Would Jews ever allow a statue of Adolph Hitler to be built? It could happen since Hitler is a part of history that cannot be erased, advocates could easily say. Much of the same kind of thing is going on in the United States and the White House and people all over our nation refuse to have compassion for those who have been egregiously harmed throughout the history of our country.
Tennessee recently refused to pass a bill that would help that state fight against the alt right’s criminality, dealing a blow to ethnic minorities who often need more protection. And now another blow has been handed to the city of Memphis, Tennessee, a city that has democratically decided to heal by taking down statues. In question is the state of Nathan Bedford Forrest who is known for massacring African-Americans on sight during the Civil War. He was instrumental in blocking the voting rights of African-Americans and Republicans after the Civil War to ensure the success of political candidates in line with the objectives of the South.
It is also true that he made efforts later in life to bring about healing, which included denouncing racism and violence and he even took flowers from an African-American woman in 1875 which was something basically forbidden in the social mores of its time. Historians finally decided that he did not give the order, but his inaction in stopping the slaughter of people must be taken seriously, along with his role in the Ku Klux Klan (he denied being a member). This information is reminiscent of today’s politics involving Donald Trump (all the “fake” news about not knowing Stormy Daniels and other things). And I must write that Forrest was a cotton trader and slave owner. He has earned the contempt of people who have fought to have his statue removed.
Then there were tens of thousands of Polish officers killed near Smolensk in Russia. Poland had among other mass killings, the Katyn Woods massacre where about 22,000 Polish officers were killed and buried during Russia’s invasion of Poland. Recent historical research shows that 700-900 of the officers were Jewish and this complicated Hitler’s attempt to portray the massacre as a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy.
The Russians concealed the truth which started in 1943 and that continued for fifty years. The document for the executions signed by Stalin and Politburo has been found and publicized. In 2010 a statue of Stalin was taken down in his hometown of Gori in Georgia. Gori had been bombed by the Russians in 2008. Statues of Lenin have been taken down in different parts of the world.
The controversy taking place in the United States is universal. Even a statue of Thomas Jefferson is being discussed (Hofstra University in New York) for removal. Donald Trump asked months ago if statues of our Founding Fathers would be taken down. The answer is simple once you think about our democratic institutions. Just as Donald Trump has taken down executive orders of Barack Obama, his own executive orders can be taken down.
Just as laws have been made by his administration such as the tax reform, that reform can be taken down by repeal of another Congress (and blocked by veto action if the Congress wills it), and statues can be taken down democratically. The action taken by the legislature of Tennessee to defund the city of Memphis because of the taking down the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest should be reprehensible to all of us. I would ask the state to reconsider its decision and I expect the other side to take appropriate action in the courts on that matter.
The decision does not remove Confederacy history as Fox News has reported since the statues have been removed to another location. Fox News reported “while you were sleeping history being erased.” The statues will be preserved instead of being destroyed as has happened to other abominable statues throughout the world. History will be preserved in some appropriate place. And our democracy is at stake in the matter, although I completely recognize the swings of democracy from one side to another. This, in my opinion, is going to go on for a long time. After writing all of this, I learned that Donald Trump lost in the court case about refusing to fund sanctuary cities for going against his immigration policies. The case was decided in a federal appeals court. Trump maintains and there is evidence that people in California do not want sanctuary cities, but two-thirds of the United States did not want to take in Jews during the Holocaust.