Editorial: Let us learn from, not destroy history

Mob mentality is dangerous

Column By Walt Mares

Walt Mares

I was appalled by what I saw. I saw a mob throwing a statue of Christopher Columbus into a river. It appeared to be a mob that was doing it.

Perhaps that is because I am not politically correct. Maybe because I believe such acts are wrong – very wrong. More so, I do not believe in trying to rewrite history. It was what it was and it is what it is. There is a saying that those who do not learn from history are bound or doomed to repeat it.

The recent removal of statues is an act of extremism. When I was a young man in the early 1970s, I came to the conclusion that extremists should never be trusted, except for Chicago Bears or Dallas Cowboys fans. That is only partly a joke.  

I learned not to trust left-wing or right-wing extremists. There has always been something that seems off balance in their approaches to politics, ideals, and their unwillingness to listen to the other side and attempt to find common ground.

That is what we are seeing in America today. There is a movement underway to right the wrongs committed in our nation’s history. The deepest wrong is racism. Racism has and continues to scar the American psyche. That is why thousands upon thousands have taken to America’s streets in protest.

Among the key targets have been statues and monuments, particularly those of southern confederate generals and other related figures. Unfortunately, it seems like it is being done under a mob mentality. How much thought is being put into these actions?

How many people know that it was not slavery that made General Robert E. Lee join the confederacy so much as his strong belief in states’ rights. He went to war on behalf of his home state, Virginia. That does not avoid the fact Virginia was a slave state. 

Let us learn from history before we are doomed to repeat it. Removal of statues does not change what happened in slavery being condoned for those hundreds of years. Nor does it justify what happened under the guise of Manifest Destiny as America headed west.

Why cannot some of those statues remain as a reminder of that period of America’s ugliness? Why can we not point to them as a reminder of what we can never allow to happen again? 

Place a red plaque at the foot of each statue stating these people represented the monstrosity of slavery and remind us of the long way America has come from the days of the War Between the States. 

Yes, there remains much to accomplish in rectifying the wrongs of the past and the present.

The statue of Columbus? He was Italian. The incredible courage it took for Columbus to travel to the New World. It was the age of when it was a common belief that the earth was flat. Does that courage no longer count for anything?

Do we forget how Italians were treated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? They were considered to be lowly guineas and WOPs (Without Papers).

What I see as an attempt to rewrite history. To cleanse it, so to speak. Again, it was what it was. It is what we learn from it that is most important.

At present, ours is a very divided nation that includes not only the subject of racism but also a deep divide regarding what to do of the deadly COVID-19. The fact is that it is spreading so incredibly fast and we have national leadership unwilling to accept the facts. The leadership, or lack of it, contradicts what medical experts are telling us to do to avoid it as much as possible. 

U.S. President Donald Trump continuously delivers misinformation to the public and has the attitude that it is no big deal. He continues to politicize the COVID-19 crisis. Add to that the many of Trump’s shortcomings that are pointed out as factual.

What we need is a unified front to deal with the virus. The ongoing protests and taking down of statues only gives Mr. Trump and his acolytes ammunition in derailing the focus we must have on the virus.  

Removing statues can wait. They have been in place a long time and we are not going anywhere. We must focus on the enemy and protect ourselves and our country. The virus is, after all, a virulent enemy.

Further, has anyone developed a plan as to what we do after the “offensive” statues are removed. So far, we have yet to hear of anything resembling a plan. If one is eventually developed, let us keep in mind we should learn from history, not attempt to rewrite or destroy it.  

We cannot judge the actions of people in the past based on our current sense of morality. If we do so, we end up throwing everyone in the river. 

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