After more than 40 years of voting exclusively for Republican candidates, I left the GOP in 2017. In 2018, for the first time since 1972, I actively campaigned for a Democrat, Stephany Rose Spaulding, who ran against Doug Lamborn, the Trump lackey who has been entrenched as Colorado’s 5th-district representative seemingly since the nation’s founding.
Lamborn coasts along in his cushy job, accomplishing little to nothing. He has no need to present any accomplishments during election cycles; he presides in the state’s most conservative enclave. He could go shoot someone at the U.S. Air Force Academy and he’d be awarded with a service medal—and two more years in office.
Protect America’s Statues Act
Yesterday a letter from Lamborn appeared in my mailbox. It begins with a perfunctory nod to the First Amendment right to free speech. But then it takes this ominous turn: “However, masked as Black Lives Matter protesters, anarchists and left-wing extremists have sought to provoke riots in the streets, burn police vehicles, and instigate violence against innocent Americans.”
The letter goes on to state Lamborn’s support of the Protect America’s Statues Act. Lamborn then adds, “We must defend our nation’s history and protect the rights of law-abiding citizens.” It all sounds logical and patriotic—if one never bothers to consider the matter beyond the surface level, which is a common practice among Trumpists.
Introduced by kooky California Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the Protect America’s Statues Act calls for withholding federal funds for cities and states that fail to protect statues within their boundaries. McCarthy’s announcement of his bill begins, “Public monuments are indispensable because they tell the American story. It is wrong to erase our history. We should be learning from it.”
Again, such shallow thinking. Statues and monuments tell the nation’s story. Please, Mr. McCarthy, explain how this works. Take your grandchildren to a statue of Stonewall Jackson, proudly astride his horse, appearing every bit the triumphant hero. With no explanation from you or any other adult, what will the statue teach those children? Apart from some analysis from a knowledgeable adult, a statue of a man riding a horse will teach those kids nothing of our nation’s history. It’s all about interpretation.
History Is Interpreted
The pertinent question, then is this: How will those statues and monuments be interpreted? Were Mr. McCarthy to take his grandchildren to see that Stonewall Jackson statue, would he paint the Confederate as a brave-but-tragic hero who led many successful battles in defending the principle of states’ rights and who treated his slaves in a decent manner? That’s the common Trumpist narrative. And it seems true that Jackson did treat his slaves in a relatively decent manner. How enlightened. Unlike many of his white contemporaries, Jackson didn’t whip his slaves.
A slave with no scars on his or her back is still a slave, a human being forced to perform chores for another human being. But McCarthy and Lamborn seem oblivious to this basic fact. Never do either mention—or, apparently, even consider—the underlying basis of the protests that have erupted across the nation. Why are thousands of Americans marching through the nation’s cities? Why are they opposed to those statues that Trumpists venerate? The very idea that systematic, systemic racism and injustice could have been central to the nation’s founding—and current status—is anathema to Trumpists. The narrative of glorious, faultless America must be preserved at all costs. And that includes the cost of defying truth.
You Want History?
The truth is that while America has many historic virtues, the nation also has many shameful chapters, not the least of which is its sanctioning of slavery. That’s a truth that must not be lost as we recall our history, a lesson for future generations.
So, while many liberals and compassionate conservatives call for the removal of statues of men who promoted and/or defended slavery, and Trumpists insist on their preservation, I call for more statues. I say we leave those abhorrent statues as they stand. But next to them we add statues depicting the lives of the human beings those Confederates enslaved.
Mrs. Trump, McCarthy, Lamborn, as well as Trumpists across the country, you say you want the statues preserved in order to teach our nation’s history? Well let’s do it. Honestly.