There is no shortage of statues around both the United States and Canada that depict leaders from history. Every small town has a couple, most cities have dozens. The problem is that some of these leaders held views that are now seen as racist, sexist or just plain wrong. But, to me, that’s not the most basic problem with these celebrations of men (and they’re almost all white men) who were flawed, misguided or, in some cases, prejudiced and cruel.
The biggest problem is that these statues are almost always made of men who were born into the right families at the right time. If they’d been the sons of blacksmiths or farmers or teachers or artists we would never have known anything about them. Certainly there would be no statues made of them. Most of the statues in North America are of men who were not exceptional, talented or skilled in any way. They were merely lucky enough to be born in the right family. Are these the men from our past we truly want to celebrate?
My belief is that all statues of any historical figure should be taken down. The discussion now should not be about which statues to leave up and which to demolish but rather on why we need to erect statues to anyone at all. If, and it’s a big if, society decides that there is merit to having statues of historical figures let’s not put them up to men who were born into aristocratic families or political families or families with long-established, inherited wealth. Let’s not honor men from the past who were, in modern terms, born on third base and think they hit home runs.
If we feel people from our past should be honored, perhaps as a way of remembering that past, let’s look to the common, everyday people who actually did the fighting in the wars (and not from behind the back lines like the generals or from war rooms like the politicians) and who made medical or practical discoveries or created lasting works of art. Those are the truly interesting, innovative, exceptional men. And let’s, too, look to women from the past, often overlooked or ignored, and to people from other races other than white. Both of these groups have made lasting and important historical contributions to the advancement and betterment of humans that have been utterly ignored in our rush to celebrate entitled aristocrats, wealthy bumblers and other members of the elite who through the ages have been so good at not only putting their offspring into powerful positions but also duping the masses into believing that they were acting for the good of humanity.
Kevin Bannister is Lorraine's husband and the father of five. He is a rancher living in the beautiful foothills of central Alberta. He has been a farmer, businessman, journalist, editor, sportswriter, stockbroker, truck driver, gum puller, janitor, corporate vice president, steelworker and door-to-door salesman.
He would like Thomas Peters and Murphy Steele to be celebrated as the heroes that they were in their lifetimes and to be inspirations to young people everywhere to persevere in the face of bigotry, poverty, government indifference or any other adversity.
He is in great debt, especially to his wife Lorraine who is his greatest critic and a superb editor, to Lorraine Delp his Fireship Press editor and to Mary-Lou and Jacquie at Fireship for publishing the book and guiding him along the way and to his daughter Rebekah who designed and built his web site. He is also thankful for Dr. Daniel Paul who corrected some mistakes and thus improved The Long Way Home.
Copyright © 2017 by Kevin Bannister