You didn’t have to be a prophet, or even a fortuneteller of the most ordinary quality, to see how this story was going to end.
For years, the country has been actively involved in eradicating all traces of the American Civil War. With the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia designated as a forbidden racist symbology, the next step in the fight became the presence of Confederate statues. No matter whether these honored particular figures, like Robert E. Lee, or the generic Confederate soldier you find in so many courthouse squares in the South (I hope to heaven none of the people pushing this crap ever visit Andersonville, GA, or they will have multiple strokes from what they find there).
The problem is that virtually no one from American history is sufficiently “woke” to be allowed a public presence. Thomas Jefferson is already nearly forbidden. George Washington is suspect. It is doubtful that any president prior to Harry Truman has any chance of being acceptable. Case in point, from, naturally, California:
No other city has taken down a monument to a president for his misdeeds. But Arcata is poised to do just that. The target is an 8½-foot bronze likeness of William McKinley, who was president at the turn of the last century and stands accused of directing the slaughter of Native peoples in the U.S. and abroad.
“Put a rope around its neck and pull it down,” Chris Peters shouted at a recent rally held at the statue, which has adorned the central square for more than a century.
Peters, who heads the Arcata-based Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous People, called McKinley a proponent of “settler colonialism” that “savaged, raped and killed.”
A presidential statue would be the most significant casualty in an emerging movement to remove monuments honoring people who helped lead what Native groups describe as a centuries-long war against their very existence.
William Freakin McKinley? Really? Is that all you got?
I suspect McKinley is a starting point because he’s relatively obscure. He’s probably most famous for getting shot and allowing Teddy Roosevelt become president.
But I’m willing to bet he’s just the first of many and the focus of friction will be related to the treatment of American Indians:
In February, San Francisco officials said they planned to remove a prominent downtown monument depicting a defeated Native American at the feet of a vaquero and a Spanish missionary. In March, the San Jose City Council booted a statue of Christopher Columbus from the lobby of City Hall.
Other states are joining the movement. The city of Kalamazoo, Mich., said last month it would take down a park monument of a Native American in a headdress kneeling before a westward-facing pioneer. In Alcalde, N.M., and El Paso, statues of the conquistador Juan de Oñate have become subjects of renewed debate.
If you recall, when Pope Saint John Paul II visited California in 1987, he beatified Father Junipero Serra, the Franciscan priest who founded nine missions between San Diego and Carmel. This caused no end of uproar because it was felt in some quarters that bringing Christianity and the mission system to the California Indians was a form of cultural genocide.
It is difficult to see how Washington, Lincoln (mass execution in Mankato, MN), Grant (Custer was active under him) or virtually any other president between the Founding and Closing of the Frontier is eligible. In fact, sandblasting Mount Rushmore smooth is nearly a gimme. When you throw in the shameful management of the reservation system and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, no president is going to be allowed to have a statue.