19.01.2021 Author: Henry Kamens

Duelling Monuments Defines Political Landscapes and Slanted Histories


There are definite double standards in all aspects of life, such as the way different protests are handled. This has not only been recently demonstrated in the US, but in many different versions of history.

The Suffragettes are presented by history as selfless freedom fighters who corrected an injustice by obtaining votes for women. While most advocates of votes for women were peaceful, the Suffragettes were a terrorist group, quite happy to bomb their way to winning their argument.

Yet the Suffragette terror campaign is now thought to be pivotal in obtaining votes for women. It could equally be argued that resorting to violence prolonged the struggle. Yet few care about the murder and mayhem, because if you win, everything you have done is justified.

Accepted crimes can only be committed by the losing side. It is no longer politically expedient to show all sides of a conflict – even if all cannot agree on an acceptable version.

Ask the people who talk about Allied war crimes committed during World War Two. None of those who do so are pro-Nazi, or trying to say the war itself wasn’t justified. But the very concept that the side in the right didn’t always act as they should is not up for discussion in the eyes of too many.

As in Orwell’s 1984, those who control history control the future. Currently there is a big deal over some US military bases named after Confederate military commanders. As posted on American Civil War forum, QUESTION: (If allowed in group) WHY is it, ONLY Confederate statutes are being removed?

The simple question is because the Confederacy lost, as did their effort to split the US into two or more pieces. So their commanders must be bad, and the Union commanders good, including those who had no problem with slavery, or were quite happy to commit atrocities against Native Americans.

One of the reasons Native Americans were treated as undesirable aliens in their own land is when the American Revolution came, many sided with the British. This is called “Defending the Constitution”, the very same things the descendants of their persecutors who join the modern military swear an oath to do.

Similarly, the Confederate states were exercising their Constitutional right to secede, which is still guaranteed today. The Union violated that right, and the US violates the constitutions and territories of other countries regularly with its interventions. But this doesn’t matter as long as you win – which the rioters who broke into the Capitol didn’t, while the Zionists who bombed the King David Hotel did.

Even Honest Abe Lincoln is Not Safe!

In Boston they have removed a statue of Abraham Lincoln, paid for by freed blacks, as it shows a former slave, (black) kneeling and displaying homage for their emancipation. Perhaps this obsequy is not the most appropriate message for this time, but the point is how it was intended by those who put it there – and why we think our age enlightened, and every previous age bigoted, when we’ve all seen the rules of such matters change on a regular basis.

On a hill overlooking Golspie in the Scottish Highlands is a huge statue commemorating the 1st Duke of Sutherland, a major local landowner. The inscription on its base describes him as a “kind and liberal landlord”, and states that the statue was erected by subscription, most of which came from his tenants.

The Duke of Sutherland was responsible for the Highland Clearances, a programme of forcible evictions which largely created the Scottish communities in Canada and New Zealand. According to his supporters, he was shocked at the poor conditions of his tenant farmers and decided to resettle them on the coast, where they could earn a better living. According to his detractors, his agents violently destroyed homes and lives so he could turn the land over to rearing sheep, which was more profitable.

There have been repeated attempts to destroy the Sutherland monument, and a memorial to his victims now stands near it. But in the Duke’s own time, the mere act of trying to resettle his tenants in better conditions was seen as progressive, no matter how he did it. As with the equally notorious case of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, no one thought of asking their inferiors what they thought about how they were being treated, as their opinion was of no consequence in the days before universal suffrage.

The same can be said of how the “N” word is used so often in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. There are two sides to that debate as well; however, most are not willing to go there, as it is easier just replace the word with slave and gloss over the original intent in repeating the now offensive word over 200 times.

The big stumbling block here is that Mark Twain was exactly the sort of radical who objects most strongly to the use of that word today. That was his point – and the fact that modern anti-racism campaigners, whose cause is as undoubtedly just, refuse to acknowledge this because they want to pursue agendas of their own, is also part of his same point.

