THE EDITOR: The current furore in the US over whether Confederate statues should be torn down or not poses many questions.
Those calling for their removal, barring the politics of trying to further embarrass President Donald Trump for his stance on the recent violence, are doing so on the basis of their perception of the Confederate cause in the American Civil War as an endorsement of slavery.
Those objecting to the removal of statues, such as that of Robert E Lee, et al, are essentially racist, including the President. But does it necessarily imply sympathy for the Confederate cause which undoubtedly favoured the retention of slavery in the American south?
It may be seen as such considering how sensitive the subject is, but can it also be a call to avoid destroying important mementos of total American history, whether good, bad or ugly? One recalls the horror of the destruction of the ancient statues of Buddha in Afghanistan by the Islamic State because of religious ideology.
The question to ask is whether a people’s history should not be retained in all its aspects, more so as the First Amendment of the American Constitution allows for freedom of speech, freedom of thought with the understanding that distasteful as such freedom of thought and expression may seem to others with opposing views, that tolerance is the expected reaction?
Again, would the elimination of statues which bring back extremely unpleasant memories somehow eliminate those memories? It may help to mitigate the effects, but can that action eliminate the deep-rooted negative psychology of slavery as Frantz Fanon has described in Black Skin White Masks?
Won’t it be more rational and productive, difficult as this may seem, just to try to come to terms with this horrendous experience, learn from it, and be the better for it?
For if this precedent is set of removing the symbols which remind us of an atrocious past, where does that leave the case of the American Indian whose glorious culture and way of life would have been virtually decimated by pioneers who are recorded as heroes in the annals of American history?
The American Indians continue to experience discrimination as is inevitable with subcultures in mainstream culture, but their approach is to try and assimilate as far as is possible, taking the good with the bad.
What of the “hero” Columbus who discovered the New World but paved the way for Pizarro and Cortez and their decimation of the First Peoples and the Incas and the Aztecs? Yet life goes on in Peru and Mexico, despite the horrors of conquest.
Tucker Carlson in Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News made a telling point recently that the history of the world is a history of conquest and enslavement, beginning with Genghis Khan in Asia and continuing with Sulieman and the Ottoman Empire, and further with the Roman Empire and Hitler’s Germany, the Spanish Empire in the New World, not forgetting the British Empire in the New World and in India.
But what Tucker suggests is that you can’t eliminate the march of history even with its atrocities. There is no other choice but to accept its inevitability and grow from it.
DR ERROL BENJAMIN