Portland Protesters Toppled Thomas Jefferson's Statue. George Washington Is Next?

Comments

1

This is going too far.

2

America is an idea. Imperfect men in our founding had a noble idea that started our democracy. These mortal, and nasty, men are dead. But their idea lives. For that idea, we continue to honor them. For that, we can be magnanimous and acknowledge with their sins and still acknowledge their contributions.

3

Why stop there? Let's burn down Monticello, Mount Vernon and The University of Virginia!!! Hell, let's tear down the capitol and the white house!!!

4

What utter poppycock.

Statues to Jefferson and Washington honor their greatest works, not their incidental slave ownership. Neither were stauch supporters of the system of slavery as their primary goal. And though Jefferson and Washington operated within that system—which gave them the wealth and power which made it possible for them to develop and implement their other, more enlightened ideas—it is their ideas which made possible the progressive ideals for which we strive today.

I know this is tired old stuff, but no one then was beyond reproach by today's standards.

To remove the statues and honors of great thinkers and doers (who also happened to have owned slaves), would be akin to burning all the Rembrandts and Vermeers because these artists may have abused their housemaids or held racist views against foreigners. Such was the world then. Cicero, Homer and Virgil probably owned slaves, too, or at least benefitted greatly from the institutionalized slavery of their day.

Of course, we oughtn't glorify evil, as did those who erected statues to Confederate generals during Jim Crow, or those who continued to salute their battle flag after they were defeated, but the artifacts which tell the story of our shared history must be preserved. What about Julius, Augusta and Nero? These men were absolute tyrants, enslaving half the world; should we destroy all their statues, now? Modern Italy is lousy with objectivist facist architecture built courtesy of Mussolini—the entire railway system, and most of the postoffices—and his image still adorns many official buildings in Rome. But the Italians have a mature attitude towards this: Yeah, it happened. It was terrible. It's over now. What time's your train?

I get that radical and poorly reasoned actions of the young and clueless open conversation and debate, and often push the needle toward more sane goals, but it's silly to embrace this crap.

5

@4 How is that rationale any different from "he made the trains run on time"?

You might say that whatever good Mussolini did was incidental to his wickedness just like Jefferson's wickedness was incidental to his good and fine - that's your ordering of things. But its entirely arbitrary.

The analogy to the paintings is plainly wrong. Jefferson didn't create those statues.

8

George Washington owned 11 human beings. When he was 10 years old. And then after that he owned way way more human beings. And then to be fair eventually he let them free, except for the large number of human beings that were owned by his wife.

I've said this fucking forever, if you're for tearing down all the Confederate shit in the south, then what about the massive statue of the guy who owned hundreds of black people? You know, the one right in the middle of the University of Washington? George Washington was as much a white supremacist as any hated Confederate political figure. I've never liked walking below his statue. If we're for erasing white supremacist public historical memorials, then Washington ought to be fair game too.

10

Sawant would make all of you slaves to the State.

11

10 Very kinky there, you little closet-slut! And I presume you would be the master sex poodle in all this?

12

Surprisingly, Vermont banned slavery before even Canada or Michigan Territory did.

See a statue.

Tear it down.

13

9 - This is history, not ethics. Why the quest to eliminate references to our dark historical past? Does it ever lead to a better human condition? The devils choices you enumerated are the manure in the fertilizer from when we harvest our equality and compassion.

6 - Oh yes, those long forgotten white slaves of Thomas Jefferson. Didn't suffer as much as the black ones. I think they mostly served Martha.

14

Historical note: "Enough of these blasted slave owners." Thomas Jefferson and George Washington owned slaves; Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln did not. And I honor--deeply--those who helped craft this country's constitution. Checks and balances between three main branches of government wrought in fine detail, much of it still valid; freedom to practice the religion of one's choosing--or not to practice religion at all; freedom of the press; complete rejection of monarchy. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Check out the behavior of most seventeenth- and eighteenth-century monarchs, and you'll appreciate just how revolutionary Jefferson, in particular, was. But, sure: no one in his right mind should defend the slave-owning, and there were all kinds of ego issues, petty feuds, nasty politicking, and dubious business practice the Founding Fathers indulged. Well, many apparently think that's enough to justify the big tear-down. And people like me will be seen and denounced as deluded reactionaries. So be it. I'd say no new Jefferson statues; arguably move some to less prominent places; but, that said, leave be those already up, and I for one have great respect for Jefferson's accomplishments as an architect, agronomist, writer, legal thinker, and political leader. It came with terrible, unforgivable flaws. Preferred: put up new statues of contemporary heroes rather than tear down those of Jefferson. At the very least, seek through public channels such as a city council to gain approval to remove offending statues. But, again, I know such a position will be deemed weak and worthy of denunciation. So be it.

