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Culture

Toppling Statues Could Topple America as We Know It

If we can't even acknowledge our shared history, we're in very deep trouble.

Harold Hutchison · Jun. 30, 2020

The sight of statues being toppled by mobs of rioters has angered many Patriots, and for good reason. The decision about whether a statue stays or goes should be made by those who own the property on which the statue stands. It’s basic decency, not to mention a basic tenet of Rule of Law. But the issue goes beyond the fact that these mobs are tearing down statues that aren’t theirs to tear down. They’re also tearing down our nation’s history, both good and bad, glorious and flawed.

We’re the first to admit that America has not always lived up to its ideals as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the other amendments added over the years. In fact, some of those amendments — notably the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, and 26th — were enacted to address earlier injustices.

But these days, there’s less focus on the progress we’ve made toward the ideals set forth by the Founding Fathers and more on their flaws. Then again, the Founding Fathers were human. The same can be said for others who’ve made their mark on our nation for good or ill, from early figures like Andrew Jackson to contemporary ones like Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. That includes those whose lives and actions are now seen by many as controversial and even repellent (John C. Calhoun and Woodrow Wilson come to mind). The fact is, much of what we study teaches us what not to do.

The demands for statue removal (and eventual toppling) began with Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee. While he fought against the Union Army and therefore arguably against the abolition of slavery (a practice he personally abhorred), he also played a crucial role in the long process of reconciliation in what is still, far and away, America’s most costly war. The alternative to Lee’s pursuit of reconciliation would have been decades of guerrilla war in the South — and the grudges, hatred, and casualties that come with it.

But the desire to remove Lee’s statue was a canary in the coal mine. As President Trump predicted in 2017, the radical Left’s mobs wouldn’t stop there. Back then, he was ridiculed; today, he has been proven correct.

These days, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington are on certain lists for statue removal and historical expungement. And these are the Founding Fathers, the men who won this country’s independence and established its Constitution. Even presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Ulysses S. Grant, who commanded the victorious Union Army, have been targeted. But that is an incomplete list. We don’t know who the Left will seek to cancel next, but we do know that this is not an encouraging trend. Destroying history means dooming a people to repeat it.

In any case, these unlawful actions must stop before any sort of discussion can be had on the merits of one statue or another. If a statue is to be removed from a public space, that decision is to be made with the will of the people, not the might of the mob.

There is no guarantee that today’s lawlessness will stop with the statues. And if the authorities don’t stand up to the lawlessness, others may take matters into their own hands. In a very real sense, what started with toppled statues may end up tearing apart the very fabric of our United States. If we can’t even acknowledge our shared history, we can’t be certain about what kind of nation will emerge at the other end of this struggle.

With Americans already lacking trust and unity, an uncertain prognosis could become even more so.

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