Which statues should stay, and which should go

A person whose only historically resonant contribution was the subjugation of black people need not be celebrated today in public monuments. Robert E. Lee led a long-term military campaign designed to keep black slaves in bondage; this is what statues of him commemorate. That Lee was a gentlemanly soul otherwise is irrelevant: No one would have put statues up of him about that.

However, films like “Gone With the Wind” fail this exclusiveness test. “Gone With the Wind” is set amid a mythic depiction of slavery tragically common in its time. However, the central concerns of the story are romance, adventure and death, not slavery. And more to the point, “Gone With the Wind” resonates not because of its depiction of slavery, but because it is a towering work of Hollywood cinema in terms of direction, cinematography, scoring and acting.

It insults the intelligence of a modern society to suppose that viewers will not understand that the depiction of slavery is antique.