15

@13 Pulling down a few graven images doesn't erase history. We aren't made aware of Thomas Jefferson because we saw him cast in bronze in a park.

These monuments are effectively shrines of a civic cult and as such, the moral or ethical nature of the person enshrined is the entire point.

16

@13,

Statues don't just "reference" our historical past, they celebrate, memorialize and glorify it.

17

15 beat me to it.

18

Good Afternoon Charles,
First of all, check this out:

https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/not-all-slopes-are-slippery/

It's a pretty sober view.

I've said this before but the USA isn't he only republic, country, monarchy etc. to practice that "peculiar institution" or slavery. The UK, France, Imperial Russia, Denmark, Brazil, Portugal, Spain and not a few Asian and African countries did as well. Read, not just white people. If the USA has this reckoning why not the world?

Personally, better time can be spent than destruction or changing names. I want a better a human being. I don't tend to look at statues and country, state, city etc. names and necessarily believe the representative "decent" according to today's standards.

I believe children and older should know warts and all, why this person has a monument or state named for him or her. It could be selective as Baggini suggests. What if its found out that MLK did witness the rape of a woman? (Evidently from FBI recordings, he might have). Should his statue come down? Or the holiday be rescinded? Destruction is foolish without a thorough examination. I think we, the USA have bigger problems to solve.

Yes, I think Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln & Theodore Roosevelt great humans/Americans warts and all. Leave Mt. Rushmore alone. BTW, near that South Dakota site is a great carving of Crazy Horse, the Native American warrior.

19

Yes many of the founding fathers owned black people as slaves. They also created this country. The way history worked out you can't have one without the other. We had a civil war to end slavery but the slaves were never quite accepted. Failed reconstruction. The freedom that Charles is enjoying here in the US to write his sometimes okay, mostly bad, stories instead of living in Zimbabwe or somewhere else is because of people like Thomas Jefferson and especially George Washington and even more so because of General Grant and Sherman and the union army and Lincoln. Slavery is part of history, a bad part. But these men (and women) accomplished something great, and that is why we memorialize them with statues and the like. Don't be angry and Jefferson and Washington, they were doing what some people did back then. I'm sure there is lots of history back in his native Africa that Charles doesn't like but still reveres part of it, if he has any pride in country at all.

20

@18 Well-said. Thank you.

22

Hell yeah. Topple all the motherfuckers. It's time for an update/reboot of U.S. mythology.

23

Al-Quaeda was waaaaay ahead of the curve; they tore down those monuments to the most destructive political economy the world has ever seen.
In (x) months/years/decades, when this silly little Climate Collapse™ thing hits in earnest, we'll look back on the days when we had the luxury to debate this and laugh through our bitter, bitter tears.

24

@18 Yeah, ok. And here we are examining. Seems like everything is working as designed.

Its all a lot of idolatry as far as I'm concerned.

25

One problem I see is that when Trump becomes "Dear Leader" for life he is not likely to support that, at least not for Charles' reasons. Trump might to some degree be in favor of replacing Washington with himself, not because Washington was a slave owner, rather because Trump is the the best.
If the liberals want to tear down the founders of the country then what is wrong with Trump tearing up the Constitution?

One is not obligated to write the opposition's talking points for them.
"The race is your's to lose" does not mean losing is the goal!
You know the saying: "Don't let perfect be the enemy of not fucking horrible"?
I understand that "not fucking horrible" doesn't really sound all that good, but that "not" is significant compared to the third option. (but the first is not an option, it is a fantasy)
Yes, there is "if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem" But if you see everything as Black or White you are leaving out a lot of shades of brown, some of which while not "property" are still not treated very well.
"But we have to start somewhere", getting rid of Trump is somewhere.

