Magazine December 17, 2020, Issue

The Anti-American Iconoclasm of the Statue-Topplers

A statue of abolitionist Hans Christian Heg, in Madison, Wis., before it was pulled down (Hans Wild/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)
Their vandalism rejects the meaning of what they vandalize

I    was discussing the months-long rash of statue-topplings with a friend who has been a director of historical sites. He considers the memorials in cemeteries and battlefields to be sacred, but thinks statues elsewhere can be culled and supplanted. “Parks belong to the living.”

The living are their customers, certainly: picnickers, baseball players, bird-watchers, lovers, the lonely. But how should the living think about the public art that parks contain?

Statues should not be of the living: That would mean turning parks into Instagram, or North Korea; only entertainers and despots need apply. In­stead we memorialize the dead. Which dead, then?

I

This article appears as “Topplers of the Founding” in the December 17, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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