Forget the Statues

God, people, let’s not make it about the statues. Didn’t you see what happened at the presser yesterday? Trump didn’t want to denounce Nazis so he slid the discussion onto the terrain of statues. I thought everybody understood that this was manipulation. But I’ve looked at my news feed and on FB, and people seem to have bought into it completely.

It’s a great idea to discuss statues. Statues are part of nation-building, and they should be discussed. But not with Nazis. It doesn’t matter if Nazis are right or wrong about the statues. It matters that they are Nazis. Even if they were 100% correct about the statues, or anything else, it doesn’t change the shameful, intolerable fact that there were people with swastikas and torches marching around a peaceful town in the United States. Tomorrow they will pick a subject that they will be clearly right about, like the impoverishment of the working classes, so what, they will become ok?

It’s like this ancient argument of “yes, but Hitler defeated unemployment.” So he did. And he was also right in that the economic situation of the Weimar Republic was bad. So what? Haven’t the people of this planet already paid an enormous price to not have to debate with Hitler? 

Please, let’s keep the discussion on point. Nazis are unequivocally bad. If everybody just accepted it, we could move on and discuss something else. But tragically, not everybody accepts it. Let’s not allow those who can’t accept it distract us from this egregious fact. What happened in Charlottesville is not about statues, the BALL, the Antifa, or the make and color of the Nazi murderer’s car. It’s about the rise and strengthening of Nazis who are supported by the sitting president of the United States. 

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22 thoughts on “Forget the Statues”

    1. I’m just wondering what will be a convincing argument to put this to rest already. If WWII, genocide, concentration camps, etc were not enough, then I don’t know what else needs to happen.

      God, this all took place within living memory. The debate has been settled. Or so I thought.

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      1. “this all took place within living memory”

        For people of our generations, yeah kinda (I remember the schock when I first saw someone who still had a concentration camp tattoo in a streetcar in Poland). For people born 50 years after Hilter died, no that’s not living memory in any relevant sense – it’s very old history.

        And in the meantime nazi visuals and imagery have been claimed by every facet of popular culture, not just serious art but popular stuff from comic books to pornography to action movies (that tarantino thing) and zombie movies (the norwegian dead snow series)

        For the millenial generation it’s not living history it’s movie super-villains.

        Trying to appeal to history on this issue is like trying to appeal to class – nazi imagery is a consumer good.

        Rwanda is living memory and shows just how savagely and quickly one sub-population can lash out at another. But who even remembers Rwanda today?

        Or the Khmer Rouge? One of the purest forms of Marxism put into practice and two million dead in the 1970s…. and the NYTimes is running love letters to communism disguised as history.

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        1. I’m saddened profoundly by the NYTimes Red Century series. They could have easily found scholars (OK, not in the US but in other places) or writers (again, probably not in the US) or simply knowledgeable people (probably even in the US) to write something of value. But all they publish are pieces by outlandishly ignorant chatterboxes who are gushing stupidly about things they don’t understand.

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  1. One aspect of making the world as aware as possible of the extent of the Nazis’ crimes is that Nazism has attained the status of “the ultimate forbidden thing” and embracing it amounts to the “ultimate transgression”. Some (badly messed up) people are inevitably going to be attracted to it for exactly that reason.

    Regarding confederate statues, here in Baltimore 4 of them disappeared over night. The push to get rid of them and the resistance and the “debates” have been dragging on for years, then after Charlottesville they were gone within 48 hours. It’s nice to see that these creeps are achieving the opposite of what they wanted.

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    1. I think what they really wanted is legitimization and being allowed to enter the mainstream. And they got that beyond their wildest dreams.

      Of course, there will always be a few creeps who will be attracted by this kind of thing, of course. There are all kinds of deviants, like sexual sadists, murderers, serial killers, etc, in every society. But they should be marginalized instead of mainstreamed.

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  2. You’re absolutely right, Clarissa. It’s not about statues. It’s about the First Amendment and basic American freedoms, including the right to free speech and the right to peaceable assembly. The standard in America has been: “No matter how strongly we disagree with or how strongly we abhor an individual, a group, their ideas, and the things they say, we will defend their right to say it.” It’s a bedrock American principle, a principle that can be excruciatingly hard to stand by in all cases.

    We also know that it is impossible to kill an IDEA. You can defeat it on the battlefield, but the idea itself cannot be killed. It will live on. So people who point out that Nazism was defeated in World War II and that the confederacy and slavery were defeated in the American Civil War are correct about the outcome of the wars. However, unfortunately, it is impossible to drive a stake through the heart of the Nazi idea or the white supremacy idea. Even if you made the ideas illegal and suppressed all speech and writing about them, the ideas would go into hiding and survive.

    During the newspaper era it was discovered in the second half of the 20th century that the best way to deal with the pathetic remnants of the Klan was to ignore it. What the few remaining Klansman craved was attention and recognition. Wise newspaper editors could make a principled decision not to publicize upcoming Klan events. As a result, the events were poorly attended, the Klan was disappointed and continued to fade from the American scene. That worked in the newspaper era, but seems quaint and impossible in the era of cable TV and social media. Small fringe groups such as the Klan and the Nazis can communicate and publicize more easily now. And sadly, in Charlottesville these fringe elements were successful in gaining wide attention and notoriety. They will now keep doing more of the same.

    The courts have placed some limits on the right to freedom of speech, such as yelling “Fire” in a crowded Theater. Perhaps it is time for the courts to take another look at the first amendment rights and see if any further clarifications are needed. Alternatively, a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution could be proposed.

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    1. “It’s about the First Amendment and basic American freedoms, including the right to free speech and the right to peaceable assembly.”

      Let’s say if a group of ISIS-sympathizers wanted to march in the streets, completely unarmed, chanting explicit pro-ISIS slogans, death to america, etc.

