“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
P.B Shelley – Ozymandias.
What is keeping me awake at the moment you may ask? America has quite a history of putting bronze racists on bronze horses, and brazen traitors on plinths. Most of them were put up in times when racists felt lynching wasn’t enough of a deterrent to the black folk – this is why you get a lot of them popping up in the South during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.
If someone tears down a statue, say to General Nathan Bedford Forrest are they erasing history, thus robbing future generations of a chance to learn of what really happened?
Well, yeah maybe some people- when someone puts a plaque up which says “Here lies Nathan Bedford Forrest. He was a sadist who owned black people, and fought to keep owning – and being sadistic to, black people. In 1864 he captured over 500 union soldiers and committed a war crime, massacring them. He was a traitor to his country, and ultimately lost the war – but went on being racist by becoming the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan” and you tear that down too.
Then, only then, might it be said you are erasing history.
To tear down a Confederate statue is a very modern action on a very modern avatar; a symbolic casting off of historic oppression which carries on to this day. To compare this to book burning is a misunderstanding of both statues and of how we preserve history.