It has been my pleasure to work and visit many nations around the globe. I have noticed that in Communist or Dictatorship oriented nations, that every time there is a regime change, or election of new leaders, the street names, statues, and "heroes" change. I recall one trip to Romania, just after their dictator, Nicolae Ceauisescu was deposed, it was impossible to find directions around town, because all of the street names had been changed, and many of the landmarks and statues removed.
We are seeing something like that in the USA when historical figures, statues, building names, even names of military buildings are to be changed, if the riotous voices of protest are heeded. Sadly some of those statues, some of the history, some of those who were extraordinary people of our culture, are insulted and defaced by wild and riotous people. Often those perpetrators are people just following an emotional crowd. Often they are not educated on the history, the background or the exceptional qualities of the "men honored by statues". Often ignorance and raw emotions guide their destructive behavior. A troublesome part for our culture, is that it harms the overall culture, and insults a majority of Americans, who try to treat history with respect.
Sometimes the changes, the damage is more than the riotous masses would imagine. One case that caught my eye is the toppling of the statue of Albert Pike, in Washington, D.C. Pike was a celebrated author, an intellect who studied scholarly writings of history, a humanitarian, a peacemaker with the American Indians, a significant voice and founder of the 32 degree rank, often called the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. He urged "more light" for all, more education, more efforts to improve people through education and study. He was against slavery, and had such a positive impact upon people, that he was the only general of the Confederacy, that was awarded a statue of honor in Washington D.C. after the Civil War. Albert Pike was a child who due to bad parents, had to live with an uncle. His uncle recognized a brilliant mind and was amazed that Albert Pike had a photographic memory and was able to recall large volumes. He studied and read constantly. He mastered several languages, and passed his entrance exams for Harvard, taught school at Gloucester and in 1831 he moved to New Mexico and managed to befriend and worked with Native American Indians. Love and affection for Native Americans and their needs stayed with him for the rest of his life. He studied law, became an attorney and organized the "Know Nothing Party". While he was opposed to slavery, he was more opposed to farmers importing foreign laborers, he thought it would take jobs away from Americans. He was pro-indian, and eventually became commissioner of Indian Affairs for the Confederacy. He accused the Confederacy of neglecting its treaty obligation to the tribes and was arrested by the Confederacy for treason as a result. This was later settled. His entire life his brilliant mind took him to study and explore all forms of cultural beliefs, religions, and development of ethical systems. He joined the Freemasons and worked to improve Masonic rituals. In 1873 he moved to the Temple of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite in Washington, D.C. and remained there for the rest of the life. He impacted millions of lives always encouraging "more light" and personal spiritual/intellectual growth.
Under his leadership, black people were welcomed into Freemasonry. His 800 page book, Morals and Dogma, is still distributed, and read today and is a masterpiece of great quotes of mankind throughout history.
I love history and try to read a book a week, something that I have done since graduating from University in 1970. A wise man, said "education just begins with college, keep on studying". So I read the book by Albert Pike. Then I read it again, there was so much content from great thinkers of history in it. I did not understand or even agree with everything in the book, but found it intellectually stimulating. It is said: "To know a man, look at his library and see his writings". So I felt like I knew a little about Albert Pike, and knew this was a great thinker. I was sure after reading him intently, that he was brilliant and forced all who read him to think. If you read his book you will be encouraged, to try to make this world a better place.
All of the notes and quotes in his book, were written from his brilliant memory, so when he published it, he refused to take credit saying: "I quoted so many brilliant world thinkers, I do not wish to take credit for the ideas of another man".
He was the only general of the Confederate Army to be honored in the form of a statue, in Washington D.C., he was so highly thought of, by leaders on both sides.
The statue was also a statement that America, could "unite together" even after the civil war. It was a symbol of peace and unity for all in America.
June 19th, a day which normally is considered a day of celebration, when it was announced by an American General, that black people of the U.S.A. were "Now free from the system of slavery", it has been celebrated with dances and happy gathering, every year since. But sadly, a riotous crowd of demonstrators on June 19, 2020, decided they needed to destroy the Pike statue.
Enlightened black people would have studied and realized that Albert Pike actually worked with individual black people and then made sure that the Freemasons and the Scottish Rite welcomed them to join the influential fraternity. But, it doesn't seem like "enlightened" people were the ones there to destroy Pike's memorial.
On June 19th, when his statue in Washington D.C. was toppled, it was treated as angry wild rioters are prone to do. Those there said they had no idea who he was, but someone said the had been a general of the Confederate Army. So as one said: "That was enough for me, let's destroy it." They did their best, painting, defacing, spitting on, even trying to burn the bronze statue. Notably the DC Police, stood by and made no arrests and no effort to stop the vandalism of public property. I was saddened, to see people spitting on this statue, probably people who knew very little about the man or his history.
Are we now emulating a nation that every time there is a political change, or a powerful social movement, the rest of the nation has to endure our historic monuments and treasures, or namesakes must be destroyed?
Mob violence and mob rules do not represent America, or the United States that we love. Mobs can be illiterate, angry, hostile, immoral, violent and destructive. Yet in the last 3 years, it seems that we have leaders that seem to "fan the flames" of unhappy people, and have made the urges or trends to mob violence worse. We need to quietly consider why and who is "fanning these flames".
Even statues, buildings, or memorials from great men of history of Ancient Egypt, Iran, Greece, and Rome still stand. We do not have to agree every thing they were or thought...they are a part of history. Their existence reminds of the good things they represented, and teaches us even by the mistakes they may have made. It is called respect for history, and not fearing education that comes from history. But mindless, violent, drunken violence on the streets? That is not the America we know, love, nor it is the place we want our children and grandchildren to live in. We need peacemakers, leaders of unity, people who know how to pull us together with wise compassion. We don't need dividers, or instigators of conflict.
In the USA, our tradition is to have gravestones, often monuments of our deceased. Do we destroy or encourage vandalism because we disagreed with something in their life? Is ours to be a nation led by violence and ignorance, anger and hatred?
In Las Vegas, New Mexico, early pioneers and economic developers for the city were Jewish people, many from Chicago and New York. They built a vibrant business center, and made the town, at one time, the largest city in the state. Most of those business leaders are dead and buried. There is now a large Jewish cemetery. I was for a while a part of the board, that took care of the old historic cemetery. Every year or two, mindless drunken teenagers and a few angry, ignorant and bigoted adults would go through and deface and destroy the headstones. For some reason they just "hated Jews".
Out of respect for the dead, our board, always came in, year after year and repaired and replaced the damaged monuments. We were not Jewish, but we did it out of respect for the families, descendants of the dead. We also did it out of respect for the "deceased" and their contribution to helping build the town of Las Vegas, and the economy of New Mexico.
Alas, as a people and as a nation, why don't we show a similar insight and charity for some of the great people of our national history?
Photo of demonstrators burning, defacing, and spitting on Albert Pike statue. These are people dictating policy and future for the USA?