Sam Burnham, Curator
Our friends at Save Art Heritage posted an article recently that reported that the city council of Charlottesville, Virginia has voted to remove a statue. That’s not much of a surprise. As the council has shifted further and further to the left they have become more and more hostile to any representation of history in their town. They have even moved to have Thomas Jefferson’s birthday recognition eliminated. It’s interesting to note that Jefferson is the only reason anyone even knows where Charlottesville is, or that it would even still be there.
The statue in question this time is of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis with Sacajawea, the young Shoshone woman who led them through much of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson has commissioned the two Virginians to explore the new real estate and report back. It’s one of the greatest adventure stories in American history.
As is the case with all history censorship, there’s a group who has taken offense to the monument. The council paid $75 thousand to bring representatives from the offended group, members of the Shoshone tribe, to Virginia to lobby for the monument’s removal. This suggests that the council found a potential problem and then went shopping for a lobby to support their nefarious cause.
The link to this story was shared on the ABG Facebook page and got a lot of reaction.
“Put it in a museum” is a constant talking point. What this really means is marginalize this thing or promise to move it to a place that doesn’t and never will exist. It’s a fake attempt at compromise. The truth is that our parks and streets are museums. These are the places our heritage is on display for public view and contemplation. This is where these monuments belong. This is where they should stay.
“It’s our history and you can’t change history” is an accurate description but it doesn’t go far enough. It is a veiled admission of wrongdoing. Lewis and Clark were on a mission of exploration, not exploitation. Cooperation with the people they encountered was paramount to their mission. Without that cooperation they would have disappeared into the west, never to be heard from again. This monument is not offensive to anyone who isn’t already looking for something to be offended about.
A better option would be to take opportunities to tell the story of Sacajawea. America needs to hear the story of the 16-year-old “purchased bride” of one of the expedition members who became a pivotal part of the mission and even GAVE BIRTH during this epic adventure. Quick, without googling it, what was her husband’s name? Does anyone remember him? He’s just a footnote in the Corps of Discovery. He didn’t make it on the Charlottesville statue or the golden $1 coin, but she did. No one knows him. She’s an American hero. Let’s hear more about this remarkable woman. Don’t take away from the story, add more to it.
As our friends at Save Art Heritage said in their post, the anti-history movement isn’t about “Confederate” anything. It’s about changing the narrative, demonizing the pillars of America and changing the narrative to something more in line with their personal philosophy and politics. This isn’t being done out of ignorance. It’s being done out of dishonesty. It’s a purposeful mission that started with monuments from the War Between the States and has spread and will continue to spread until someone stands up to the politically correct censors. You don’t do that with tiki torches, bad haircuts, and racial slurs. You do it with truth. You do it with correct representation of the past, and you do it with the knowledge that people will try to label you as a racist or a bigot or whatever other buzzword they pull out of their hat that week.
If no one stands up, this will progress to monuments to the World Wars, to Vietnam, the Gulf Wars. It will infiltrate battlefields and cemeteries. No part of our history or culture will be safe from censorship or revisionism. Renaming streets, institutions, buildings, and events will scatter our landscape until nothing of our past, our founding, or the very foundations of our society will be noticeable. The new narrative will be all that remains. And that’s just not acceptable.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire