“Are we going to take down statues to George Washignton? How about Thomas Jefferson?” Trump asked during his press conference Tuesday. Two days later a number of progressives have embraced the idea, i.e. maybe statues of Washington and Jefferson should go too.
The Washington Free Beacon highlighted this clip of CNN political commentator Angela Rye making Trump’s case. “I don’t care if it’s a George Washington statue or a Thomas Jefferson statue or a Robert E. Lee statue. They all need to come down,” Rye said. Another member of the panel, the Daily Beast’s John Avlon, cut Rye off and warned she was “feeding into Steve Bannon and Trump’s talking points,” but Rye didn’t back down. Here’s the clip (pulled by the WFB):
Yesterday, TMZ got one of their man-at-the-airport interviews with Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr. Odom sounded a lot less strident than Rye, but he ultimately reached a similar conclusion. “What is a statue there for, right? It’s there to inspire us. It’s there to teach us. It’s there to give us hope,” Odom said. He continued, “I think that’s why we erect them, right? And so if we decide as a community that this bronze commemoration is no longer doing that, if it’s no longer inspiring us, if it’s no longer making us feel great about ourselves then they come down for a while or forever.” He went on to say, “We’re even allowed to do that with Thomas Jefferson and George Washington…They’re not off the table for discussion. I think it’s a great question.”
Today, Vice published a piece titled “Let’s Get Rid Of Mount Rushmore.” It’s a far left perspective but the author doesn’t actually argue for the destruction of Rushmore, instead he pivots to a hypothetical question: “If Rushmore ever did get ‘blown up,’ what should those dudes be replaced with?” BTW, even that question he says was prompted by a story at the Daily Caller about ‘blowing up’ Rushmore. He’s not suggesting someone should blow up Rushmore.
I have a couple of points to make on this. First, on the question of Confederate monuments, I think Leslie Odom Jr. is on to something here. Some monuments are about remembering our history—those at battlefields, those at cemeteries—and some are meant to be more than just reminders. They are meant to celebrate someone or to inspire people. And that means that if the people of Charlottesville or Baltimore don’t want a monument to Robert E. Lee, they should be free to remove it. If they want a monument to Harriet Tubman instead, they should be free to erect one. This is America. It’s up to us.
That said, the freedom to choose is not a license for anarchists to go around destroying statues that offend them. Some of the new iconoclasts are so eager that they burned a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Chicago. These are public monuments so decisions about their fate need to be made through local or state governments. If you want a statue removed, make your case to your elected representatives.
The other point on this is that Trump was on to something Tuesday when he warned that the same logic would apply to Washington and Jefferson as to these other monuments. Some in the media reacted as if this was a wild leap or a ridiculous suggestion, but it really wasn’t. In fact, Al Sharpton is already suggesting public funds for the maintenance of the Jefferson Memorial should be cut off. From the Daily Caller:
“When you look at the fact that public monuments are supported by public funds you’re asking me to subsidize the insult of my family. I would repeat that the public should not be paying to uphold somebody who has had that kind of background,” Sharpton told CBS host Charlie Rose…
Jefferson “had slaves and children with his slaves. And it does matter,” Sharpton continued.
“I think that people need to understand when people that were enslaved and robbed of even the right to marry, and had forced sex with their slave masters, this is personal to us.”
Do I think Sharpton is going to prevail? As Allahpundit noted earlier, the public isn’t on board with anything close to this, even after the events in Charlottesville last weekend. So keeping the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument seem like safe bets for the time being. But sooner or later the left will come for them as well. They already are.