Seattle’s statue of Washington destroyed; statue of Lenin untouched

21 June 2020

3.3 MINS

If you wanted any more evidence as to the decay of Western civilisation, then you need only to consider the following example reported by The Daily Wire. As you can see below, in the American city of Seattle, the statue of George Washington has recently been pulled down by rioters and desecrated, whereas the statue of Lenin remains untouched.

Like me, you might be shocked and more than a little surprised that there is even a statue of Lenin in Seattle. I had to Google it myself just in case it was fake news. But sure enough, it is there. Even more significant, though, was this explanation as to the monument’s history:

The statue was constructed by Bulgarian sculptor Emil Venkov (1937–2017) under a 1981 commission from the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. While following the bounds of his commission, Venkov intended to portray Lenin as a bringer of revolution, in contrast to the traditional portrayals of Lenin as a philosopher and educator. Venkov intended the statue to function as a critique of communist oppression and depict Lenin as a violent man, with abstract rifles and flames on the statue, in contrast to the traditional depiction of Lenin holding a book.

How ironic! Lenin’s Marxism was responsible for the death of untold millions. The first President of the United States, though, established one of the greatest democracies the world has ever known. The first produced violence and bloody revolution, the latter political and social freedom.

As if that wasn’t crazy enough, looters and rioters have also torn down a statue of Ulysses S. Grant, who defeated the Confederacy and battled against the KKK. But such is the historical ignorance of the modern mob.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with exactly what progressives are thinking. But thankfully we always have the internet to remind us of what they have previously said. For example, over the weekend, Julia Baird wrote an article in The Sydney Morning Herald with the title, “The toppling of statues is enriching not erasing history and it has thrilled my heart”. The heart of her argument for cultural iconoclasm was as follows:

One of the more perplexing arguments made in recent days is that toppling, relocating or removing old statues amounts to the erasure of history. It is in fact the very opposite: it is history. To seek a fuller understanding of the past is not wrecking, but restoring, salvaging and deepening history.

History is not just a set of facts but a series of questions, a mode of inquiry that seeks to comprehend and put flesh on dates, events and places, to understand and include all possible perspectives, all while knowing that, until about 50 years ago, history was almost solely written by white men, about white men.

But the thing that undermines her woke thesis is that it is completely opposite to what Baird herself had written in 2017 for The Sydney Morning Herald. Commenting on the historical value of the statue of Queen Victoria — of whom Baird published a full-length biography — currently residing outside Sydney’s town hall, Baird wrote:

We don’t need to scramble to pull all flawed figures from our past – for surely few could ever remain…

I don’t like tearing old things down, even those that remind us of our shortcomings. I’d rather put up new statues, or even be creative with street art that often reimagines pedestrian ugliness – like turning bollards into bollart. I’d like to see more memorials of women who aren’t queens, and of previously invisible Indigenous leaders.

One important thing to note is that it is never historians who panic about all this. Most of us relish debate about remembering and restoring and revisiting the past, and the way we record it. It’s excellent. As long as it is informed and does not become warped by a poisonous culture war or nonsensical slurs.

Surely we have grown up sufficiently as a nation to look our own history, long passed, straight in the eye.

So, is what Baird saying is that monuments are great, as long as the person agrees entirely with one’s own present point of view? Or maybe it’s as long as the history is being written by white women about a white woman?

Regardless of what Baird thinks — well, at least what she does this year — monuments are there to teach us important lessons from the past. The represent people who have made a significant contribution to making our society what it is today. No one is perfect, just take a look at anyone’s Twitter feed. But we need to not only honour the contribution they made, while at the same time exercising the tolerance that they didn’t think exactly the same as us.

Baird’s inconsistency, though, seems to be emblematic for what is happening throughout Western civilisation more generally. Especially when Patrisse Cullors — the co-founder of Black Lives Matter — has stated unambiguously that she is a Marxist. It’s as though COVID-19 is producing an historical and political amnesia. Where light is exchanged for darkness, and what is sweet for what is bitter.

[Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash]

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