A Monumental Problem

Madison Popovic, Co-Managing Director, Sophomore

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.” There are those who believe, however, that knowing about the past doesn’t necessarily mean celebrating every aspect of it. But can we pick and choose our history? Confederate statues on public lands have become a provocative topic, drawing protestors from both the alt-right and the left to riots and protests in Charlottesville, VA and around the nation. Some see the monuments as supporting both those who advocated African slavery and championed the ideal of white supremacy. Others argue that removing these statues rewrites history, hinders freedom of speech and expression and therefore should not be removed. Though controversial, I fall on the side of those who agree with Teddy Roosevelt. Since these statues stand as an everyday reminder of slavery and the bloody conflict that arose from it, we should leave these monuments in place so that we may never forget what once took place.

These memorials need to remain within the public eye because of the cautionary stories behind them. Senior correspondent John Daniel Davidson of The Federalist agrees. In an August 18, 2017 article for the magazine he wrote, “A common objection to these statues…[is that] they serve to venerate their subjects… Why shouldn’t we view them as we should, as a haunting… tale?”

NAACP President Phyllis Blake disagrees. “As victims of slavery we believe that it is past time to remove those symbols from government properties.”

I believe that these reminders of our history need to remain. We must preserve the bad as well as the good in our history. Philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist George Santayana is famous for having said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” and in this case Santayana couldn’t have been more correct.

Though not everyone may agree on the purpose of these statues, few can argue that they represent a part of America’s past – a shameful part of it. Ignoring the past, does not change it. We cannot pretend that there weren’t Americans who were willing to fight and die to keep other people enslaved. Let us see their faces. Let us never forget what once they tried to do.