David Swanson: Aaaaaaand … Charlottesville’s statues are still standing
By David Swanson
It’s been so long since the Nazi rally here in Charlottesville that you can now search on Google images for “Charlottesville” and find some images that are not of that rally.
In fact, a lot has happened while the Lee and Jackson statues have stayed standing right where they always were.
They’ve been endlessly vandalized and cleaned.
The parks they are in have been re-named.
The city has declared that it will move another obnoxious statue (one of Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea) but not actually moved it.
The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled the obvious ruling that the law banning the removal of war monuments did not apply retroactively to the long-standing Lee and Jackson statues.
The Virginia state legislature has abolished that law anyway, not to mention ending the death penalty, and not to mention legalizing pot.
Be honest, did you predict Virginia would legalize marijuana before Charlottesville took down the statues that you probably thought Charlottesville took down three or four years ago?
The State of Virginia has taken Robert E. Lee out of the U.S. Capitol and is going to replace him with Barbara Johns!
(Only people who know who Barbara Johns is should get to screech about “erasing history,” in my humble opinion. With 99.9% of history not glorified in giant monuments in central public squares, most of it is presumably pre-erased.)
Statues have come down all over the world following the Charlottesville example that doesn’t exist.
Racism (except as regards foreign policy) has become unacceptable in mainstream U.S. culture, politics, and corporate media.
A police officer in Minneapolis has been convicted of murder.
Charlottesville has divested its public operating budget from weapons. (Its retirement commission luvs weapons and won’t divest.)
Charlottesville has (partially) demilitarized its police force.
Charlottesville has (finally!) banned guns at permitted events.
The University of Virginia has put up a memorial to enslaved people who built the place (a couple of hundred yards from the glorification of genocide that it refuses to move).
In fact, not a single one of Charlottesville’s or UVA’s giant acts of war propaganda has been moved, contextualized, added to, replaced, or dismantled.
Wars and presidents and disease pandemics have come and gone.
UVA basketball has gone from hopeless tournament bunglers to brilliant national champions and back again.
But not one statue has budged — not if it belongs to Charlottesville or UVA.
The County of Albemarle, which encircles and shares various operations with Charlottesville, has taken down and removed from sight the generic Confederate statue that stood in Charlottesville right in front of the court house just steps from the still-standing Jackson statue.
And during all of these years, with all of this foot-dragging, and all of this talk of compromise and ERASING HISTORY! not a single monument to something other than war has gone up anywhere in Charlottesville — at least not anything public that I’ve seen.
Any additions to Cville’s cityscape should be made democratically. I have no power or intention to dictate detailed steps to everyone. But the following are obvious examples of the sorts of things that could be done and could have been done last year or the year before or the year before that:
- Take the George Rogers Clark monument that depicts and celebrates genocide – the one that welcomes visitors to the University of Virginia – and relocate and contextualize it. One idea for a place to move it to would be the vicinity of the Lewis and Clark Museum in Darden Towe Park. Another would be a History of UVA Museum on UVA’s campus, something UVA could construct. In its new location, this monstrosity should be displayed along with an explanation of the historic events depicted, the origin of the monument (who paid for it, who decided to put it up, what was said at its dedication), and the reasons for relocating it.
- At the former location of the George Rogers Clark monument erect a memorial to the native peoples of this region and of the empire of Virginia that Clark was heralded for conquering.
- Take the monuments to Lee and Jackson that dominate downtown and relocate them to a park where they can be properly contextualized as in item #1 above. One possibility would be the IX Park where local artists could contribute to telling more of and a more honest story.
- Where Lee was, commission and create a memorial to the horror of slavery.
- Where Jackson was, commission and create a monument to the ongoing Civil Rights Movement.
- Take the monument to Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea – which the City has already said it will move – and move it to a new location and properly contextualize it as in item #1 above. The obvious new location would be the Lewis and Clark Museum.
- Where Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea were, commission and create a monument to peace activism and to Charlottesville’s Sister Cities.
- Take the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial and commission designs for adding a memorial to the millions of Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian men, women, and children killed by that war.
- In Riverview Park, commission and create a monument to environmentalism.
- In Booker T. Washington Park, commission and create a monument to the healthcare, food, and other critical workers who serve heroically during crises like the coronavirus pandemic of 2020-2021.
- At the corner of Emmet Street and Ivy Road, commission and create a monument to athletics.
- In front of the Albemarle County Office Building at the corner of Preston Avenue and whatever decent name can be given to McIntire Road, commission and create a monument to women’s rights activism.
- Near McCormick Road, not far from UVA’s World War I Monument, commission and create a memorial to the horror of World War I, and to the flu epidemic of 1918 that it created.
- At the West End of the Downtown Mall put up a statue of the Dave Matthews Band.
- In Forest Hills Park, put up a monument to Children.
- Take the plaques memorializing two world wars and wars on Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq off the Rotunda, and / or add mention of the people – UVA alumni or not – killed on both sides of those wars.
- Add to the Rotunda plaques honoring University workers who served during crises like the coronavirus pandemic of 2020-2021.
- Add to the Rotunda a plaque honoring educators.
- Add to UVA’s campus monuments to Georgia O’Keefe, William Faulkner, Julian Bond, and someone new each year, with each year’s class of graduates deciding upon the subject.
- Think up your own ideas — there’s no limit.