Smashing Statutes
Published: 2017-08-21

In March 2001 several large statues of Buddha carved into the cliffs at Bamyan Valley were destroyed as part of a government campaign to rid Afghanistan of offensive idolatry. Western and Buddhist countries condemned the destruction of the statutes as, "a crime against culture. It is abominable to witness the cold and calculated destruction of cultural properties which were the heritage of the Afghan people..." By the way, this was written by a non-Afghan working for the United Nations.

There is currently a frenzy of deposing statutes in the United States...specifically statues that honor soldiers who fought for the Confederacy in the American Civil War (1861-65).This time the weight of official opinion favors the removal of the statutes despite the fact that large segments of the population consider the removal of the statues  a cold and calculated attack on their heritage and an insult to heroic honorable patriots; this being the largely White pro-statue group.

This week, the matter came to a head in Charlottesville, Virginia after a group of legally permitted and peaceable pro-statue marchers was confronted by mobs of anti-statue Leftists. The police failed to separate the groups. Fights broke out. Then someone drove a car into a crowd of the Leftists and the matter has swirled into a national frenzy. Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ADL rushed out warnings against of an imminent neo-Nazi putsch (while using the matter to solicit funds.)

The topic is worth considering by CODOH members for several reasons. First, one can look at statue smashing as an extreme sort of historical Revisionism. Secondly, the SPLC and the ADL call any group they don't like "hate groups," including, shockingly, CODOH. Unfortunately, the SPLC and the ADL are listened to by the media and, therefore, have a remarkably large influence on shaping the narrative of events. How do I distinguish the quiet scholarly research of CODOH members from hateful statue smashing?

Before and after the distruction of heritage
Before and after the destruction of this Buddha Statue

I guess that no CODOH member would like to smash any monument. I personally wish that the administration at Auschwitz had left the monument claiming that 4,000,000 people suffered and died at that camp! The same is true with Majdanek and the 1,400,000 Nuremberg figure. Revisionists would be saved the trouble of reminding Believers how much their "history" has changed since 1950. Ironically, it was Holocaust Believers who have been destroying their own monuments and replacing them with “revised” monuments.

Smashing statues and destroying religious or cultural objects has always been common among humans.  In ancient Egypt, Akhenaten ordered the eradication of all of Egypt's traditional gods,by destroying their images. During the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards destroyed historical relics and artifacts and ransacked cultural and religious sites as a way of purging China of the "Four Olds" of its non-Communist past.

As far as iconoclastic frenzies go, the removal of the Confederate statutes is fairly minor...a Cultural Revolution lite. I can see why some people do not want to honor Confederate heroes particularly by monuments on public land.

But to focus on Robert E. Lee shows a large degree of ignorance. Lee's lasting legacy, in his own words was, "Before and during the War Between the States I was a Virginian.  After the war I became an American." It is forgotten that Lee was offered the position of Commander of the Union forces in 1861 and after the war worked for reconciliation.  Most Americans seem to have little idea who Robert E. Lee was. They accept the claim that he was a “warrior of racism” and strongly tend to side with the anti-statue group.

Fortunately, for the most part, the stained-glass windows and the statues are not destroyed but merely put into storage somewhere.  At least they are preserved.

I tend to be opposed to statue removal of any kind because I like looking at statutes. The odder, the better, without regard to the politics or religion behind the creation of the statue.  I have spent an hour staring at the Albert Memorial in London simply because the thing is an amazing relic of its time.  The same is true of the Confucius Temple in Beijing (saved by Zhou Enlai from the Red Guard), the Arch of Titus in Rome, or the Qutub Minar in Delhi. I am happy that these objects have survived the frenzies of various groups of fanatics. 


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Author(s): David Merlin
Title: Smashing Statutes
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Published: 2017-08-21
First posted on CODOH: Aug. 21, 2017, 10:09 p.m.
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