The battle to save NYC’s monuments from woke mobs is far from over
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Six months ago, a throng of New Yorkers, yours truly included, gathered outside of the Museum of Natural History to protest the planned removal of the statue of Theodore Roosevelt that graces the entryway. It was a small event in a sweeping summer of plague, riots and iconoclasm, but today, the statue still stands.
It’s a lesson that the fanatic mobs that would destroy our history can be held at bay — if we have the courage to fight back.
Boston wasn’t so fortunate. There, an iconic statue of Abraham Lincoln was removed. This was a statue, mind you, modeled on an original in Washington, DC, that was paid for by freed slaves. But today’s laptop-class progressives decided they didn’t like the way those former slaves had themselves been portrayed in a work of art showing a black man rising from his knees under the Liberator’s protection.
This is madness. As is the absurd controversy over the equestrian statue of Teddy Roosevelt. The statue’s censorious enemies insist it portrays his Native American and African guides as inferiors. This was neither the intent of the piece nor the interpretation of the vast majority of sane people who take it in. There is nothing — nothing — racist about the statue.
We should also have some say in matters of public art and the history of our city and culture that it represents. As with the Lincoln statue, the decision to take down Teddy was made by a panel of experts, a blue-ribbon commission of grievance mongers who could find racism in a glass of milk. There is no evidence that any large group of New Yorkers find the statue offensive. And if they do, we ought to prove it before we start removing statues.
Not that these lunatics will give up. Which is why City Councilman Joe Borelli has floated a plan to change the City Charter to require a referendum to take down historic works of public art. Changing the charter to give the power to save statues to the people of Gotham would set an example for the nation and help retard the erosion of the American identity.
Oh, and Mayor de Blasio’s Mayoral Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers, founded in 2017, is a solution looking for a problem. Remember when we were assured that taking down statues would go no further than Confederate generals? Then suddenly, it was Columbus and Lincoln and Roosevelt. The progressive appetite for destruction is voracious. The people of New York shouldn’t stand for it.
Those who seek to destroy the monuments bestowed upon us by past generations live in a furious and unending now. They don’t place themselves in history, but rather seek some perfect present removed from the legacy of times gone by. It is a means of control, a way to determine not just what you may see, but also what you may think.
There is no city in North America more replete with world-class public art than ours. We take it for granted. We presume its permanence, even as forces work to dismantle this birthright. We must say no. Our grandchildren must walk in the shadows of these statues even as our grandparents did. It gives meaning to the history and life our city, of which we are caretakers for but a brief time. Who are we to deny this art to future generations on the whims of unelected experts?
On that hot day in June, most of us thought our effort to save the Roosevelt statue would fail. It still might. But not yet. We knew we would likely lose. But we weren’t going to lose without a fight, without making our voices heard.
No, the monuments question isn’t even in the top-10 challenges facing the city. But it does matter. As we enter the mayoral race, our candidates need to address it. Where do Andrew Yang and Scott Stringer stand on destroying public art? Who do they think should make those decisions? The people must decide, because these monuments belong to the people. They are ours and we have every right to protect them.
David Marcus is The Federalist’s New York correspondent.
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