Cardinal Dolan of New York has recently weighed in on the issue of defacing statues (see link at bottom), which is a hot topic these days, connected with a renewed interest in systemic racism. One point he and others often make is:
"“Our children need to know their country’s past, its normative figures and their virtues and vices. That’s how we learn and pass on our story,” he said.”
In other words: statues are reminders of our history, and to destroy them is to willfully choose to forget our history. President Trump has said the something similar, and it is a fallacious argument, as I will demonstrate.
But first, let’s be clear that no one has a right to destroy any property that is not theirs. Public statues and monuments can be evaluated by the proper authorities in dialogue with the public, and even destroyed or moved, if that is the outcome. That’s what happened in New Orleans, where several Civil War statues were re-located. Tearing down and defacing statues is not part of public dialogue, and is sure to turn more people off to the cause at stake.
The argument about “remembering our history” misses the mark in that this is not why many of these statues were put up. In the case of statues of Civil War generals and politicians, in particular, they were erected in the late-19th and early-20th C. when “Jim Crow laws” were being enacted as reminders of “who’s really in charge here.” A statue of Stonewall Jackson said to black citizens that nothing, really, had changed in their status as citizens. The statues were intended to intimidate, and those who ignored the message were “reminded” of what’s up by KKK vigilantes. This was a selective remembrance of history — few statues of Lincoln in Jim Crow regions, or Grant, for example, and no monuments to the Emancipation Proclamation! Legal slavery might be dead, but psycho-spiritual slavery was alive and well. Over 700 statues of Robert E. Lee and others are found throughout this region of the U.S.!
So many other kinds of statues: American patriots, saints, explorers — all erected for one reason: to honor them and the causes they stood for. None were erected to help us "remember our history." If that was the purpose of statues, we would have more of Benedict Arnold, America’s most famous traitor. Arnold is a worthy remembrance, as would be “great slave ship captains of the old South.” None! That’s because “remembering history” is more about the business of museums, classes and textbooks than of public statues.
It’s a shame to see Cardinal Dolan falling for this disingenuous rationalization for retaining statues that honor even servants of evil ideologies. His argument that going overboard in responding to this issue might lead to something akin to China’s cultural revolution is both a straw man and slippery slope fallacy, especially if we deliberately and lawfully undertake a review of them. Catholics, in particular, need to know that Cardinal Dolan, here, is speaking more as an American with an opinion than a Catholic leader. We are entitled to an informed opinion contrary to his.
https://www.catholicnewsagency...ral-revolution-78119This message has been edited. Last edited by: Phil,
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