intended) stupid question that’s been answered numerous times.

      If you want to go burn a book, go burn a book. Nobody’s stopping you. Nobody’s stopping anybody except the law.

      That law isn’t going to change because Congress and the president are wholly incapable of passing any legislation, let alone that which would be struck down as unconstitutional.

      But you know all that. It’s just that you watched Hannity last night and you feel duty bound to repeat his blathering nonsense.

      So stop.

    • MikeB

      Removing white supremacy symbols = burning books.

      There are many, many people who see the difference.

    • Rob

      I made a nice little bonfire yesterday that had several of Hannity’s books on it, as well as The Art of The Deal and Mein Kampf.

      • I’m shocked now to learn Hannity has actually published books. Who did the writing part for him?

        • RBHolb

          A roomful of chimpanzees, banging on typewriters.

          • >>A roomful of chimpanzees, banging on typewriters.
            <<

            You do those great apes a disservice.

        • You can self-publish. Pretty much anyone can do that and claim their works have been “published.”

          • It’s less the publishing part I wondered about than actually writing out words.

          • Jerry

            You know that trick on the iPhone where you can make it type up a phrase just by tapping the suggested words over and over again? Maybe that’s how.

    • Ralphy

      Nobody, except those trying to reframe the issue, are talking about burning books or tearing down the Washington Monument.
      The issue is statues and memorials that were ostensibly put up to commemorate “heroes” of a treasonous uprising. An uprising that was based in slavery, shrouded in “state’s rights”. Erected in such a manner and such a time to offend and intimidate the survivors and descendants of slavery.
      A statue celebrating the military leader of a treasonous army fighting for slavery – erected in Emancipation Park, for God’s sake, nearly 60 years after the war. These memorials are nothing more than a not so subtle message; “We may have lost the war, but We are still your master.”
      Jim Crow is indeed alive and well, and is in every state in the country.

    • crystals

      Monuments are out in public view. You don’t really have a choice whether or not to look at it. It is there, publicly displayed in your community, every hour of every day.

      The fun thing about books is that they live on shelves, in schools and houses and libraries. People don’t have to look at books in their community that they don’t want to.

      These two things are not the same.

  • crystals

    There is a Confederate monument in the town where I used to live in rural North Carolina. The inscription on it says “Glory to their Cause.” I would love for someone defending these monuments as important markers of history to tell me if they think it would be appropriate for a Nazi statue to be up in Germany with the words “Glory to their Cause.” I would love for someone defending these monuments as not having a huge impact on people today to tell me what messages they think “Glory to their Cause” sends to the 60% of residents in this town who are black, and what it also sends to the nearly 40% who are white.

    Finally, as someone who loves and also used to live in Maine, Paul LePage cannot be out of office soon enough.

    • Al

      I think many defending these monuments prioritize their own feelings/desires over what message it sends to black residents.

      • Laurie K.

        I would agree. I had a discussion a couple of days ago with a friend who feels that taking the monuments down is a denial of our history and also ruining beautiful works of art. We agreed to disagree on this issue, but I was astounded. My friend is the step-mother to three children of color and yet her inability to see that these “works of art” send a powerful message to an entire race, including her own step children seemed lost in her conviction that we must preserve history and “art”.

        • >>I had a discussion a couple of days ago with a friend who feels that taking the monuments down is a denial of our history and also ruining beautiful works of art.<<

          Funny, Germany doesn't have too many Nazi monuments floating around (as in ZERO), and yet they don't deny that shameful part of their history.

          • I’ll bet she could get the art at a good price right now. There’s nothing preventing her or anyone else from buying and displaying it.

          • Or she can just take the family to a museum. I hear many of them are free.

          • Laurie K.

            Which was part of my argument for the removal of the statues on public property – if they were such great works of art, privately funded museums would be lining up to take them.

          • seedhub

            The vast majority of those “works of art” were manufactured by the dozen in Yankee factories and sold to the South.

          • Ralphy

            Perhaps Mr Trump should buy up all these symbols and display them in the lobbies of his hotels and on his golf courses.

          • Ralphy

            Germany has not scrubbed the tombstones or church plaques for those killed in WW2. They serve as a silent reminder of the horrors and catastrophic consequences of the Third Reich.

          • JustAnother70sName

            Oh brother, what a cop out. Having served in the army and Germany, and having lived there, honoring soldiers quietly in cemeteries is one thing, having monuments, most of them erected AFTER the agitprop Birth of a Nation resurrected the KKK for a new generation, to treason and the military support of slavery is quite another thing. And, if ypu look closely, few such graves even denote members of the Waffen SS, the so called military arm of the organization that ran the extermination camps.

          • Ralphy

            You lost me with the cop out comment.
            I think you are articulating the very point I was trying to make.
            If you read my earlier reply to Gary F, you may well better understand my position.

          • QuietBlue

            It’s definitely a strong contrast with the Yasukuni Shrine in Japan.

          • JustAnother70sName

            The japanese still havent come to terms with WWII and what they did, and still see themselves as victims like every other country.

      • crystals

        …and in my experience, some will say at the same time that they aren’t racist and/or that color doesn’t matter to them/their kids/etc. Worth noting that there is an active KKK chapter in this community (they are listed in the phone book), so there are also those who still are brazenly, unabashedly, out and proud about what they believe.

