Last night brought a truly spectacular trifecta of self-owns by woke shock troops in Wisconsin and D.C., the sort of thing that *should* ignite a backlash that ends the Jacobin moment America is enduring right now.
If it doesn’t then we might as well blow up the Lincoln Memorial ourselves so that at least it’s done in an orderly way before the mob gets to it.
Scene one: Outside the Wisconsin state capitol. “Who ready to f*** some sh*t up?” said one protest organizer to the crowd before they advanced towards the building, where they encountered a statue of Hans Christian Heg. Who’s he? “Heg was a Norwegian immigrant, activist and abolitionist who led an anti-slave catcher militia helping slaves escape before serving as a Colonel for the Union army in the Civil War. He was killed in the Battle of Chickmauga in north Georgia in 1863,” per Channel 3000. No matter. Down he went:
Another view of the now-empty pedestal: pic.twitter.com/u2yff0edpM
— Christina Lorey (@ChristinaLorey) June 24, 2020
Scene two: Also outside the Wisconsin state capitol. There’s another famous statue there, one of a female figure named “Forward.” The history of it is interesting:
In 1895 sculptress Jean Pond Miner received an unusual honor for a woman of her day: her seven-foot tall allegorical statue “Forward” was given a prominent position at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Miner completed her statue in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, fulfilling a commission to create art representative of her native state. “Forward” is an allegory of devotion and progress, qualities Miner felt Wisconsin embodied…
Wisconsin women, who had raised the funds for the creation of “Forward” in 1893, provided the means for the figure’s long-term preservation as well. Led by Wisconsin’s first lady Sue Ann Thompson and Camille Haney, women from across the state funded the creation of a bronze replica of “Forward” (now displayed at the west entrance to Capitol Square at the end of State Street) and the conservation and relocation of the original work to an indoor location at the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Headquarters building, where it was installed in 1998.
So the original was sculpted by a 19th-century woman and preserved by women patrons — as a monument to progress, no less. No matter. Down she went.
Protesters just tore down the Forward statue on the steps of the Capitol in Madison.
Here is a video of it that is not sideways: pic.twitter.com/DdQcZ5Pal5
— Emily Hamer (@ehamer7) June 24, 2020
Protesters poured baking soda over the statue’s face. Not sure what the significance of that is. pic.twitter.com/3IfYORn7TK
— Emily Hamer (@ehamer7) June 24, 2020
Why’d they target Forward? “We’re not moving forward, we’re moving backwards,” said one protester. “This (statue) doesn’t need to be here until we’re ready to move forward.” Which sounds suspiciously like a lame ex post rationalization to justify the impulse to “f*** some sh*t up.”
Lest you think it was just statues that were abused last night at the capitol, here’s what happened to a state senator who was documenting the scene:
I took this pic- it got me assaulted & beat up. Punched/kicked in the head, neck, ribs. Maybe concussion, socked in left eye is little blurry, sore neck & ribs. 8-10 people attacked me. Innocent people are going to get killed. Capitol locked- stuck in office.Stop violence nowPlz! pic.twitter.com/Zw2hdfYG66
— Tim Carpenter (@TimCarpenterMKE) June 24, 2020
“I don’t know what happened … all I did was stop and take a picture … and the next thing I’m getting five-six punches, getting kicked in the head,” said Carpenter afterward. Mobs are gonna mob, you know.
Scene three: Washington, D.C. Surely statues of Lincoln are safe in this environment, no? No.
"Thursday at 7pm, we're tearing this motherf–ker down."
Protestors set a date and time to attempt to tear down the Emancipation Memorial in DC depicting President Abraham Lincoln standing over a freed slave.pic.twitter.com/zQKuSiqGaN
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) June 24, 2020
What’d Lincoln do wrong? It seems it’s not Lincoln per se that’s the problem but rather this particular statue. Like the Teddy Roosevelt statue outside the Museum of Natural History, it depicts a black figure in a posture of subservience to a white hero, a slave kneeling at the feet of the Great Emancipator in gratitude. But there’s a difference between the Lincoln statue and the Roosevelt one: The Lincoln monument was funded entirely by former slaves. None other than Frederick Douglass spoke at its dedication. However antiquated the imagery, it’s an unusual public document by African-Americans in the late 19th century, a period when they didn’t have a voice in the public square. You would think the protesters would honor them, however ambivalently, by leaving the statue alone. No matter. It has to come down — unless police step in, I mean.
Wisconsin’s Democratic governor assured the public that he’s prepared to call in the National Guard to protect state buildings after windows were broken on some and a small fire was set outside another. But whether anyone’s going to protect the monuments that the public has erected to worthy heroes remains an open question.
Why have the vandals embarked on a rampage of destroying statues willy-nilly? A toxic mix of impulses, I suspect. One is mindless iconoclasm, smashing idols for the sheer pleasure of doing it. Another is some latent belief that anything that’s old is necessarily racist and regressive and should be smashed on principle. A third, more ideological one is the Year Zero mentality of some Jacobins that it’s time to remake America’s civic culture from the ground up, which means wiping away all icons of the past. And the fourth is probably just wanting to make an old-fashioned show of political strength, proving that their side has the numbers to remake the civic landscape — literally — and no one with authority feels they have the legitimacy or popular support to stop them. We’ll see about that.