I was watching a documentary about George Steinbrenner, the deceased New York Yankees owner. They were showing Monuments Park which is where the Yankees honor their great players of eras past. Yankee fans were beaming with pride and emotional. Well of course, they are fans of the team. Then I was thinking how when I go to visiting baseball stadiums though I do not take pride in the other team’s statues I do have respect and can appreciate what those players accomplished. I am not filled with dread or sorrow. I am either indifferent or interested to learn more about a player. But why should this be with only sports teams? Why should any statues inspire dread or sorrow?
Statues are used to commemorate great things or people. They are built by men to honor other men. It is different than a landmark which is often a place where something historical happened. Sometimes those things are good and sometimes they are bad but they are significant. Civil war battle fields are landmarks. Concentration Camps are land marks. They are snap shots in time where important things happened. They are not there because of a tribute necessarily but to make sure we do not forget what happened. If it was something good like a launch pad at NASA we can rejoice. If it was something terrible where our serviceman were ambushed like in Pearl Harbor we can reflect. They are in and of themself a piece of history.
These Civil War Statues are not universally respected. In fact, to many people they bring great pain. They are not landmarks as the statue themselves were not part of history. They are tributes. Tributes to people that to some people were never great while others who have changed their mind as to their greatness. Some consider them great today. Why? Because they represented a rebellion? Though in their time they may have been considered great today we do not look at their cause as great.
Many were built in the beginning of the 20thCentury as a way to remind black people who still was really in charge. History will not be erased because there is nothing historical about a statue. We will still have landmarks, museums, and text books. All those are great to learn history from. I have never gone to a statue to learn history. I have visited landmarks and museums and read text books. I do not forget history and though our history is painful it did happen. We just don’t need to honor the people that were on the wrong side of it.
The statues that I have visited abroad were not great because of whom they depicted. They were great because of the artists who created them. If a statue is deemed great it is not kept outside where the weather and birds can have their way with them. They are moved into museums so as to preserve their greatness for future generations. The statues in our public parks and squares were not created by renowned artists. They are celebrated by some because of who is depicted.
There are plenty of people in our history that could be honored that we could all take pride in. That accomplished great things as Americans. Neil Armstrong, Babe Ruth, Jonas Salk, Bob Hope, George Washington, Jim Brown, Jackie Robinson, George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, Audie Leon Murphy, the Passengers on United Flight 93, George Gershwin, Sojourner Truth.
Everybody has things in their life that do not hold up well. Our founding fathers were slave owners. We do not honor them because of that. We honor them despite that. There is a difference in honoring somebody who is famous for an injustice versus honoring somebody who while having some dark parts in their past overall did us a greater good. Let’s keep our history in landmarks, museums, and text books and let’s honor people that all Americans can look to as an inspiration for being one of the best at what they do which lead to happiness or a greater good.