Some people are remembered and revered through the ages, but it’s also important to remember that they were only human, and nobody’s perfect.
They are generally considered to be guiding lights and reformers who served as role models for subsequent generations. But were they really? Some of history’s heroes harbored dark secrets…
With a dull thud the statue falls to the ground. It has broken into pieces, and a severed head rolls to the feet of the cheering crowd. During the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, crowds toppled scores of monuments around the world, hundreds of them in the U.S. alone. In America the targets were primarily statues of Confederate figures and those who were involved in the practice of slavery or the genocide of America’s indigenous inhabitants. But among them were some historical figures who up until recently had been seen as worthy of admiration. As the BLM movement spread in solidarity around the world, statues began to fall in Europe as well. There the protests were aimed not just at clear-cut authors of oppression but also at people who had stood up for justice and freedom, sometimes even putting their lives on the line in defense of these “Western” values. What may seem illogical at first glance only reflects the reality that the lives of some of these heroes included a darker side that was long ignored or discussed only behind closed doors— sometimes because their glorification was part of a national identity. But in a world that is becoming increasingly liberal-minded and tolerant, some of these erstwhile idols are undergoing a reappraisal. As great and important as their accomplishments may have been, these can neither undo their sins nor distract from their motives. So just as we celebrate the deeds of our heroes, perhaps we also need to be aware of their less-admirable aspects to remind and admonish us that no one is perfect.