The power of monuments in shaping public memories and sentiments…

Ian Buruma has a piece:

The ghastly spectacle last month of neo-Nazis marching through Charlottesville, Virginia, carrying torches and barking slogans about the supremacy of the white race, was sparked by the city’s plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the leader of the Confederate army, which fought to retain slavery in the secessionist South during the American Civil War. The statue of General Lee on his horse has been there since 1924, a time when the lynching of black citizens was not a rarity.

…….

Britain has a less traumatic recent history. The views of Cecil Rhodes, or Admiral Nelson, though fairly conventional in their time, are certainly no longer fashionable today. It is highly unlikely that many British people gazing up at Nelson on his column or passing Oriel College, Oxford, will be inspired to advocate slavery or build an empire in Africa.

The American South, however, is still a problem. The losers in the Civil War were never quite reconciled to their defeat. For many southerners, though by no means all, the Confederate cause and its monuments are still felt to be part of their collective identity. Although hardly anyone in his right mind would advocate the revival of slavery, nostalgia for the Old South is still tinged with racism. That is why statues of General Lee in front of court buildings and other public places are noxious, and why many people, including southern liberals, wish to see them removed.

There is no perfect solution to this problem, precisely because it is not just about images carved from stone. Resentment in the South is political. The wounds of the Civil War remain unhealed. Much of the rural south is poorer and less educated than other parts of the US. People feel ignored and looked down upon by urban coastal elites. That is why so many of them voted for Donald Trump. Knocking down a few statues will not solve this problem. It might even make matters worse.

Hmm..

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