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Keep Statues As Reminder Of Our Not-So-Proud Times

Recently, I wrote an article about the peaceful civil rights demonstrations going on at Dow Park and of the very powerful sculptures located there built a few years ago called the “Underground Railroad Tableau,” created by a recently-deceased friend, David Poulin.

In contrast, the country is now faced with those advocating the destruction and removal of sculptures depicting social events of decades past in this country. An article that recently caught my eye in the Wall Street Journal was titled “Theodore Roosevelt Statue to Be Removed From American Museum of Natural History.”

The pendulum has swung too far. In his time, Teddy Roosevelt was a “progressive” on many fronts. He also helped found the Museum of Natural History to assure that the history of this country would be preserved. While in office, among other accomplishments, he helped establish five new national parks.

But, the issue goes deeper than just that particular sculpture. There are now efforts going on to remove confederate monuments from all places because they depict a time when the country still legalized slavery and a Civil War was fought over the issue.

My view is: leave the monuments alone. They stand not as a testament to the glory of slavery but as reminder to us of a time in the history of this country… a “not-so-proud” time of which we continually need to be reminded.

None of our great leaders were perfect. Lincoln stalled on declaring the emancipation until three years after the Civil War started. Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. Teddy Roosevelt did not tackle “Jim Crow” head-on. Should they be condemned since they were not perfect? If so, then should we blow-up Mount Rushmore, now one of our most beloved National Parks, so that these images in granite can be destroyed from our public memory? That would be nonsense.

I recall a memorable tour that I was given of Arlington National Cemetery. Because of legalized segregation, up through World War I–black Americans killed in action were buried in separate plots from white veterans who had died. When General John Pershing, U.S. Army commander in World War I (who had been called “Black Jack” Pershing because he had commanded an all-Negro Division in the U.S. Army) died, he asked that he be buried on a hill at Arlington so that he could look out at both the black and white troops who had been killed under his command.

Should we now, because of our most recent national calamity over race, disinter all of those soldiers and rebury them together. My answer is ‘“No!” Let them stay there as an eternal reminder of the residue of slavery that existed with segregation in the military until well into the 20th century.

Monuments and memorials are all about our history–the good and the bad. Subsequent generations should not try to re-write history, nor should our current president be using his office to exploit the issue and further divide the country.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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