Just when you think people couldn’t get any dumber and/or unreasonable concerning the revisionist history surrounding statues of past leaders, another ridiculous example comes along which takes the cake.
At least for this week.
The latest target is a most-unlikely figure, our 25th president, one Mr. William McKinley. Many people remember him as an assassination victim, being shot in Buffalo, New York, in 1901. But that has not been the only misery hurled his way, including a recent decision by officials of a California town to remove a statue of McKinley from its midst.
His “crime”: overseeing policies during his administration which aided western expansion and went against Native American interests.
Up to now, the criteria for ripping down bronze or granite likenesses memorializing key historical figures (not to mention having schools or streets renamed) mostly has included:
• Fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War — Under the modern evaluation criteria for honoring someone, this disqualifies individuals on a number of levels. Every Confederate was a pro-slavery racist, you know, with no allowance made for the fact most people in the Rebel army were simply protecting their homeland from invaders.
Yet this has not stopped wholesale removals or relocations of statues depicting generals such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in more than 25 U.S. cities, along with generic ones memorializing Southern troops as a whole.
• Owning slaves — This is a reason for demonizing statue subjects who held places in American public life long before the Civil War, and even helped shape the country. Icons such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington have been judged by today’s political-correctness litmus tests that conveniently don’t take into account the historical context in which they lived.
• Being from anywhere in the South — If the statue subjects didn’t (a) fight for the Confederacy or (b) own slaves, this factor disqualifies them simply on principle. They must have done something wrong.
As if those narrow-minded reasons weren’t stupid enough, now the pitchforks are out for others far outside that realm, including Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the commander of the Northern forces who defeated those awful Confederates.
Yet the craziest of all has to be the recent decision by officials of Arcata, California, to remove the statue of President McKinley from the town square due to his alleged objectionable treatment of Native Americans.
One specific cited is his support of the Curtis Act of 1898, an amendment to the Dawes Act which resulted in the breakup of tribal governments and communal lands in Indian Territory (presently Oklahoma). By essentially abolishing the remainder of tribal courts, governments and land claims in the Indian Territory, this law enabled Oklahoma to become a state in 1907.
Here again, McKinley is being judged by today’s “standards” and not by the period in which he served, the late 1800s when most every government official supported westward expansion. There is no question Native Americans were grossly mistreated in the process, but to focus all this blame on McKinley seems grossly unfair.
It’s one more indignity heaped on what history shows to be a pretty good man overall (recognizing that every person has flaws).
McKinley also served in the Union army during the Civil War, including fighting in the most important military engagement in Southwest Virginia, the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain in Pulaski County.
He would survive the war only to be gunned down while serving as president.
Honors for the slain chief executive included having Mount McKinley National Park in Alaska designated by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917, only to be renamed Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980. Denali reflected the name that had been given to the mountain which was of the native Athabaskan language.
I guess you could say this was McKinley’s first brush with native peoples.
And the latest situation in California shows that along with all the others who’ve called for removals of various statues or memorials on politically correct grounds, Native Americans are now firmly entrenched on the list of detractors.
I just wonder what’s next if this insane pattern is allowed to continue.
Will anyone who ever fought in a war or owned a gun have their statues taken down? After all, something objectionable about those two activities certainly could be found within the universe of the same lame criteria used to target others.
It makes we wonder if anybody can qualify for future statues, since no one is perfect except for Jesus.
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.