So the rabid-left mob wants to tear down the statue of Lincoln paid for by freed slaves?
The attacks on statues and public art in the U.S. are horrible stuff, a Taliban-like effort to erase American history and deprive the nation of its past, its heroes, and the sense of exceptionalism that comes from it.
It's a vile trend that America's enemies can only envy for not thinking of first: Erase American heroes, erase the entire American story as its participants told it, and leave only the ignorance, lies, and gibberish of the angry left positing that there's nothing good about this country.
The latest threat to a statue of Abraham Lincoln in a Washington D.C. park, positioned with a freed slave at his knees, is especially despicable.
The statue has a Victorian sensibility, showing a slave on his knees with broken chains looking up to Lincoln in gratitude, which gets the message out in a literalistic way that the freed slaves were grateful to Lincoln. It's treacly, it's Victorian, it's from the 19th century - a time of storytelling and great novels - it had some controversy even in its own era. It's fair to say it's not how we might depict the idea today.
However, it's heartfelt and in sync with the era it came from and for that reason valuable to us for trying to understand how people felt at the time. There are many good things about it that the cellphone generation might not recognize - the slave is looking up, not down, his path open to rising. He's down, yes but remember, he's just been freed of slavery, which was for him, literally chains. This is what it looks like to be just freed of literal chains, and how it felt to many.
It's very clear that this statue meant something to someone when it was erected - because it was paid for by freed slaves themselves who wanted this to be the way they told their story.
The idea and first donation for this monument was by Charlotte Scott a freed slave from Virginia, who was residing in Ohio. Having heard of Lincoln's [assassination], she told her employer "colored people had lost their best friend on earth". She told her employer that she wanted to honor Lincoln with a memorial and to donate the first money for it. Along with the first $5 Ms. Scott had earned as a free woman, the employer forwarded her request on to the Western Sanitary Commission in St. Louis where the suggestion was taken up enthusiastically. The commission then offered Thomas Ball the work for the $18,000, which had taken two years to collect, all from freed slaves. The slave statue was modeled after Archer Alexander, who is said to have been the last man captured under the Fugitive Slave Act.
The great American abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, dedicated it, which means it wasn't just some old ladies with money trying to control a narrative, it had the imprimatur of the best on it.
His account had some reservations, yet it also acknowledged that Lincoln was in fact a liberator.
He was the white man's president, with the white man's prejudices and he had been ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the humanity of the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people. Lincoln was neither our man or our model". Addressing the whites in the audience he continued, "You are the children of Abraham Lincoln, we are at best his step children; children by adoption; children by force of circumstances and necessity". He concluded with, "even if Lincoln was motivated by political expedience by signing the Emancipation Proclamation, he is our liberator"
It was the story from the people who lived it. And it now speaks to us in a symbolic language we don't completely use, yet leaves us with a sense of how they looked at the world by looking at what they left for us. And that means their voices speak to us, we encounter them directly, we don't take our history from rabid leftists anxious to enact a socialist hate-America agenda. We don't need their mediation.
See that statue, see how slaves felt, think about what Douglass felt and did. That's why we have it. We don't have to duplicate it in our own interpretations of the topic, but we do have to respect the people who created the monument and told the story in the way they wanted it to be told.
Leftists claim that the composition depicts a white supremacist sensibility, suggesting that the freed slaves had no role in their own liberation.
No statue can tell a whole story, and yes, black abolitionists did have an important role in helping free the slaves. The left, naturally, is nowhere in any bid to honor them.
What it wants is nothing but a bid to erase Lincoln's role from history. It is in fact nonsense to claim that the slaves had the entire role in freeing themselves. Slave revolts did exist in the ante-bellum South before the war - and their endings were terrible.
Lincoln put millions of men at arms at a cost of 600,000 lives, in what was still America's bloodiest war, to free the slaves, and paid for it with his own life, too, felled by an assassin's bullet from a die-hard slavery advocate. Was there something wrong with depicting that moment, even in a mythic and metaphorical sort of way, as a marker to future generations about how those freed slaves felt about being freed of a lifetime of slavery?
The gratitude expressed in the statue tells us a lot about the goodness of the people who erected it. They were grateful. How much gratitude do we see from anyone for any cause today? Maybe that alone is worthy of contemplation, something these people can teach to the current generations.
There are so many clues from the statue that serve to educate us, and make us think which incenses the left.
Leftists honestly want to erase that. They want to silence the freed slaves instead of erect new monuments, perhaps to Douglass, and Harriet Tubman, and other founding leaders of what eventually became the Civil Rights movement.
They want all history to be re-written to conform to their own point of view, and are incapable of listening to and appreciating earlier points of views, colored as they were by their times and eras, from the very people who lived it firsthand.
Incapable of building something new, they seek to silence those who were really there and who lived the experiences they now claim to own. Their revisionist nonsense could just as easily go the way of the Confederate cults (think Jubal Early) that depict heroisms and grievances that never existed in truth.
Image credit: David, via Flickr