Another step forward as the Belgians take down the statue of King Leopold II.
Most Americans have never heard of this old murderer. About a century ago, he slaughtered 10-20 million Congolese in an act of genocide that dwarfed Hitler’s massacre of the Jews. But since we never fought a war against him, this is news to most Americans. The fruits of his monstrous rule include this father, staring at the hands and feet of his five-year-old daughter, who was butchered for failing to harvest enough rubber for his Royal Highness:
Anyway, the other day, the Belgian people did a fine job of defacing that statue of the old monster and then pulled it down, as was long overdue.
Smash cut to America, where various statues are also coming down. Lots of them are Confederate statues. Lee’s coming down in Virginia. Jeff Davis in Frankfort. Birmingham tore some down recently. And the scream that goes up from the MAGA Cult is always, “But our History! Our Precious, Precious History! The liberals are erasing our History!!!!!”
Mhm. And yet the absence of a statue of Hitler or Tojo at the World War II Memorial has not led people to forget who that war was fought against. And indeed, erecting a statue to Hitler in the center of that Memorial would be a profound insult to our honored dead.
For the same reason, putting up a statue of Judas Iscariot in Catholic churches is not the Done Thing.
The reason is that statues always connote the bestowal of honor in the grammar of a civilization. We don’t go to the trouble of commissioning, carving, erecting, and dedicating public statues in order to put up a giant stone post-it note to remind us “Oh yeah! Nathan Bedford Forrest existed and was a Confederate Cavalry Commander and the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. That will be on the test on Monday.”
We do it to honor the subject of the statue and we do it to say something to the public about who and what is honorable. Destroying such statues is likewise the way in which we signal, as a people, that the person and what he represents is no longer held in honor.
This is why we blew up the giant swastika at Nuremburg rather than leave it up to teach history. It’s why there are no statues of Nazis left in Germany. Germans have these things called “books” and “films” and “concentration camps” and square mile after square mile of cemeteries to teach them quite enough about history without statues to remind them of the fact that, in the words of Hans Frank, Gauleiter of Poland, “A thousand years will pass and the the guilt of Germany will not be erased.”
And that’s the thing. For the champions of Confederate statuary, the statues are not reminders of Confederate shame or guilt. They are emblems of pride and shamelessness, erected not as a reminder that their ancestors fought the bloodiest war in US history and murdered more Americans than Adolf Hitler in order to defend keeping black men, women, and children in chains forever, but as reminders to the sons and daughters of those slaves that they lived under Jim Crow and could be tortured and killed at any time if they stepped out of line.
What’s always amazing is the cognitive dissonance of the Cult in response to these facts.
On the one hand, we must preserve our precious history. On the other hand, the black population that history tramples and insults need to “get over it” because slavery was “a long time ago.”
One the one hand, the people marching in Charlottesville were just statuary enthusiasts and history buffs. On the other hand, the fact that they marched under the banner of the swastika as one does rather suggest that they were incapable of learning from history.
On the one hand, the Cult always declares its enemies too stupid to breathe, indulging in “meaningless PC cosmetic victories that change nothing” by tearing down statues instead of addressing the “real” (and never specified) issues. One the other hand, the damn libruls are cunning devils tunnelling under our houses to destroy “our” civilization with their deadly leftist triumphs of thought policing that are Erasing White Civilization and Culture.
Rubbish. Somehow, people know who Hitler was without statues in his honor. Somehow, the Church is able to remember Judas without a statue in his honor.
In the same way, we will be able to remember the Confederacy and the ugly dishonor and treason for which it stood without statues paying honor to that. Indeed, we will remember it more clearly the sooner we stop lying about the reason for its entire existence: to defend the institution of slavery.
Some will dissemble that the war was “really about state’s rights, not slavery.” But that is garbage. Precisely the “state’s right” being fought for by the Confederacy was the right to buy, sell, and own human beings. Alexander Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederacy could not have been more clear on this point in his Cornerstone speech:
its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.
In short, the Confederacy’s entire raison d’etre is directly repugnant–and consciously so–to the great founding claim of the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence and its statement that “all men are created equal”. And thereby hangs a tale for future discussion about why some statues of sinners, from St. Peter to Thomas Jefferson, should remain standing.
Of which more tomorrow.
