Building our country in 1776 was messy. Rebuilding it won’t be any cleaner.
I can't think of any park, plaza, or building that would not benefit from a statue of Sophia Loren.
A lot of us are feeling a bit ambivalent these days. Things are changing around us at a rapid pace, and for us older Americans especially, it may seem too fast: statues town down or vandalized, state flags being altered or changed entirely, even football team names being reimagined.
And yet if anyone should be understanding and conciliatory, it's older Americans. We've been around the longest, and we know better than our younger brethren that promised changes have never come—not in 150 years; not in 400 years, not ever.
Think about all the turning points you've lived through. If you're only thirty, then you were alive for the Rodney King saga. King was beaten badly by some Los Angeles police officers in one of the first videotaped instances of brutality. The event and the ensuing riots would change everything. It didn't.
If you’re closer to forty, were alive for The1980 Miami riots when four Dade County Public Safety Department officers were acquitted in the death of Arthur McDuffie, a Black salesman and former Marine who died from injuries sustained at their hands. The 1980 Miami riots were the deadliest since the 1960s and would change the way police acted toward minorities. Except it dt didn't.
This born in 1970 were still infants for Kent State, Attica, and Wounded Knee, but their parents knew that these were game changers in terms of the use of force, the treatment of prisoners, and the systemic abuse of Native Americans. They knew that, but they were wrong.
The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the matriculation of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi, the long hot summer of 1967—every one of these incidents was a landmark event on the road to a society where racial prejudice and the mistreatment of minorities were antiquities to lament and forget. Except they never were. How many landmark events do we have to undergo before we realize that they aren't landmarks at all: they're simply way stations on a long, circular journey whose only guarantee is to put us back where we started.
As for the statue-abuse, I'm an Italian-American, but I feel no insult at the removal of Columbus's likeness from our parks and plazas. Marconi or Fermi would do just as well, or even Sacco and Vanzetti whose political beliefs I did not share, but who were martyred because of their politics. And DaVinci? Verdi? How about Sophia Loren? We don't have to go back five hundred years to find a notable Italian of whom we can be proud.
And the so-called Southern heroes were heroes to an unjust cause; calling them traitors is not in any way far-fetched. They deliberately plotted and executed the overthrow of the government. That they did so in the hopes of maintaining the enslavement of Black Americans diminishes their honor, but the crime remains the same. They should no sooner be honored than Hitler in Germany or Milosevic in Central Europe.
It's possible that for all our emphasis on landmark events, the murder of George Floyd may have set some in motion, and if that's true, expect things to get messier before they get clean. Hercules knew that from when he was a "stable boy," and he had only thirty years of filth to undo. We have 400. We may lose a statue or two along the way, but if the corruption finally crashes down with them, let them fall.