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Post Monument Controversies: Columbus in NYC
Created by John Eipper on 08/26/17 8:00 AM

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Monument Controversies: Columbus in NYC (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 08/26/17 8:00 am)

I have been following the recent controversies about Confederate monuments and statues in the US, although in a distant and uninterested way.

But yesterday's news was too much. I saw that in New York there is an initiative to remove the statue of Cristóbal Colón, or Christopher Columbus if you like, because somebody in the Mayor's office considers it a racist offense to the Caribbean people; an expression of racism, or some other nonsense.

I do not understand, and if I did, I would probably never accept arguments to remove or destroy historical monuments, streets, parks, statues, or the exhumation and removal of bodies and so on, as much as I would not accept the destruction of historical books or documents with the intention of removing from the collective historical memory some character or ideology of the past for the sake of an intellectual movement or grievance.

There are many examples, many very recent, about changing the names of cities, before and after the USSR; the burning of books in the Hitler and Mao regimes; the destruction of historical monuments and statues by ISIS in Palmyra; the "Ley de la Memoria Histórica" in Spain, which attempts to erase, by decree, the collective historical memory. I believe there are more irrational and emotional motivations behind these unjustified, and somehow barbaric, acts than actual reason.

Isn't it a very complex task in the present to judge who is an evil or poisonous historical character of the past?

By eliminating their legacy, whether "good" or "bad," might we also be eliminating important and transcendental aspects of our past?.

History should not be "physically" removed to justify our present moral standards. Rather, education should be promoted to critically understand them and their acts, not necessarily to justify them.

However, I must also confess I would feel some satisfaction if all kinds of representations and icons of the current Venezuelan or Cuban regimes were eliminated, but this only would be a very simplistic resolution of my own resentment. But, would it be wise to remove worldwide, what I personally consider "evil"--the revolutionary icons of Chávez, Fidel or Che Guevara?

JE comments: José Ignacio Soler is singing my tune: education and critical debate over erasing history. Let us channel Santayana: if we forget the past's injustices, we are doomed to repeat them. (Sometimes we both remember and repeat past injustices, but that's another conversation.)

But what is the proper place for this debate: the public square, or the museum?

Tell us, Nacho: Has Maduro built a lot of Chávez statues, or has the era of grandiose cult-of-personality monuments itself passed into history?

[Sorry for the delay in launching today's WAIS.  We had a "storage problem 28" that has just been resolved.]

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