You can find something to take exception with in any monument. It all depends what point you are trying to make, and it has no relevance to what point the monument is there to make.

Let’s not forget the fate of Columbus in Haiti – a statue of Christopher Columbus was dumped into the ocean, as reported by some media outlets. This action is calculated to offend the Portuguese, who revere the Discoveries of Columbus and Vasco da Gama as the apogee of their national pride. These are of course the same Haitian political class who got rid of Jean-Betrand Aristide, their clergyman-turned-president, because he upset the French by demanding reparations from them for all the crimes they had committed against his country abd his people during colonial rule.

It’s Part of the Slippery Slope

Coincidence or not, there was a huge spike in Confederate naming of schools in the 50s/60s when integration began to be enforced. But in most instances, the offending symbols just get moved, to cemeteries or museums, at taxpayers’ expense, because these people are famous locals, regardless of what you think of their politics.

In former Soviet Georgia, back in 2010, Stalin was removed under cover of darkness, and has not been seen since. Authorities removed a towering statue of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin from the central square of his hometown of Gori, home of the Stalin Museum, which no longer glorifies the dictator but informs people about him.

You can probably count the number of Georgian Stalinists on the fingers of two hands. But he was a local boy made good, a Georgian who rose to the top in a Russian-dominated reality.

How anti-Communist the US really is was starkly demonstrated when it recognised the restoration of Eduard Shevardnadze by a criminal gang in defiance of the democratic will, and built a new state around US interests and the suppression of that democratic will. This is what removing monuments, and making grand statements, is all about – it beats actually doing anything to help the people whose cause you have suddenly discovered.

Where does it STOP?

The Virginia Military Institute has removed a prominent statue of Confederate Office, Thomas “Stonewall.” Jackson provided the name sake for “Stonewalling”, after allegations of systemic racism roiled the school. This is cheaper and quicker than actually combating racism, and leaves present day racists intact.

There is a big difference between anti-racism and non-racism, which is what anti-racism is supposed to be striving for. In the same way that anyone can be a socialist if they have enough money, anyone can be anti-racist provided they are racist towards everyone who isn’t.

In World War 1, according to NPR, there was an outbreak of nativism and xenophobia in the US, that beacon of diversity, which targeted German immigrants, Americans of German descent and even the German language. Streets were renamed, the German-American press was heavily censored; libraries had to pull German books off the shelves and German-American organisations were also targeted.

This will be no surprise to those who remember the Birmingham Six, jailed for sixteen years for a terrorist atrocity which all involved in their prosecution – the government, the police, the security services and the lawyers- always knew they had not committed. It was this case which established the English legal principle of “Innocent Until Proven Irish”, which may not be in the law books, but still exists, disguised as jokes and banter.

What is happening in America is not isolated. Often histories don’t match seamlessly with claimed values and sanitized textbooks.

Japan is currently applying diplomatic pressure to protest the removal of a “comfort woman” statue which stood close to the site of the Bayview Hotel in Manila, scene of an alleged mass rape and murder by the Japanese military in the closing days of the war.

The comfort woman was a forced prostitute, sent into sexual servitude for the Japanese Imperial Army. Only now this topic is being discussed, albeit with many recriminations.

Another example of rewriting history is the Japanese biological weapons programmes in China, and the murderous activities of Unit 731, with its almost 100 percent fatal human experiments, have been held against that country since World War Two ended, as a justification for that conflict and the atomic bombs. Yet many of the bioweapons scientists ended up working for the Americans at the war’s end, like the Nazi rocket scientists American soldiers had died trying to put out of commission.

Just as the removal of images of Lenin and Stalin rubbed nerves across the former Soviet Socialist Republics, the debate concerning statues in the United States, and historical personages in many countries, will likely continue. The debate isn’t about what these people did, but who should set the standards of today. Ultimately that is about who has power, and how that power is expressed: and everyone will find some way of doing that, provided they don’t have to answer for it.

Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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