      Or, say, a bunch of rapists/pedophiles extolling the glory of raping little children.

      Should they be allowed to protest? You, as a free speech absolutist, will say yes. But here’s the thing, in reality these groups will never be allowed to march. They’ll just never get a permit. OR there’ll be some other bureaucratic snag. Whatever. But one thing’s for certain, they will not be allowed to march.

      So, why not treat Nazis the same way? The government denies them permits, and you still get to be proud to live in the most free speech friendly country on earth (which it is!). Everyone wins (except the nazis, but fuck them, right?).

      This is my practical solution. The same bureaucratic mechanisms that would deny the right of ISIS-sympathizers to march can be deployed for Nazis as well.

      And if you think Nazis should be afforded more ‘rights’ than ISIS, then, well we have a problem.

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      1. “Let’s say if a group of ISIS-sympathizers wanted to march in the streets, completely unarmed, chanting explicit pro-ISIS slogans, death to america, etc. Or, say, a bunch of rapists/pedophiles extolling the glory of raping little children.”

        • I was going to give these exact two examples.

        But it’s beyond that, even. These Nazi protesters brought armed militias with them, they engaged in an act of terror based on the ISIS-model. They killed a person and wounded several more. What I do is speech. What you do is speech. But what they did out there goes far, far beyond that. I’m willing to stand up for speech. But I’m not willing to call all egregious acts speech. If I write “Down with Rauner!” on the blog, that’s speech. But once I get a rifle and start waving it under Rauner’s window yelling “down with Rauner!”, that’s not speech any longer.

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      2. ‘So where do we draw the line?’ or ‘First they came for the nazis..’ arguments are pure intellectual masturbation. In the real world, the government already draws lines. Do you think every group that applies for a permit to protest gets it?

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        1. Also, I’m not asking Trump to incarcerate them. I’m asking him to respond to their speech acts with his speech act. To say, “They are horrible, I detest them like all normal people do. No ifs buts sides and anything else. I’m against it.” That’s what I’d like to see happen.

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        2. Even Bush 2 managed to utter the words “We are not at war with Islam, we are not against Muslims.” Which doesn’t make him a hero or even a good person because, as I said, it’s a pretty low bar to cross. But at least say something like that, say something that marks you as a (barely) human, not a vile insect. I’m addressing Trump right now, obviously, not anybody in this discussion.

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    1. Exactly. People are going but why, but why. Because that’s who he likes. That’s who he is, that’s why. He likes them, he’s into them, he is them. That’s all there is to it.

      He is the creator of the birther movement, so I’m not sure what there is to be so shocked about.

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      1. Do you want to revise your opinion of him from a couple of weeks ago when you said he wasn’t a racist? That he was just using these people for political purposes, but he wasn’t a racist himself.

        🙂

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        1. Yesterday at that press conference I saw somebody who was in looooove. He had hearts and rainbows coming out of his ears. Or in more intellectual terms, he displayed affective symptoms of somebody in the grip of a powerful emotional identification.

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          1. He had it made too. Issued a both sides statement first (that pleased the nazis), then issued a more specific statement denouncing white supremacy (which pleased the normies, even though they should know better).

            Could’ve left it at that. But no, like you said, his feelings on this are so strong he just had to speak out.

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            1. He obviously seethed with resentment that he had to read out that condemnation that he obviously didn’t write himself and didn’t like. Then his real feelings broke through. That’s loooove. Sloppy, bubbly, gushing love.

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  3. To be honest, if Nazis show up at your Confederate statue rally, that does more to tie the two together than anything you or I might say. Why are they there? Why were they welcome?

    To immigrants like my mother, the fact that Confederate flags are flown and statues of Confederates even exist on public land is frankly baffling for the simple reason that revolutionists who fail are traitors and who tolerates commemorating traitors? When you realize what they fought for, it’s even more bizarre. “My ancestors fought for the right to own people and states’ rights which is the right to own people.” As someone who grew up in the North, its even weirder to hear any sympathy for that north of the Mason Dixon line. It’s freakish and weird.

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    1. Well, Shakti, it does require some understanding of American history to not be baffled by the significance of the Rebel flag and Civil War monuments. I think the flag is more offensive, because it has become almost purely a symbol of ugly modern racism. I hate to see people driving around in pick up trucks with big Confederate battle flag’s on the back. I believe they are trying to demonstrate only their racism, and not respect for confederate armies.

      Civil war monuments and statues are more complicated. I think monuments to civil war generals and soldiers of both the north and south are historically relevant. (there probably are some statues that are more about racism rather than military valor or history, and those should be taken down.) I really don’t think most people with an understanding of Civil War history think a statue of Robert E Lee is a tribute to racism, and not to the man himself. There is room for different opinions on that point.

      As for the “traitor” issue, it really calls for a deeper understanding of American history. In 1860, when states began to succeed, the United States of America was not yet 100 years old. At that point in the 19th Century, I believe that many, if not most Americans still held to the notion that the states were more important than the US government, and more deserving of loyalty and patriotism. The original 13 states, such as Virginia, had been in existence as either colonies or states for far longer than the union of states.

      Serious, honorable people like Robert E Lee actually believed that they owed their loyalty and allegiance first to their states, and not to the union. I can understand why people with little understanding of American history, especially recent immigrants, can’t believe that Civil War officers and soldiers were “traitors” to the union.

      Civil War soldiers had a different perception. Most of them would have seen themselves as traitors to their states if they had abandoned their states. I don’t believe that any soldiers were tried or convicted of treason during that time, with the possible exception of spies.

      It is simply not fair to judge the people of 1860 based on current values. Most of them believed in their consciences that they were loyal to their states; they cannot be considered traitors, in my opinion.

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