Iconoclasm has long been at a fever pitch in this country. Throughout 2020, leftist rioters rampaged through countless American cities for what felt like an eternity, and one of their favorite pastimes was the smashing and destruction of American cultural symbols—especially Confederate statues.
American leadership in many of the cities where this occurred was totally—if tacitly—supportive of these efforts.
Now, the city of Chicago has announced that it will be taking down a total of 41 statues of famous Americans that have been located within its limits.
Frankly, the move does not feel as if Chicago’s leadership has given in to the demands of the rioters. Rather, it feels as if Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the other leaders had been wanting to do something like this all along, and the rioting had given them the excuse they needed and enabled them to say that they were responding to ostensibly “grassroots” pressure.
What’s most absurd about this, though, is that one of the statues to be removed is of the founder of America’s first abolitionist society.
American History on the Chopping Block
Chicago has formed a committee known as the Chicago Monuments Project that will examine which historical figures deserve to be honored with monuments in Chicago and which do not. According to a report by the Chicago Sun-Times on the committee, those among the unworthy will be chosen for removal because they promoted “narratives of white supremacy; [presented] an inaccurate or demeaning portrayal of Native Americans; [and celebrated] people with connections to slavery, genocide or racist acts….”
Which figures, then, are on this list? Well, there are five statues of Abraham Lincoln that are slated for removal as is the Italo Balbo Monument, a plaque of Jean-Baptiste Beaubien, and a monument to General Philip Henry Sheridan, a Confederate general.
But what is almost unbelievably absurd is that the committee wants to remove a statue of Benjamin Franklin as well. This is absurd because Franklin was the founder of the first American abolitionist society. He wanted to abolish slavery.
The truth, though, is that the iconoclasts are being simplistic about virtually all of the figures they mention.
The Real Meaning of This
All societies are sustained by symbols. Symbols give each civilization its identity and allow its people to be able to say who they are and what their places are in the world and in history.
When a society’s symbols are destroyed, that is a sign that that society is either dead or dying. It is a signal that it is set to be replaced by a new society.
And that, in a word, is the real meaning behind this campaign of iconoclasm. Lightfoot and the other race-grievance-obsessed left-wing radicals in charge of Chicago want to bury the old America and replace it with a new society of their own making. When the symbols of an old society are gone, the society that replaces it is free to rewrite history and say whatever it wants to about the old society—especially including things that are not true.