On Statues

In Ukraine there was a huge drive to topple the Lenin statues and rename the streets that still had names of Soviet leaders. I’m all for getting rid of Lenin and Co but if that were the only thing being done to de-Sovietize, I’d say fuck that shit. If I didn’t see any efforts to improve public services, start local businesses, change the ludicrous tax code, eradicate corruption, build roads, etc, I wouldn’t care about the symbolism of removing the darn statues. But all these crucial things are being done in Ukraine, so it’s not just an empty gesture. 

It’s the same with the statues commemorating the Confederacy. I’m obviously not attached to the statues. Not a single one I’ve seen has artistic merit, so I say, get rid of the motherfuckers. Grind them to dust. But only if this is something that’s done on the margins of less symbolic and more practical things. The ridiculous jail terms for minor drug offences aren’t going away with the statues. The incarceration rates for African Americans are not dropping. Job discrimination is brutal and it’s not even being discussed. 

I don’t want the statues to be the whole story. I want them to be a little blip on the margins of something much bigger. I’m bothered by how much they are discussed crowding out everything else. I think that’s the reason why African Americans are not overwhelmingly supporting the removal of the statues. I have a feeling they might have other concerns that might actually be more pressing than this. 


14 thoughts on “On Statues”

  1. Clarissa, remember, given the general similarity of the leadership of the two parties, most US politics is symbolic, period. That’s why both the Left and Right are choking on their own parties. Symbols “matter” when they are the only things being addressed.


    1. That’s precisely what bothers me, that nothing else is being addressed.

      Everybody is suddenly a big specialist in these statues and their detailed history. But I wonder, if you are, say, an academic, do you know what percentage of African American students at your institution is graduating in 6 years as compared to white and Hispanic students? Do you know what is being done to improve those numbers? I know my school’s numbers, and they are very disturbing. Isn’t that at least as important as the darn statues? But where is the discussion or the interest?


    1. Some parts are dubious (for instance, the monument to Robert E Lee no more commemorates dead POWs than statues of Lenin commemorate victims of stroke) but overall it’s a very powerful piece. Thank you, I found it very valuable.

      The part about American citizenship as the only asset definitely makes sense. The despoliation is definitely there. The contempt and the cruelty of those who handle fluidity well towards those who don’t is extraordinary and entirely needless. The efforts to divide and conquer the working classes by cultivating identity grievances are blatant. Especially when it’s done through workforce training and workshops (I’ll post an example later today). This is all very clearly happening, and there is not a political force in sight that would refuse to take the bait designed by the exploiters and aimed to destroy solidarity among workers.

      Sadly, there is no more Left and there is no more Right (says not just me but every writer who analyzes fluidity.) Instead, there are those who serve fluidity openly and those who serve it covertly by exploiting the fears of its victims.




        1. Yes, I did miss it. I saw the attack on the monument to Columbus, though, and oy vey.

          Of course, as I keep saying, the dismantling of national identity is very useful to forces of liquid capital. And it’s especially cute when people are running towards this goal of their own free will.

          One of the greatest victories of liquid capital is to sell the dismantling of the nation-state model as a huge progressive achievement.


  2. It seems like politicians have figured out that you don’t need to have any solid, logical plan to get voters excited, and the media won’t cover boring policy discussions anyway. The media won’t cover anything that they don’t think will “become viral” the great white whale of journalism these days, and people know there are issues but have no politicians presenting plans to deal with the issues, so it’s easier to tackle large, visible problems that can be answered in a yes/no fashion, rather than try to force their representatives to come up with, present, and implement difficult solutions to difficult problems.

    Tangentially related: https://theoutline.com/post/2156/mic-com-and-the-cynicism-of-modern-media


  3. Some of the sudden hiding/removal might be because the city officials don’t want to deal with vandalism repairs.

    Nobody’s over the Civil War. I can’t believe I have to state this obvious fact but nobody is over the Civil War. As for the substantive changes you mentioned, the federal government is moving in the other direction.