26

Crazy Cat Dude dear, trump is 74 years old, obese, incontinent, and addicted to drugs. There's not much life left for him.

27

Now about those pieces of paper we trade everyday...

Also, I've seen a few of those ghosts today, and they are pissed about the future's weather.

28

Even just aesthetically statues of people are dumb. I've never seen one that makes the surrounding scenery better. If you are worried about forgetting history, take it up with the dismal state of public education. No one is in danger of forgetting anything because of a statue being removed.

29

Raindrop that “noble idea” was that freedom was for white, male property owners. Non male, non white people are still being subjugated nearly 300 years later.

30

I read one writer the other day who proposes "...a two-part test for assessing when a statue or monument to some person should be expunged from its public place of honor: (1) Was the person honored for unworthy or indecent behavior? (2) Is the person known today primarily for unworthy or indecent behavior? When the answer to both is no, the statue or monument should stay.

Following this standard, all the statues to Confederates should come down because they were traitors to their country and fought to maintain "the institution of negro slavery" as it was called. The answer to both questions cited is clearly Yes.

31

@4:

INCIDENTAL slave ownership? You're fucking kidding, right? Were it not for the economic benefits derived from slave labor most of our founding fathers would have been relegated to, at best, mere footnotes in history. Instead, their possession of other human beings to serve as chattel labor, literally objects owned by their masters to buy, sell or do with as they pleased (including murder, torture and rape), gave them the financial means to rise to positions of power and authority in Colonial and post-revolution society. 41 out of 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves; similarly 25 of the 55 delegates to the convention that drafted the Constitution owned or had owned slaves, including Washington, Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Hancock, and Patrick Henry among others. And while some may have professed some mild discomfort over the obvious hypocrisy of owning slaves while simultaneously professing that "all men are created equal", few actually took the step of freeing their slaves during their own lifetimes (Franklin and Hamilton being notable exceptions) or upon their deaths, of which Washington was among a small handful; Jefferson, and most of the others however, cannot be included in that list.

32

What to do…we could start with “pulling down” Fremont? At least the name? I mean, is it not, ultimately, named after John C. Fremont? Did he not slaughter and “shoot on sight” Native Americans, quite infamously at Klamath Lake and Sutter Buttes? Did he not do so merely gold, perhaps more accurately, so that miner 49’er could have the land that had the gold? (see Benjamin Madley’s “An American Genocide” for an historical accounting).
Whitey, however intelligent, well-meaning, contrary, pc/anti-pc, or antifa is quite commonly too-cute-by-half (see also Frank Zappa’s “Joe’s Garage” album cover). Fremont epitomizes this to an embarrassing degree. Painting Stalin’s hands red (why not pigs’ blood if you really meant it?) does nothing to ameliorate the sin. While I do not believe Fremont to be any more racist, or hypocritical, than most of America, I have never really found it any less…it is, after all, north of the ship canal (see also again how serious a thing that was not that long ago). It always seems to be an issue of inertia, with America, when it comes to reconciling with our vicious and equally voracious past; a pose frozen in complacency and, let’s be honest, convenience. So, probably best to remove these monuments and change these names. One could argue for context, but any such asterisk would rival the moon.

33

@13:

At the end of the Revolutionary War citizens of the new republic pulled down statues of King George III - strangely, people today have not forgotten which side lost.

34

@32 You just have to persuade the Real Estate people that a district's name should change and they can make it happen. When I was a lad, we called the area between Denny and Stuart "the Regrade" but sometime in the late 80s/early 90s it was transformed into Bell Town.

Easy as pie. And nobody even complained.

35

@33: What a shame. Wish they had been put in a museum. Still, two wrongs don't make a right.

36

If we’re getting rid of things, let’s get rid of the Jefferson Davis memorial on I-5 north of Longview. What possible reason is that there?

37

The Confederate flag, along with Lee and Davis, represents a group of people who took up arms and declared war against the United States. Washington and Jefferson did not do that.

38

@37. Yeah. I have to say I agree. I won’t make a habit of it.

