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Wiping Out Monuments Won't Erase History

Wiping Out Monuments Won't Erase History

Close up of statue of head of Franklin Roosevelt in the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C., on May 13, 2019. (Njarvis5/Dreamstime)

By Friday, 26 June 2020 05:13 PM Current | Bio | Archive

To be flawed is human. We are all flawed, even the best of us.

Despite our foibles large and small — perhaps because of them, there are valuable and important teaching lessons that can be gleaned from our actions.

That holds true for all our actions — the good and the bad.

The same holds true for our heroes. 

Moses, the greatest prophet, is my hero. He was the only prophet able to speak directly to God when he wanted to — in real time, not in a dream.

Every other prophet was called by God on God’s schedule.

Moses was able to speak directly according to his own timetable.

God commanded Moses to speak to the rock. Instead, Moses hit the rock. The end result was the same, the rock gave forth water, but Moses disobeyed a direct order from God.

And to the people, it appeared as if it was Moses who had performed a miracle, not God.

Moses made a mistake and he was punished for that mistake.

Yet, we still elevate Moses to the pinnacle of all prophets. He remains, to this day, the person closest to God. He has not been written out of the Holy Bible.

He was human and we recognize that. So did God.

Fast forward through history and we will find example after example of great men and great women, people who changed the world for the better, but who had, alongside their greatness, great flaws.

FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was a great president.

He instituted the New Deal, briging economic recovery to the nation, he took the United States though World War II. And he was great for Jewish immigrants who saw him as a savior. Yet it was that same FDR who refused to meet with Jewish leadership to brainstorm about the Holocaust. And who refused to bomb the railroad tracks leading to the gas chambers or the crematoria.

Who refused to do what he could to halt, or even minimize, the atrocity.

Yet, despite that, he is still a hero.

There are numerous statues of American heroes who were anti-Semites of the highest order. In West Point the army erected a statue to George Patton in 1950 and then rededicated it in 2009.

Patton, GeneralGeorge Patton, was one of the most important generals in the history of the United States. It is Patton who was mainly responsible for the defeat of Nazism.

It's Patton who was tasked with dealing with the aftermath of Nazi concentration camps at the conclusion of World War II. And, it is Patton who called Jewish survivors "locusts."

Patton also referred to Jews as subhuman species without any of the cultural or social refinements of our times.

And like many other American heroes who happened also to be anti-Semites of the highest order, there are statues in their honor. Patton's is still standing. Still admired. As it should be.

Henry Ford is known as the great auto maker and industrialist.

Ford has a statue, one saluting his achievements. He is less well known for having printed "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," an erroneous volume in which he expressed his beliefs that Jewish leaders, who were communists and capitalists, secretly met every 100 years in the Jewish Cemetery in Prague to plot global control.

Ulysses S Grant, the great Civil War general of the north (the Union), responsible for the freeing of the slaves and defeating the Confederacy expelled all the Jews from Tennessee.

Peter Stuyvesant, also known as "Peg Leg Stuyvesant," was the governor of the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam. He hated Jews. He referred to them as "the deceitful race, such hateful enemies and blasphemers of the name of Christ."

Martin Luther founded of Protestantism in 1507. He was such a rabid hater of Jews that German and Norwegian leadership officially rejected and condemned his anti-Semitism in a public declaration, hundreds of years later in 2015.

Should his Luther's be toppled? Should the statues of any of these people, these heroes, be destroyed? Of course not.

The point should be clear.

The statues and memories of these leaders should not be eradicated, torn down, defaced, or destroyed. The crime is in blotting out their memories.

Their images and their names can be usedshould be used, as educational tools.

Use them to teach about the complexity of character in each of us. Teach about the good they accomplished and the foibles they fell prey to.

Even emphasize those foibles. Talk about them as being human  not as saints.

The Nazi death camp in Auschwitz encapsulates it all.

The telling and teaching about the horrors that happened in Auschwitz, the most notorious of all camps — all camps not only Nazi death camps  is critical to understanding what happens when one group thinks they are superior and above everyone else.

Seeing the enormity of the death process and the machinery that was created purely for the purpose of murdering all the Jews is moving. So moving that visitors to the site, which is in essence the equivalent of one very large statue, cry.

Not just Jewish visitors, almost every visitor.

They are standing in a place where tens of thousands of human beings were murdered daily.

Dismantling Auschwitz is not a reasonable step in dealing with hate.

Keeping it and teaching about it is.

People who destroy monuments think that history is monolithic. That history is divided into good and bad and that the bad is to be removed in order to correct the mistakes of the bad. 

Wiping out history is the true mistake.

I was in the Soviet Union in 1987. A Soviet tour guide told her group that Russia entered World War II in 1941. I explained that the Soviets entered in September of 1939 in an axis pact with the Nazis. The guide called me a liar and an anti-Soviet propagandist and reported me to the KBG.

The Soviets removed that part of history.

It was dangerous when they did it. It's equally as dangerous when we do it.

Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.

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People who destroy monuments think that history is monolithic. That history is divided into good and bad and that the bad is to be removed in order to correct the mistakes of the bad.
fdr, ford, patton, moses
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2020-13-26
Friday, 26 June 2020 05:13 PM
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