Taking The Myth – August 2017 Edition

This week on Taking The MythStephen Knight (@GSpellchecker) and Iram Ramzan of sedaa.org (@Iram_Ramzan) discuss the big topics. We talk: Iram’s Pakistan adventure, Charlottesville, rape gangs in the UK and what happened when a Labour politician named the problem. Also, the ASLAN Awards and much, much more!

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One comment

  • If I may, I’d like to offer an argument in favor of removing the statues. Big fan of you, and I feel I generally see eye to eye with you on most things. And I’ll offer the caveat that since I am a white male southerner, I may be too in the bubble to view this objectively.

    But first I would say that it’s important to keep in context who built these confederate monuments and why. The vast majority of them were erected between the 1920s and 1960s during Jim Crow and the beginning of Civil Rights pushing the notion that while the South may not have won, the ideas of the confederacy remain and act as a rebuttal against the notion of equality. The myth also began to dominate that the Civil War wasn’t really about slavery, but rather about states rights or economic differences from the North. Which is partially true but only if you note that they wanted the right to have slaves and that their economy relied on the free labor. This, I’m in favor of these statues being removed. While the decision to remove them or not results in hurt feelings on both sides, I think the US has some responsibility to listen to some of those hurt feelings over others. Since the statues were created to cause the hurt that people are now feeling and reinforce white dominance, there is little justification to keep them. The hurt that people feel by them remaining also results from America’s great sin (I use that word a bit loosely as an atheist) from which America has never fully worked to absolve from itself, so this would be a step in that direction.

    I also think that the arguments that these statues can teach about history and that removing them would be awhitewashing of history is a bit rubbish. One, I as they are in public, they only really serve to reinforce lessons regarding one’s previously held beliefs about the war. If one sees Lee, Jackson and Davis as honorary men with an honorary cause, those lessons will be reinforced by those statues. If one conversely views those people as problematic actors in open rebellion of American ideas, then those ideas will be reinforced. My point is that I don’t think statues do any heavy lifting of instructing people of past error. They might be better served to accomplish that end in a museum, but in public, I just don’t see how it works practically. Two, the function of a statue isn’t really to teach history, but rather to honor people from the past. While I agree that we shouldn’t spend a lot of time using our current morals to castigate people in the past, I don’t think that’s what is being done here. By the time of the civil war the tide had turned and many more people recognized slavery for what it was and viewed it as immoral, hence sparking one of the decisions causing the civil war – restricting its expansion. I think the morals of the Civil War era damn those men.

    Perhaps it’s also necessary to determine where one draws the line. People ask often, one among them the orange clown occupying the oval, where does it stop? I think the line is easy in this case. Consider his examples of someone like Lee and someone like Washington. Yes, Washington owned slaves and that is obviously immoral (although recognized as less immoral at the time than in Lee’s day), but he ultimately he isn’t revered because of his slave ownership or his fight to keep slavery. He’s revered because of his contribution to establishing the presidency and the Revolutionary War. Lee, conversely, is only revered because of his work as a General in he confederacy. Someone working in open rebellion to the country that Washington built. I think you can take nuance here and decide whether someone deserves to be memoralized based on their body of accomplishments.

    Also, to speak individually about the statues. The removal of the Lee statue in Charlottesville had gone through the proper channels. And in general, I feel this is how this process ought to be done. As far as the people who pulled the statue down in Durham, I would just say, that if someone feels an obligation to break the law because they feel the law is unjust, they should willingly accept the punishment for breaking the law.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts.

    Respectfully,

    Jonathan

  • Both of you are great and I really appreciate your conversations. I’d like, however to correct some misunderstandings you have about the statues and flags in Charlottesville and the rest of the Southern US. Those statues and the flying of the Confederate battle flag are themselves a product of revisionist history and most were erected sometime around the 1910-30’s to gain political support of revived Jim Crow laws (segregation etc.). The narrative at the time was to create a clean version of the Civil War, promulgate a fiction that it wasn’t about slavery, and to give the South some heroes to rally around. Anyway it’s a complicated issue but the gist of it is that they glorify traitors and racists of the Republic and serve no other purpose than to present a false version of history. there is no need to take my word for it you should be able to find plenty of writing on it.

    Keep up the good work đŸ™‚

    PS. Yes we do hear about some of what is happing in the UK, more here in Canada (I grew up in the States but live in Toronto) than the US but still more than you’d imagine.

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