    The ridiculous jail terms for minor drug offences aren’t going away with the statues. The incarceration rates for African Americans are not dropping. Job discrimination is brutal and it’s not even being discussed.

    Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III Confederate Monument is not interested in 1)reducing drug sentences for minor drug offences or incarceration rates for African Americans dropping.

    Sessions moves to lengthen drug sentences
    AG rolls back Obama-era policy that allowed many to escape stiff mandatory minimums

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reversing one of the central elements of the Obama administration’s criminal justice reform agenda: a Justice Department policy that led to prosecutors in drug cases often filing charges in a way that avoided triggering mandatory minimum sentences in federal law.

    Sessions is withdrawing a 2013 directive from Attorney General Eric Holder that instructed federal prosecutors not to specify the amount of drugs involved when charging low-level and nonviolent drug offenders. That policy effectively gave judges discretion to set sentences lower than the mandatory punishments ranging from five years to life in prison federal law dictates when someone is convicted of a crime involving a certain quantity of illegal drugs.

    The EEOC under Trump is not interested in job discrimination.

    Employers and worker advocates both hate Trump’s plan to overhaul labor watchdogs

    Businesses and advocates for workers are forming a rare alliance against President Trump’s proposal to overhaul the way the government investigates workplace discrimination, part of what his critics say is a broader swipe at decades of civil rights protections.

    Trump wants to merge the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with a lesser-known agency that also enforces laws on equality in the workplace. The EEOC is an independent agency that investigates discrimination complaints against private businesses. The second agency — the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs — polices discrimination among federal contractors. The administration contends that combining the two would reduce duplication by offering “one door” for workers to bring discrimination complaints.
    …Employers’ allies, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, fear the proposal would create something of a super enforcement agency with overwhelming investigatory and punitive powers.
    …Armed with subpoena power, the EEOC resolved more than 97,000 cases in fiscal year 2016 and took in nearly 92,000 new ones. The budget document says the number of new cases probably would drop slightly. The backlog of unresolved cases also is expected to gradually decline, to 60,000 cases in fiscal year 2020 from more than 73,000.
    The second agency, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, is part of the Labor Department. The budget proposes reducing staff to 440 employees from 571 and merging it with the EEOC, for a saving of just over $17 million.
    …In addition to cuts at the Labor Department, Trump has proposed cutting posts at the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights and the Legal Services Corp., which helped more than 2 million low-income individuals with legal representation last year, advocates said. Additionally, Trump proposes deleting the Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental justice program, which addresses environmental and health concerns in minority, low-income and tribal communities. The administration says such concerns would be addressed by other parts of the EPA.


      1. Trump Pulls Back Obama-Era Protections For Women Workers
        On March 27, Trump revoked the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order then-President Barack Obama put in place to ensure that companies with federal contracts comply with 14 labor and civil rights laws. The Fair Pay order was put in place after a 2010 Government Accountability Office investigation showed that companies with rampant violations were being awarded millions in federal contracts.

        In an attempt to keep the worst violators from receiving taxpayer dollars, the Fair Pay order included two rules that impacted women workers: paycheck transparency and a ban on forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination claims.

        There’s not a lot you can meaningfully do as the party out of power to counter this.


    1. “Nobody’s over the Civil War. I can’t believe I have to state this obvious fact but nobody is over the Civil War”

      Maybe some people in the north are over it. I don’t think anyone in the south (white or black) is over it.

      As I’ve said before, the Civil War is the single event in US history that creates grudges passed down over generations and fault lines in the society. European countries are full of them, but for the US it’s the pretty much just the Civil War.


      1. I’m very glad that I moved to the Midwest 8 years ago because it allowed me to understand a lot about this country. I’m sure I’d understand even more if I lived in the South.

        I remember how shocked I was that Bush got any votes at all against Al Gore. And now I’m surprised Gore even got as far as he did. I now understand completely why he felt so alien to so many voters. Back then, I thought they were just insane.


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