        I think a lot about all that I didn’t do when I was living there, and what I’d be doing now if I still did.

  • Rob

    Paul LePage is just Drumpf spelled with different letters, and he is just as incompetent to speak on the issue as Drumpf is.

  • Justin McKinney

    I keep having this same ridiculous argument with people too. There’s now a thing circulating on the internet that claims that some public law made all Confederate soldiers veterans of the U.S. armed forces in 1958, so that means if we take down a statue, we’re committing a felony. I looked up the actual law, and it says nothing of the sort, at least from what I can tell. But I bet it gets used as a justification for keeping the statues and memorials a lot in the near future.

    http://uscode.house.gov/statutes/pl/85/425.pdf

  • Veronica

    Let’s put this into context: The vast majority of these statues were put up in the 20th century specifically as racist statements. They were put into public areas as a way to intimidate anyone who dared speak out against Jim Crow. Many of them have vile imagery that in no way reflects the truth: That a war was fought and lost by people who wanted to keep people as property. They are not statues put up for historical reasons, they were put up to threaten black citizens.

    This letter from descendants of Stonewall Jackson is a must-read. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/08/stonewall_jackson_s_grandsons_the_monuments_must_go.html

  • gus

    We have a president who has no knowledge and little interest in history, yet he makes sweeping comments based on prejudice and ignorance. But this is how much of the country functions, so he has his supporters, like this governor, which is all he cares about. We live in a perilous time.

  • Jeff C.

    I think the even better analogy would be if the friends and supporters of Timothy McVeigh put up a statue of him and then protestors wanted to take it down. Like the Confederate troops and leaders, he was an American — one of “us”. Both attacked the U.S. government. Both lost their fight. If there was a Timothy McVeigh monument, would there be a big debate about whether it should come down? Would anyone suggest we are erasing history by taking it down? Of course not! That’s stupid and everyone knows that. Why then do people make that stupid argument for taking down Confederate monuments?

    • The answer is because they’re engaged in a dishonest argument. They don’t care about history. They want their beliefs validated. But they can’t say that.

    • Laurie K.

      As I stated previously, I had a discussion with a friend on the issue of Confederate monuments and knowing how her mind works, her argument would be that of course we wouldn’t allow a statue of a criminal on public grounds and that would be the difference between a statue of General Lee vs. one of McVeigh. However, as Bob stated, it is still a dishonest argument that shows that their position is in no way supported by their argument that it is to “preserve history”.

      • Jeff C.

        But they WERE criminals.

        The US Constitution defines treason as levying war against the government and aiding and abetting its enemies. By that definition, every Confederate soldier in the Civil War—as well as every political leader—was a traitor.

        But no one was executed for treason, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis was not even tried for the crime.

        President Lincoln himself in 1863 identified a list of top Confederate
        generals that included such iconic figures as Robert E. Lee and Joseph
        E. Johnston who deserved to be imprisoned for treason. Hundreds of citizens in the Northern states were arrested by the military and local authorities for supposedly disloyal acts ranging from cheering for Jefferson Davis to aiding Union army deserters. While many cases of alleged disloyalty among civilians resulted in punishment, none ended with execution. Confederate soldiers of all ranks were generally paroled and faced no formal charges of treason.

        source: http://news.psu.edu/story/319621/2014/06/30/research/historian-explores-how-civil-war-northerners-reconciled-treason

        • Laurie K.

          Good to know. I did not realize this!

          • Jeff C.

            That’s why the Newscut comment section is the best comment section on the Web – they are valuable! 🙂

  • Patrick Cunningham

    Libertarian constitutional types become suspiciously absent when the left seeks platforms of free speech.

  • lindblomeagles

    The biggest thing Le Page, Trump, the Nazis, and Confederate sympathizers don’t understand is America has a vast array of historical accomplishments, and the totality of the Civil War, NOT Confederate Officers such as Robert E. Lee, is one of them. Think for a minute people. What did the Civil War accomplish? It freed the slaves. President Abraham Lincoln, in particular, freed the slaves. Union General Ulysses S. Grant freed the slaves. If we are to preserve history the way Le Page and Trump argue it should be preserved, Lincoln, Grant, and freed African slave monuments should be built IN EVERY AMERICAN CITY. BUT THEY AREN’T because when it comes to American Race Relations, segments of our population STILL want to remind Black folks that whites can do anything to them whenever whites want to. That’s the true meaning of these Confederate Monuments. The HISTORICAL OUTCOME of the Civil War, which was a great worldwide achievement is, actually, IRRELEVANT to people like Trump and Le Page.

  • D.Robot

    Equating Lee with terrorists doesn’t really seem appropriate. I’d suggest that two large groups of people on both sides of the issue ignore or simplify history by making Lee a symbol of the war and/or confederacy. The truth as I understand it was that he was a competent military man who was more a patriot of VA than either the union or confederacy.

    • It’s somewhat hyperbolic meant to show the ludicrous nature of comparing Confederates with innocent victims of 9/11.

      The entire history discussion wrt statues is a dishonest one anyway. That’s only an issue for people who don’t want to reveal their real issue .