In New Orleans, America Should ‘Wipe the Slate Clean,’ Say Activists
These progressives want to 'sanitize' the city of all references to certain former presidents — and even rename Washington, D.C.
“Mayor Mitch Landrieu is on a crusade … to hide history,” said Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Thursday night.
During “The Ingraham Angle,” which was broadcast from New Orleans, Ingraham and her panel engaged in a fierce debate about the ongoing removal of certain statues memorializing America’s military and Confederate history.
Malcolm Suber, of a group called Take ‘Em Down NOLA, said his organization’s goal is literally to “wipe the slate clean.” And how far would he go in his dramatic commitment to absolve the city of symbols of “white supremacy”? He endorsed eliminating and/or renaming all the statues, parks, buildings, and city streets that reference any of the following former presidents — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Andrew Jackson.
He also suggested that residents of Washington, D.C., insist their city be renamed.
Thomas Bruno of the Robert E. Lee Monumental Association did agree with Suber on one point — that the residents of Washington, D.C., are the ones who should decide on such a monumental change. But New Orleans residents had no such input. The decision to strip four statues from their city’s landscape was made by the city council without a referendum of the people on the matter.
“These statues are pieces of art. People are free to make their own interpretation of what they mean or don’t mean,” said Bruno. “When historians look at these pieces of art, they have a variety of different ways of interpreting them.”
“What’s happening in our city is that one group of people is deciding for everyone else how we should think about a piece of art,” Bruno emphasized.
The city council did not see it Bruno’s way when it ruled on the fate of four of the city’s monuments a few years ago.
In December of 2015, the New Orleans City Council called the Confederate monuments “public nuisances” in order to justify their removal. Last May, the council’s controversial Christmas gift to residents came to fruition. In one pivotal example, a pedestal on which an iconic bronze statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee stood in the center of the city’s business district — since 1884 — was wiped clean.
But the statue’s removal, despite some proponents’ intent, did not wipe clean the slate of history.
At the time, New Orleans Mayor Landrieu said, “We, the people of New Orleans, have the power and we have the right to correct these historical wrongs.”
How does eliminating artwork from public view (often under the cover of darkness) correct historical wrongs? How does it eliminate a shared and shameful history of slavery? How does it eliminate a four-year civil war in which well over a half million American lives were lost?
The short answer: It doesn’t.
Removing commemorative artwork is a surface-level treatment of a situation that instead requires thoughtfulness and nuance. Creative works that memorialize profound events in our nation’s history deserve a more thoughtful approach.
The thuggish destruction of objects that remind us of just how far we’ve come as a country is at best shortsighted. At worst, it is profoundly and permanently damaging to far more than carved chunks of marble.
A war on art, on military history, on heritage is occurring here — and the losers are all Americans.
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.