This one is indeed a provocative question and to be honest I’m not sure how I feel about it. I can see arguments for both sides.
Do you feel that the removal of statues of historic figures whose deeds or actions are considered, from today’s perspective, to be inappropriate, offensive, objectionable, or even traitorous, is justified? Why do you feel that way?
I don’t know if there is a black and white answer to that. There would probably not be very many historic figures who had never committed an act that could be considered inappropriate, offensive or worse by one group or another.
I can remember how when the USSR broke up many statues of Lenin were removed from towns and cities in those newly independent states. People wanted them gone because of what they represented and I guess it is the same with the current trend for removing statues of people who are now considered politically incorrect.
I can understand this although sometimes it makes me feel uncomfortable. In the USA it seems that many of the statues removed are of Confederate figures, people considered to be racist and Christopher Columbus. In Australia we have similar issues as many statues of historic figures, Captain Cook, Governor Macquarie, John Batman and others are considered offensive because of their treatment of First Nations peoples.
When I was at school we were taught about these people and their role in shaping Australia. Since I’ve become an adult I’ve read more and I do know that what we were taught was not the whole story. I recognise that the British behaved terribly to the citizens of every country they colonised.
I’m not sure that pulling their statues down really helps though. It won’t make what happened go away. Nor should it. I don’t think much history is taught in schools much now so if seeing these statues makes people stop to find out who the person was and what they did I think that is a good thing. What we do need to do is to make it not so much about honouring those people as about telling the story of what they did both the good and the bad and letting people make up their own minds.
Many years ago when I was a teenager I” read George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty Four” and I recall that the protagonists job was basically to rewrite history to suit current alliances. I sometimes worry that we are trying to do that too much.
Finally, I’d like to say that I think that if there was a contentious statue in my town and the majority of the people, not just the people in power, wanted it gone then that’s fine. What I absolutely don’t agree with is vandalising public art works no matter how much you dislike the person it represents. There has to be a process.