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OP-ED: Statues and Monuments: 'It seemed like a good idea at the time'

Chris Hertig
Spring Garden Township
Workers begin removing a Confederate statue in Gainesivlle, Fla., Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. The statue is being returned to the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which erected the bronze statue in 1904. County officials said they did not know where the statue would be going. (AP Photo/Jason Dearen)

Currently there is considerable controversy over the existence of monuments to Confederates, as well there should be.

Most of these statues were erected during the Jim Crow era. They were an attempt to imbue the Confederates with honor, in spite of the fact that the South enslaved human beings. Perhaps we could say that they were a means of putting spin on the Confederacy. 

A common scenario has been to dedicate a building to a large donor. Obviously, there must be thanks and recognition given, but we are now in a place where this can backfire. Who among us foresaw the furor over the Confederate statues? Or the toppling of Christopher Columbus into the sea? Serious vetting of the donor needs to be conducted beforehand.

We must always question how folks in the future could perceive our commemorations. This is no easy task, but certainly it behooves us to not recognize those who are unethical, discriminatory towards certain groups of people, or who bullied their subordinates.

Once a statue, monument or building is dedicated, it is difficult to undue it. Even the rectification of the mistake takes time, during which people are alienated, damage is done to an organization’s brand, etc.

The #MeToo movement has shed some needed light on powerful men who preyed upon women. Many of these cases went on for years, sometimes decades. These men had a large public persona. But it was rapidly destroyed once the scandals came to light. And scandals always come to light.

Extreme care needs to be taken when honoring someone. Obviously this should occur prior to the dedication of any form of tribute. It may also be prudent to review commemorations that have been made in the past. This can prevent future problems and perhaps uncover some important history along the way. Those are good things.