Tearing shit down is easy. That’s why every regime change does it. It distracts from the hard part: building new things.

Tear the traitor monuments down. I have no problem. Maybe move statues of Jefferson and Washington into museums. But blowing up Mount Rushmore and the Washington monument? That’s just another Cultural Revolution extremist orgy of destruction.

I’d like to see us build some new things before we launch into non-stop destruction.

39

@26, Junior is 42, if he could get rid of the Constitution,then "Dear Leader" could certainly appoint his successor. Of course he can't actually do that, right? right!?!? but another year of Trump and 7 of Pence wouldn't be that good either. [strike] Remember RBG is 87[/strike] oops, "don't write the opposition's talking points for them"
While Gorsuch did side with LBGTQ rights, Kavanaugh did not. Not fucking terrible is better than fucking terrible.

40

Next really have to be Woodrow Wilson and FDR. Wilson was anachronistically racist and used his powers of president to act on that racism within the Federal government. And FDR literally put people in camps based on their race. No purge of historical racists can leave them out and be taken seriously.

41

@40

Yup. If you come across any statues of Wilson or FDR, please topple them. Thanks.

42

@41 dumbshitt, there is an entire FDR memorial. It helps commentate the depression ending WW2 winning disaster that was the FDR nightmare for the country

43

There are no perfect people. The question is where do you draw the line.

44

Charles should stop calling himself Charles.

45

@29: No, in 1863 it was expanded to include non-white and further refined in 1965.

46

@40 did the US put people in camps because of their race or ethnicity? i thought it was ethnic based - no chinese ancestry people were put in those camps. so not sure if that qualifies as 'racist' but it sure was wrong. i seem to recall some germans placed in camps en masse or prisons too in the US, but i could be confusing that with WW1.

47

@41 Well, if you'd like to start locally... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_D.RooseveltLake
There is a rather large memorial to JFK in DC... FDR Drive in New York.. Most of Princeton University is a monument to Wilson. And there's a nice bridge in DC that should come down.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodrow_Wilson_Bridge

48

@41: Yes, democrats are horrible people. Worse than republicans by along shot. Teddy in 1912 would have been super wonderful and after 8 tiresome years of FDR - Wilkie in '40 and Dewey in '44 would have been so refreshing.

49

An interesting argument, but unpersuasive. I find it telling that in your final paragraph you appeal to the supernatural.
With that said- I am all for the concept of re-naming. I've always found it absurd that we are saddled with so many of our local place names as the result of one inconsequential visit by a British ship in the 18th Century and we all just accept it.
I would propose that one core element to 'Americanism' is our plasticity and our ability to re-invent things. I think it should be easier, rather than more difficult to re-name places to make them more meaningful.

50

@48 People are pretty horrible generally but its a simple matter of historical fact that African Americans as a group switched from the Republican coalition to the Democratic coalition in the mid 20th century (1948-1968 in particular) while White Segregationists switched from the Democratic coalition to the Republican as a consequence.

And process produced the politics of today.

The history of the Japanese internment camps is sad and sordid but it had a lot more to do with local politics on the west coast than with the DNC. FDR never went to bat for minority groups, so they paid the price for his accomplishments in other areas. Judge him for that as you will.

51

@47

Road trip!

52

Raindrop dear, don't try to co-opt my line. Republicans are horrible people. They elected, and continue to support, Donald Trump. You identify as a republican. Need I make the connection, or can I spare you that embarrassment?

53

@32 Lenin, not "...Stalin..."

54

@34:

Belltown (originally known as "Bell's Town") was named by William Nathanial Bell a member of the original Denny Party who claimed the parcel on the western slope of what was then Denny Hill in 1851. "The Regrade" was a later term that referred to the area after Denny Hill was regraded and leveled in the early 1900's, but both are synonymous to the same physical location.

OTOH, the ridiculous "West Edge" and "Uptown" monikers coined by those same real estate people - or more correctly the ad agencies they hired to come up with presumably "catchy" rebranding campaigns around them - fell flat as lead balloons.

55

Just change them to the hokage and be done with it.

