That’s what statues do. They airbrush features, make humans larger than life and paint over history.
A Trump statue will not mention that while a coronavirus killed his people, he was forced to tell them to wear masks.
No matter how much historical revisionism we undergo in the next four years, I guarantee you the US Marshals will never, ever, add a section to their website about their proud moment protecting Confederate statues in 2020.
Statues give this context
We’re more likely to put up statues of sports figures these days, for better or worse. They’re less divisive than presidents. But Trump probably imagines his own face cast in bronze across from the White House.
Maybe that’s why he’s so bent on keeping the jaunty statue of Andrew Jackson, whose presidency predates the Confederacy, in Lafayette Square across from the White House safe from protesters.
He could see that good-looking president outside his window, waving his hat and rising up on a horse.
Trump demands the return of the statue of a guy he’s likely never heard of
I don’t know for absolute certainty that Trump had never heard of Pike Until he became incensed at the general’s statue being torn down.
But I’d be willing to wager.
I hadn’t heard of Pike. Had you?
After the war, he became a leader in the Freemasons. And it’s that group that erected his statue, in 1901. It got a few lines in The New York Times that year.
There was more reporting in The New York Times that year about a dispute over a special appropriation of $ 75,000 (about $ 2.2 million in today’s dollars) the US government paid to Pike’s heirs on behalf of the Choctaw tribe for his earlier help in getting the tribe’s government money. .
Everything was totally aboveboard, I’m sure.
Pike is known, to the extent that he is still known, as a journalist, a writer and a poet. He rose to prominence as a Freemason, but there are some disputed allegations that he was involved with the Ku Klux Klan.
Regardless, his way of thinking doesn’t have much bearing on modern times.
Read this writing. Try to understand it. Here are some of the opening lines to his book “Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry,” which I downloaded for free from Amazon.
“Thought is a force, and philosophy should be an energy, finding its purpose and its effects in the amelioration of mankind. The two great motors are Truth and Love. When all these forces are combined, and guided by the Intellect, and regulated by The RULE of Right, and Justice, and of combined and systematic movement and effort, the great revolution prepared for by the ages will begin to march. “
Say what now?
My point here is that Trump doesn’t give a whit about Albert Pike, Even though he’s promised to prosecute anyone targeting statues with the full power of US law.
To the extend that Trump is protecting Pike, it’s because he’s a symbol of the Confederacy.
Public turns against Confederate statues
Trump does care about divisions, particularly racial divisions, and exploiting them.
According to the National Park Service, Pike’s artwork is the only outdoor statue of a Confederate officer in DC.
But the current swing of public opinion is against the statues, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released June 17.
It found that Voter support, by 52% to 44%, removes Confederate statues from public spaces around the country.
Less than two years ago, in August of 2017, the poll found that only 39% supported removing such statues.
“Historic figures in granite and iron that seemed to be protected just a few years ago now face the wrecking ball of public opinion,” said Tim Malloy, Quinnipiac University’s polling analyst, in releasing the poll.
Trump did indicate openness to removing some monuments and putting them in museums instead.
“We can take things down, too. I can understand certain things taken down. But they ought to go through a legal process,” he said Thursday night in a town hall on Fox News. “And then we take it down and in some cases put them in museums or wherever they might go.”
But he kept up his tough talk against protesters who pulled down statues: “These are really rioters and a lot of bad people involved.”
Bad representations of Black Americans
It’s not just symbols of the Confederacy being targeted.
DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has called for the removal of a statue of Abraham Lincoln from Lincoln Park near Capitol Hill.
It was paid for by donations from former slaves and erected in 1876 before a crowd of 25,000 people. President Ulysses S. Grant and Frederick Douglass both spoke, according to a New York Times write-up.
And protesters in DC may target that statue soon.
Before you throw up your hands thinking they’ve gone too far, look at the statue.
It shows Lincoln standing with his hand over the head of a cowering black man, shackles falling from his arms.
From 1876 until 1974, it was the only outdoor statue of a Black person on public park land in DC.
“I can see controversy and I can also see beauty in it,” Trump said of the statue in his town hall Thursday night.
“The designers of the Emancipation Statue in Lincoln Park in DC didn’t take into account the views of African Americans. It shows. Blacks too fought to end enslavement. That’s why I’m introducing a bill to move this statue to a museum,” “said Norton in a recent tweet.
And while it’s true that freed slaves paid for the statue, it was not freed slaves who controlled its creation, in Germany, according to the National Park Service.
That 1876 New York Times story mentions that the design was “repugnant” to some even when it was unveiled.
A quote it attributes to Douglass captures how statues can miss complexity – that the president who emancipated the slaves was not part of the abolitionist movement of the time and held his own racist views.
“Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices of his white fellow-countrymen against the negro,” Douglass said, “it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed slavery.”
Do that math – If that info from the National Park Service is true, from 1901, when Pike’s statue went up, until 1974, when a statue of Mary McLeod Bethune was dedicated, there was an outdoor statue of an African American, a Black man bent at. the knees, and one outdoor statue of a Confederate general, proudly standing, in the Nation’s capital.
The right side of history
Perceptions of history change.
In 1853, years before the Civil War, Andrew Jackson got a statue. It’s hard to believe that will happen today.
For 100 years of this existence, there was no statue of a Black person outside in Washington, DC. For 100 more, there was one, of a man on his knees.
Now, as Americans are trying to move ever so slowly toward equal treatment for all, there’s a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr.. on the National Mall.
In 50 years, will people be clamoring for Donald Trump to join him?
This story has been updated with comments from Trump later Thursday.