The claim that Leopold killed ten to twenty million always seemed over the top. On the other hand many popes practices slavery and the Catholic Church practiced slavery until recent years in the Magdalene laundries.
How many people were there in the Belgian Congo?
@ ken c
I go to Germany fairly often because my husband’s family is there. A few years ago, we did a family outing to a museum in, I think, Dresden. I don’t remember the name of the museum, And I’m not even sure it was in Dresden, but basically, it was a museum of oppression. One significant part of this museum was a display about Leopold’s Congo. I don’t remember much else, but I do remember the one sign that said that 33 million Africans died as a result of the European desire for cheap sugar and gold.
Or, if you need something a little closer to home, you can always read Mark twain’s piece, “King Leopold’s soliloquy.” This piece was satire. But you can read actual reporting from Mark twain in his autobiography and in numerous uncollected writings. I trust mark twain over you any day.
Cheers, Ben, on the Supreme Court’s decision today. I will sleep better tonight knowing Rod Dreher is crying into his pillow.
Thanks so much. It was quite a surprise. It looks like the religious freedom bullsCheiß might get a Well deserved legal death
Thanks for the recommendation, now I know about another monster. A good history lesson, though.
Five to ten million, though we’ll never really know.
Five to ten million dead, that is, in my opnion closer to the upper end of the range. Estimated population before the Free State: 20 million.
I read a story the other day that Ghengis Kahn killed ten percent of the worlds population. I wonder if these things such as Columbus
‘ opponents thought the world was flat. What would the population of the Belgian co go have to have been for him to kill 20 million?
Ugh, so many misconceptions.
No, contrary to popular fables, Columbus’s opponents did not think the world was flat. In fact, they had much better grasp of geometry than Columbus did.
The world was known to be round at least since ancient Greece. Eratosthenes calculated the radius of Earth in 3rd century BC. Romans used “Orbis Terrarum” as a sign of emperor’s power over the known Earth. It was used by later kings as a symbol of their power.
Spherical Earth is present in early Christian iconography as Christ’s own Orbis Terrarum to signify that He presides over the Earth.
Knowledge that the Earth is round was obvious to everyone who lived by the shore and ever observed a ship disappearing behind the horizon.
It was Columbus who was obstinate that the Earth’s radius is three times smaller than calculated by all who lived before him. He figured that it would be possible to sail across the Atlantic and reach India faster than it was to sail around Africa. He was wrong. He packed supplies for a voyage across just the Atlantic. If it wasn’t for the discovery of America, he would have run out of supplies one quarter of the way to India. If you look at the globe, you’ll notice that the Pacific takes roughly half of its surface and Atlantic is small in comparison.
If the Atlantic and the Pacific were swapped around, Columbus would have never reached America.
So by pure chance, Columbus is now celebrated instead of reviled.
While on the topic of Columbus, he’s another example of a man whose statues should be taken down.
I’m wondering if Mark thinks that every pope who didn’t put an end to the Magdalene Laundries should have his statute removed
Destroy it all. Thanks Mark.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” lasted longer than the Confederacy: seven years vs. just five. And Buffy arguably did more to benefit American culture.
Confederate leaders lost their war and their short-lived nation, so they are losers, not heroes. And the Confederacy didn’t last long enough to leave any but the merest trace of heritage.
So I’m with Mark: the only purpose of those Confederate statues is to send a message to the black people who see them: “it could happen again”.
Likewise, you won’t find any statues of Devadatta in Buddhist temples.
According to the Lotus Sutra, though, Devadatta taught Siddhartha Gautama the Dharma in a previous lifetime and will eventually become a Buddha himself, so a statue of Devadatta might be more justified from a Mahayana perspective than a statue of Judas is from a Christian one.
Interesting point. Even in Theravada, the Dhammapada Commentaries speak of Devadatta–after a hundred thousand eons–becoming a Pacceka-Buddha named Atthissara.
We can play this game forever. St. Thomas More burned heretics at the stake, Biblical patriarchs slaughtered whole populations of enemies. Abraham was prepared to offer a human sacrifice of his own son. The statues of Confederate generals were not erected to honor their positions on slavery. They are there for more complex reasons, none of which liberals know or care about.