56

@36:

You mean the one in Ridgefield? I believe that's on private land, so may be more problematic getting rid of it, just like the Uncle Sam billboard outside of Chehalis.

57

let's just give america back to the indigenous peoples, I'm all for reparations and toppling statues but it seems like the first step into giving back what is rightfully theirs to the people who first lived on this land

America is a failed colonialist experiment, we just happen to be living in it

58

This is a country founded on genocide and slavery. Our founders were genocidalists and slavers. And they did so in order to be rich and powerful. They wrapped it all up in the language of freedom. And, that's where we are to this day. It is what it is. We've (literally) white washed our history. Calling the slavery and genocide incidental, and the freedom rhetoric essential.

Those who defend the Jeffersons and Washingtons of our past have had hundreds of years to deal with this dissonance, and you haven't. So now, hundreds of years of rage are boiling over and forcing it to be dealt with. You don't like it? Too fucking bad. I guess you and yours shouldn't have swept it under the rug for forever. Oops.

59

My goodness. It's impossible to be tongue-in-cheek on Slog. I should hope that by now the childish "are horrible people" trope made infamous by Catalina is now seen as ridiculous when boomeranged on our beloved democrats. Remember, all generalizations are wrong including this one.

@48 illustrates the absurdity of Lastlight @41 going after FDR who remains the greatest president of the 20th century despite Japanese concentration camps or turning away Jewish boats - which were indeed very horrible things to do. Nobody wanted Dewey in 44 for good reason.

60

Instead of renaming the state for George Washington Carver, I'd suggest George Washington the founder of Centralia (and former slave). Read about him here: https://www.historylink.org/File/5276

61

What is childish about "Republicans are horrible people", Raindrop dear? trump is a horrible person - even by your own admission. trump is the Republican nominee. Most Republicans support him. Therefore, Republicans are horrible people.

As for the Democrats, there have been some horrible ones. And there was a very long time when Democrats were horrible people - at least on some issues. But how many horrible Democrats are in the leadership these days?

You must strive not to confuse "simple" with "childish", dear.

62

MarciaX, I like the way you think. Not only was Mr. Washington a local, he seems like a very decent fellow who represented the spirit of The American West (or at least the mythology of it). Plus, it would make conservatives/racist's heads explode, and give us a reason to get rid of those stupid highway signs that feature the silhouette of the other George Washington.

Sign me up for this endeavor.

63

Do any of these ignorant fucks know what the word manumission means? I'd suggest they get out a dictionary, learn what the word means, then read about how that word applies to Jefferson.

But that would require intellectual curiosity, which seems to be in short supply among the revolutionaries.

64

@61: a) It's the Trump party now, as former Speaker John Boehner declared years ago. I'm a never Trumper Republican and I follow the wisdom of George F. Will to let the party be soundly defeated to once again find its better angels in the future.

And b) Extrapolations are inherently flawed.

65

Of course, they did it. Pulled Washington down.
All the foolish people crying about "he owned slaves!!!"
YOU participate in slavery. YOU participate in human rights violations. Look in the mirror to see the oppressor. Your clothes, your iPod, your computer, phone, backpack, medication.
So feel smug and holier-than-thou because one day YOU will be called out on your sins. Such hypocrisy and stupidity on display.

66

I would love for our state's seal to be changed to depict George Washington, the African-American pioneer. He founded the town of Centralia, WA and was the only black person to found a town in the Pacific Northwest. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington_(Washington_pioneer)

67

31: Ben Franklin left Peter and John in England because he didn't want to pay the cost of their passage back to the U.S. He destroyed Peter's marriage to Jemima by taking him out of the country. But you're right, he freed two of his slaves.

63: Jefferson manumitted about 8 slaves, 4 of which were his own children. The others were sold to pay part of his enormous debt after he died.

68

What is the point of a statue anyway? Mostly male, mostly in homage to a towering ego.
They are generally ugly, birds poop on them, and they idolize mankind. Any garden is superior to any statue. Tear all the ugly old things down, get rid of idol worship. Change is painful. All life is change. Deal with it. (PS, who cares how Washington got its state name? Does anyone really give a shit? OTOH, Yes to the nod to George Washington Carver, a man who actually accomplished something useful and admirable.)