Tags: Support | the | Multi-Ethnic | Statue

In Support of the Multi-Ethnic Statue

Monday, 28 January 2002 12:00 AM

Jacksonville-based Robbie Rose is a country-and-Southern radio raconteur. Robbie is the most Southern Southerner I know. He's not a bigot, a hater, a Dixie irredentist or a "South-Shall-Rise-Again-er." Still, the American flag simply turns into the Confederate flag whenever he waves it; he can't help it. He's trying to quit, but there's nothing he can do about it.

On one of Robbie's comedy cassettes he recounts the story of his mother telling him, after he was fully grown, that his father, who he never knew, was really a soldier she'd met up north. "Are you telling me, Mama," asked Robbie darkly, "that I'm really a YANKEE?"

In that one lightning-and-thunder moment Robbie realized he wasn't really what he'd proudly thought he'd been all his life.

Now that same thing has happened to me. In mid-January of 2002 I was abruptly made to realize that, in spite of my best efforts, I guess I'm not really a conservative!

You know the story about the firemen statue. (Even THAT bothers me, because there are too many vastly more important stories too many Americans DON'T know.) After the Sept. 11 terror attack, three New York City firemen were photographed raising the flag over the rubble at Ground Zero. They were all white.

In an attempt to commemorate that act, a statue was commissioned depicting not three white flag raisers but rather one white, one black and one Hispanic. The Richter-plus tremor that followed obliterated the politically correct plans for the statue.

So, isn't that a victory for truth? Isn't that a defeat for political correctness? What should bother an old crusty-back reactionary like me who hates political correctness and still calls women "girls"?

Do I favor political correctness over truth? Of course not. Do I want to change history to please minority pressure groups? Get out of here and take those radical racial pimps with you!

So, again, what bothered me? In that lightning-and-thunder instant following the news that the statue would be "symbolic" rather than accurate, the viciousness of the right-wing reaction showed me a vast and ugly nebula of toxic gases inside the bowels of so-called conservatives that I will fight as fiercely as if it were liberalism and political correctness itself.

The right couldn't have been more vicious if Bill Clinton had tried to remove Ann Coulter's bra on "Crossfire." It was the rhetorical equivalent of the Krakatoa eruption in Indonesia or a major earthquake in Peru.

My best friends, personally and politically, were on the ramparts with broken bourbon bottles shouting "Outrage!" "Political correctness gone amok!" "Those three firemen were all white, dammit!" "You can't change history!" "If they'd been three black firemen and the statue people had tried to phony in a white, Al Sharpton would declare war!" And even "How can a parent explain to a child many years from now what really happened?"

That person wasn't lamenting the difficulty of explaining the evil of Osama bin Laden many years from now. He was referring to the difficulty of explaining to a child that the three firemen who raised the flag at Ground Zero were actually all white.

I, personally, would have no difficulty explaining that to a child. I'd simply say that, although the three firemen who actually raised the flag were all white, the monument commemorates the 350 firemen who lost their lives

Hey, you who were part of that reaction: Now that you've had a chance to catch your breath, are you going to try to pretend that look in your eye and that anger in your voice was just the way you react when history is being rolled? I know better.

Or maybe you're saying you're just the kind of person who gets upset when credit is not applied where credit is due. Okay. Upset is OK – but ENRAGED?

Come on, now; 'fess up to your old buddy. You just didn't like a good deed performed by someone with a white face being represented as being performed by someone with a black face.

In the spirit of Sept. 11, I chose to let it go. In spite of the spirit of Sept. 11, you chose to make jihad against the statue at the top of your lungs.

I am your ally, whether you want me anymore or not. And you showed me a disgusting, mean-minded, ungenerous, unnecessary moment that I'd thought Sept. 11 had body-slammed into deep unwanted history.

If there were genuinely some sinister attempt to portray the three firemen who raised the flag as having been of mixed races, I'd be on your side. Relax. All parties agree the three were, indeed, white. Where is it written that such a statue has to exemplify truth?

If you're claiming, "Hey, this is the way it was," then the art must echo the action. Nobody claims a mixed-race trio of firemen was the way it was. Why can't the patriotic actions of those three white men SUGGEST a memorial applicable to all who lay beneath the rubble? And embody the racial characteristics of them all?

This particular statue does NOT have to be a faithful depiction of history. It is free to be symbolic. It is free to memorialize, not only those who raised the flag above, but those who lay below. Nobody denies the original flag-raisers were white. Why should anybody deny statue representation of firemen of different groups who MIGHT have thought of raising the flag had they still been alive?

Yes, I know the New York Fire Department is overwhelmingly white. So what? Give a little. All Americans were hit pretty hard. When you're hit with a unifying horror, the least you can do is UNIFY.

Until now, I thought I was pretty good on the "history" thing. If you'd tried to make George Washington a Hindu to please some pressure group, you'd have a problem with me. If you'd tried to make a Hasidic Jew out of Robert E. Lee to please parts of Brooklyn, you'd have a problem with me. If you'd tried to rescramble the racial and ethnic mix of those Marines who raised the flag over Mt. Surabachi on Iwo Jima while the battle was still raging, you'd have had a problem with me.

This Ground-Zero flag-raising was, thank God, not a life-threatening act. So nobody's trying to yank Medal-of-Honor-type valor from whites and donate it to some other race.

To honor the three white firemen is appropriate. And accurate! To make a big-deal denial of including others is mean.

You want a race-shuffling case worth doing battle about? Christopher Ruddy, founder and CEO of NewsMax, gave us one. A PBS documentary called "The Liberators" a few years back portrayed the Nazi concentration camp of Dachau as having been liberated by black American Army troops.

The New York liberal power elite arrived in limousines at the theater for the screening, in tuxedos and evening gowns, hoisting champagne glasses to salute the feel-good premier spectacle of blacks liberating Jews from Nazi tyranny.

One problem. It wasn't true. Thanks to crackerjack detective work by Chris Ruddy, we learned the black unit was 50 miles away from Dachau at the time. The feel-goodies were infuriated by Ruddy's revelation. One was actually heard to wail, "Well, it SHOULD have been true!"

If I had been one of the three white firemen who raised the flag over Ground Zero, I would have called the other two and asked them to support the multi-ethnic statue. Why give bin Laden another laugh?

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Jacksonville-based Robbie Rose is a country-and-Southern radio raconteur.Robbie is the most Southern Southerner I know.He's not a bigot, a hater, a Dixie irredentist or a South-Shall-Rise-Again-er. Still, the American flag simply turns into the Confederate flag whenever...
Monday, 28 January 2002 12:00 AM
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