05 August 2015

Legitimizing Vandalism?

*Update: Someone just informed me that Kevin Levin posted a whiny complaint on his Facebook page because he believes that this post was solely about him and I  didn't link back to his post. He then included the comment "so much for Southern honor." What? For heaven's sakes. Grow up.

First of all, Levin has no comprehension of "Southern honor." Secondly, I was just following Kevin's practices in recent months where he would mention me or a post here and not link back to it. (If I recall correctly, he was told to ignore me.) And, thirdly, while I realize he may believe he's the center of the Civil War universe, there are others doing the same thing he's doing. It's a big world out there Kevin.

 End of update.

A recent post at a Civil War blog had some rather troubling comments in regards to vandalism of a Confederate monument. The post suggested that the vandalism was justified and had some value for educational purposes. The comments were quite disturbing.

But I'm actually not surprised. This is the natural, predictable progression of the activist historian mindset. At first, just about all of the activist historian crowd strongly decried vandalism against these monuments. The initial goal was simply to remove the Confederate battle flag from government buildings. That, for the most part, has been done throughout the South. Originally, these demands from activist historians came with the caveat that the flag was "ok" to be displayed on private property, on the graves of Confederate soldiers and in the "proper historical context." But as we have seen lately, all of these displays are now under attack as well - even in "historical context" as was the case at Lee Chapel.

We are now beginning to see the next step in the progression against these Southern icons and images, regardless of the "context." The first acts of vandalism on these historical monuments were, for the most part, roundly condemned. There were suggestions that, perhaps, interpretive plaques should be included explaining the context of their placement. (As if most of the the general public doesn't already understand that anyway.) Nonetheless, I might be ok with that as long as these interpretative plaques are included on ALL historical monuments and statues, including modern ones - not just Confederate ones.

But now we're seeing what appears to me to be a move towards outright justification for criminal vandalism. The justification seems to be that those committing the vandalism are doing so as an act of "civil disobedience" due to the "moral arguments" against the monuments and, thus, the law protecting these monuments is unjust and should be ignored.

That is a dangerous position to advocate. I also believe it to be irresponsible.

Where does such an argument stop? Logic, honesty and consistency would dictate these folks support, in the same way, vandalism on abortion clinic buildings, vandalism on liquor stores, vandalism on stores peddling pornography - right? Since there are many Americans who believe these structures also represent immorality, then would they be justifified in similar acts?

No, of course they would not. Vandalism is not "civil disobedience", it's a crime. And yes, there is a stark difference. The monuments are legal, the establishments used as examples are legal and, thus, any attempt to deface or damage the monuments or the buildings is a crime and should be punished accordingly.

The only "educational value" presented by vandalizing historical monuments is that it reveals to us that this isn't about history. It's about activism and an agenda.



Robert Moore said...

"The only "educational value" presented by vandalizing historical monuments is that it reveals to us that this isn't about history. It's about activism and an agenda."

Good morning, Richard,

I agree. Even a suggestion that vandalism holds value is wrong. If we start blurring the lines between what is legal and what is not, then what's next? So, certain forms of murder can be found justified because they exhibit artistic expression? That's extreme, I know... but for my saying it merely for "shock value", is it much different than saying vandalism is of value? Perhaps when we run into the back of a vehicle on the road, we can explain to a police office how we were simply trying to express ourselves in the dent in the car in front of us.

Monuments have been placed over the years to reflect something that the culture at that time wished to express. Regretfully, in the absence of information from that time to clearly state what verbiage means on some of those monuments, we're left to figure it out. That doesn't mean we applaud someone's decision to interpret through vandalism.

I've got a better idea.

If someone wants to imprint something for all to see on a public space, I encourage the folks who do this sort of thing to tattoo their foreheads with their expressions of dissent for all the world to see... perhaps even spray paint their messages on the sides of their own homes. Wait, wait... if it has to do with the Civil War, there are those concrete statues sold at places... when they buy them, with their own money, sure... they can't paint them till their heart's content.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks for the comment Robert. The nod of approval is, as I already stated, extremely irresponsible. It is also very juvenile minded and intellectually shallow. But, more and more, I'm coming to expect that as the voices get shriller and the media, along with their soul-mates in certain corners of the Civil War blogosphere, provide cover and legitimacy.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

BTW, one of the more intellectually dishonest push backs of defending this vandalism is comparing it to the destruction of a King George statue during the American War for Independence and the toppling of Saddam Hussein statue at the end of Desert Storm.

How utterly lame. There is no comparison. Both of those incidents were associated with a very recent war and revolution and a mob doing it openly and publicly. That is not the case here - not even close. However, the analogy is again useful in that it reveals the intellectual bankruptcy of these faux historians.

Robert Moore said...

"BTW, one of the more intellectually dishonest push backs of defending this vandalism is comparing it to the destruction of a King George statue during the American War for Independence and the toppling of Saddam Hussein statue at the end of Desert Storm."

You're correct; that's not comparable to the current situation. In fact, making a comparison between the King George III statue and the Hussein statue is even a little weak, except for the fact that both were taken down in the midst of military conflict (though not under the same circumstances).

Robert Moore said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...
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Anonymous said...

Robert Moore writes:

For the sake of clarity, Hussein's statue was toppled by a US military vehicle (while Iraqis stood and watched); the George III statue was toppled by New Yorkers after the reading the Declaration of Independence. Even in a stretch I don't see how either compares to the situation we now see with Confederate/Southern slaveholder monuments... unless, of course, someone then changes position again (yes, after stating that someone did NOT get his race war), and actually recognizes that we are in the midst of some type of "war".

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"while Iraqis stood and watched"

Correct. As I noted, these were public acts and not done under the cover of darkness. Civil disobedience is typically public and those involved are willing to suffer the consequences peacefully.

David Blight wrote during the sesquicentennial that he believed we were still fighting the Civil War, so maybe some of these folks do still think that. Little they say or write really surprises me anymore.

jessie sanford said...

Mr. Williams
Thanks once again exposing these so call historians with such eloquent prose. It is very clear that they have an agenda and it ain't history.

Chaps said...

If I remember correctly, during the Ken Burns documentary, Shelby Foote said that the real "settlement" of the War was the idea that Southerners would agree that it was probably better for the union to stay together and Northerners would agree that Southerners fought bravely and honorably for their cause. He said that this "settlement" was what allowed reconciliation. I wonder if this settlement is being undone these days. If so, I think it is a very dangerous turn of events.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"I wonder if this settlement is being undone these days."

Oh, there's no need to wonder. It is and purposely so. But there's nothing new about the government lying to get what it wants, then once it has, betraying what it promised. Just ask the American Indian.