Gongol.com Archives: October 2023

Brian Gongol

October 27, 2023

News Bring down bad monuments

The monument to Robert E. Lee that precipitated deadly events in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, has been permanently destroyed in a foundry. Though it took place in some secrecy, the event was documented by NPR and the Washington Post in an almost ritualistic manner. ■ The statue wasn't a historical artifact of the Civil War era itself; it was only erected in the mid-1920s. That's an important distinction to recall; Lee himself had surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant nearly 60 years before the monument was installed. It would be an act of comparable historic distance to commission a monument to Nikita Khrushchev today. ■ Despite the nonsensical protestations of some, it is both reasonable and prudent to remove monuments that grossly violate the moral standards of the community. Monuments are about choices, reflecting the standards to which people know they should aspire, and it matters who we lionize. ■ No one gets to choose their own family of birth; that much is always an accident of Rawls's veil of ignorance. But everyone -- including those who are born to notorious bloodlines -- gets to adopt their own moral and intellectual forebears. ■ You can be born a Kennedy or a Roosevelt (or even a Khrushchev) and remain free to choose anyone as your intellectual or philosophical "parents" and "grandparents". And, indeed, everyone should. That ought to be a conscious choice, and the only real shame is to be found among those who refuse to redeem tarnished family names and cut ties with legacies that don't suit the present.

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