Horseshit. Confederate statues were erected for one purpose: to honor the men who fought for a regime dedicated to the preservation of slavery and to tell blacks living under Jim Crow that if they stepped out of line they would be lynched. That’s all they exist to honor. And that’s all you are defending with your lies.
It makes no more sense than putting up a bronze if bin Laden in lower Manhattan or Tim McVeigh outside they Murrah building.
Well goshes. They erected their statues to honor traitors to our country, to honor a way of life that they would have given up in any case becuase that was what the civilized countries were doing.
The US ended slavery in 1865. Brazil waited until 1888. Everyone else had long before abandoned it.
They were erected as markers of white supremacy during Jim Crow, if that’s what you mean by “complexity.”
Yep. They were erected to show whites are the superior race. Obviously that’s what they embody. That’s all they meant to southerners. Thanks Neko, should have been obvious to me from the outset. So simple, why was I even thinking about “complexity”. Carry on.
Robert E. Lee and the Confederates were traitors in the cause of slavery. Spare me the Southern wistfulness.
Confederate Statues Were Built To Further A ‘White Supremacist Future’
“We can play this game forever. St. Thomas More burned heretics at the stake, Biblical patriarchs slaughtered whole populations of enemies. Abraham was prepared to offer a human sacrifice of his own son.”
And all those acts were vile and deserve condemnation. Assuming they actually happened, in the two latter instances.
Robert Byrd was an Exalted Cyclops of the Klu Klux Klan. Why is no one coming after the scores of institutions and buildings named after him?
Because he admitted that it was wrong.
Q: What has been your biggest mistake and your biggest success?
A: Well, it’s easy to state what has been my biggest mistake. The greatest mistake I ever made was joining the Ku Klux Klan. And I’ve said that many times. But one cannot erase what he has done. He can only change his ways and his thoughts. That was an albatross around my neck that I will always wear. You will read it in my obituary that I was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
In his last autobiography, he explained that he was a KKK member because he “was sorely afflicted with tunnel vision—a jejune and immature outlook—seeing only what I wanted to see because I thought the Klan could provide an outlet for my talents and ambitions.”
In 2005, he said this: “I know now I was wrong. Intolerance had no place in America. I apologized a thousand times . . . and I don’t mind apologizing over and over again. I can’t erase what happened.”
— — — Seriously, if you’re going to be dropping accusations, at least find a target which is harder to defend.
He repented and repudiated the KKK. Which you knew. But you are a liar dedicated to defending lies, so you don’t care.
Without having the same history as USA, I have no context for this, but I need to ask all you here.
How did you view computer games that depicted the American Civil War? There were dozens made, some of them were high budget productions with a lasting impact, some pioneered new concepts in the genre of strategic gaming.
Without the historical or cultural context, they were _just another war game_ and were reviewed as such by the gaming press.
One common theme present in many of them was that the Confederacy was the plucky upstart which challenged the established Union despite having fewer resources and much worse starting position. The South was always more challenging, yet more interesting side to play. What it didn’t have in resources, it made up in morale, gallantry and military genius of its leaders (especially Robert E. Lee, who is almost deified in those games).
If you played the Confederacy and you knew your history, it was possible to win the Civil War and then read the alternative history. Some games had painted a pretty bleak picture of what would obviously happen next. Others attempted more positive history, in which the South eventually abolishes slavery a few decades later, either due to having an epiphany, but more commonly because of economic reasons of slavery being more expensive than low wage workers in the Union. Then there were some in which the alternative history led to ultimate reunion of the Confederacy within the United States.
Come to think of it, I realize now that those games were trying very hard to cast an undeservingly positive light on the Confederacy, glorify it and create nostalgia for what could have been, but wasn’t.
I played the Confederacy in Civil War General and the Wehrmacht in Panzer General. I shot Nazis in Castle Wolfenstein and play a Redguard in Skyrim. I like to be brainwashed by all sides simultaneously.
Even underdogs can be overdogs.
I don’t know if this link will involve a paywall, but the synopsis that came into my email is interesting.
The upshot? People are done. Trump put it all out there on the table as if you could talk about it in broad daylight without your pointy hood on. He might have a silver lining.
Mark, from the article you linked at the top, it appears the Belgians took down *a* statue of King Leopold II, not *the* statue. There are more. But it’s a start.
How do you feel about the Lenin statue in Fremont?