Do Americans even deserve their statues?

Someone threw buckets of red paint all over a statue of Christopher Columbus and made me question the value of great, great grandchildren.  The truth of the matter is that we love our children and their children, but when it comes to great grandchildren, we'll probably be too tired to fawn over them, and by the great, great, we'll probably be dead.  If we're alive, at best they'll look at us as toothless, shaking horrors, and if we're dead, the likelihood of anyone talking about us is going to be small unless we've made the family rich or killed an army of the Hun single-handed.  To be a great great, great grandpa, you have to be George Washington.  Anything less, and you'll end up like his kids or his parents: sucked into the void of non-history and almost completely forgotten.

In fact, the value of statue-building is leaving a mark upon our great grandchildren when we know we otherwise visibly won't.  We can't be their heroes, so we make sure we leave them somebody to admire who was a hero to us.  We state a value and expect they'll still like it.  For anyone like Christopher Columbus to have made the list after several hundred years is a miracle and proof that he deserves to stay.  A statue of Jimmy Carter is pushing things a bit.  A statue of Amy Winehouse in the park is telling your progeny you're an idiot.  A nation that doesn't know which statues to build or how to build them isn't going to last long.  But a nation that can't leave its oldest and most venerable statues up is getting replaced by another nation.

The madness of hope is what leads us to build statues.  It's the hope that the people we struggled for will appreciate us and the things we appreciate and that our children will hold on to our land for us and take care of it long after we've ceased living for them.  Nobody could ever build one thinking otherwise, so this is what we think.

We don't often leave statues for other countries' children.  We never took Solomon seriously that our own kids could be imbeciles or criminals or layabouts, and that everything we lived for could be thrown down the drain by degenerates.  We simply can't believe that our national will to live could be lost and our grandchildren could value foreigners more than their families and their countrymen, that they could believe in survival of the fittest and that the whole point of life is just passing on your genes and then refuse to fight for their genes.

If we believe that, almost everything is lost.  Our progeny become as foreign and as terrifying as an enemy nation.  So we build statues for them, and we pretend we'll have something in common with them and they'll love it, that they're worth the expenditure, that they're as close to us as anything in remote futurity can be and because of that we'll live long after we're dead.  A dream, really.  Pure hope.  For something we will never even see.  Nothing more than these, but everything to anyone with any kind of pride or purpose or meaning.

As such, once we realize what these statues mean, we are left with a question.  We know what kind of great, great grandparents we had.  But what kind of great, great grandchildren are we? We have asked these days whether our statues are worthy of us.  A more reasonable question is whether we are worthy of our statues.

Jeremy Egerer is the author of the troublesome essays on Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.