Top­pling stat­ues not the an­swer

Herald on Sunday - - REVIEW - Jack Tame u@jack­tame Jack Tame is on New­stalkZB, Satur­days, 9am-noon.

Iam de­light­ing in an In­ter­net witch hunt. Over­whelmed by the power of Twit­ter and how­ever many thou­sand pho­to­graphs of the protests, the racists who marched in Char­lottesville are one-by-one be­ing picked off by the In­ter­net.

It’s on­line bul­ly­ing for good.

There were hun­dreds of white, an­gry men, all cocky and em­pow­ered as they marched with burn­ing torches and their proud Nazi mates.

But as pho­tos of their faces are be­ing dis­sem­i­nated across ded­i­cated web­sites and Twit­ter ac­counts, many of the white su­prem­a­cists are be­ing pa­thet­i­cally ex­posed.

One out­spo­ken leader suf­fered the hu­mil­i­a­tion of be­ing pub­licly turfed off Tin­der. A crowd­fund­ing cam­paign of­fered $30,000 for the iden­tity of a vi­o­lent at­tacker in the Nazi ranks.

My favourite story — per Twit­ter — was that of a march­ing Nazi promptly iden­ti­fied and fired from his job, who then com­plained his em­ployer was be­ing in­tol­er­ant of dif­fer­ent opin­ions.

Noth­ing says irony like a lec­ture on tol­er­ance from a man with a swastika flag.

But as much as I’ve en­joyed mass come-up­pance for white su­prem­a­cists, I’m stuck in a bind on the de­bate that drew them to Char­lottesville in the first place.

The protests be­gan be­cause of plans to re­move an old Con­fed­er­ate statue, and many in the US be­lieve Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments are cel­e­bra­tions of slav­ery.

At first I thought so, too. Just as I think it makes sense to lose the Con­fed­er­ate sym­bol off all state flags, I fig­ured it seemed pretty sen­si­ble to pull down the stat­ues as well.

Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments are clearly of­fen­sive to many and white su­prem­a­cists still latch on to them as en­dur­ing sym­bols of slav­ery in the South.

But as Char­lottesville sim­mers down and many cities in the US South re­con­sider the fu­ture of their Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments, I’m not so con­vinced

In­stead of pulling the stat­ues down, why not change their plaques to ex­plain about the slave own­ing racists they de­pict?

bring­ing all the stat­ues down ac­tu­ally makes good sense.

His­tory isn’t clean. Par­tic­u­larly in the US, it’s bloody and aw­ful and op­pres­sive.

I won­der if by pulling down stat­ues, some of the old Con­fed­er­acy is scrub­bing the public con­science clean, while also giv­ing white su­prem­a­cists an ex­cuse to gather and hate.

I know this isn’t for me to de­cide.

But I won­der if there’s a nu­anced dif­fer­ence be­tween the mon­u­ment de­bate and the de­bate over Con­fed­er­ate im­agery that un­til re­cently ap­peared on sev­eral state flags in the US.

Flags rep­re­sent his­tory com­bined with values and so­ci­ety in the mod­ern day. Mon­u­ments and stat­ues al­ways ex­clu­sively rep­re­sent the past.

In many of Amer­ica’s south­ern states, the past wasn’t so great.

So why pre­tend?

In­stead of pulling the stat­ues down, why not change their plaques to ex­plain in ex­plicit lan­guage about the slave­own­ing racists they de­pict?

Most of the stat­ues aren’t even that old — they were erected dur­ing seg­re­ga­tion with Jim Crow laws in the South. So why not put that on the plaque?

And if Nazis and the KKK still gather and cel­e­brate the Con­fed­er­acy, just snap a few more pic­tures, chuck them on the net, and see how supreme those losers re­ally feel af­ter all.

AP

“Alt-Right” and KKK mem­bers are be­ing shamed on­line af­ter the protests and con­fronta­tions in Char­lottesville.

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