Donald Trump still hasn’t mastered the art of saying what his detractors want to hear rather than what is in his heart. Sadly, this cynical trait is critical to running an effective presidency in today’s America. Bill Clinton learned it during his run for a first term. According to the New York Times of March 22, 1992:
After months of presenting himself as a Southern candidate with a good civil rights record, Gov. Bill Clinton has suddenly found himself under criticism for a classic gesture of racial separation: playing golf at an all-white country club.
Clinton managed to save face by vowing never to play the course again and adding for good measure that “his chief of staff, William Bowen, was leading an effort to integrate the club.”
Done and done.
What the current president did this morning is sure to stir up a brand new hornets nest. He tweeted this lament:
Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
While the Left will doubtless feel provoked, it’s hard from an objective standpoint to say Trump is wrong. In fact, one of the works of public statuary art that is currently in liberals’ cross-hairs once again is the magnificent carving at Stone Mountain Park, in DeKalb County, Ga.
This is not your typical bronze casting. Quite the contrary, it is a triumph of art and engineering. As I noted in 2015 when the NAACP foolishly petitioned to have it sandblasted into oblivion, this relief sculpture is monumental in more than one way. It is larger than a football field. The photo below provides some perspective:
According to the Stone Mountain Historical Association:
The figures were completed with the detail of a fine painting. Eyebrows, fingers, buckles and even strands of hair were fine-carved with a small thermo-jet torch.
Yes, the three subjects depicted are Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. But is that reason enough to destroy this masterpiece?
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams thinks so. She has “called for the removal of the giant carving … saying it ‘remains a blight on our state and should be removed.'”
“We must never celebrate those who defended slavery and tried to destroy the union,” Abrams said in a series of tweets posted early Tuesday, a response to the deadly violence sparked by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Va.
If the violence Saturday is to be the new yardstick by which we banish from our midst some of humankind’s greatest artistic achievements, then someone better get busy rounding up all the extant recordings and orchestral scores of the operas of Richard Wagner, a rabid anti-Semite.
Better toss “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” onto that bonfire because notwithstanding Harriet Beecher Stowe’s opposition to slavery (which is a main theme of the novel), the book summons up so many ugly images.
“Slave Ship” by J. M. W. Turner? Even if the work didn’t depict slave traders hurling the bodies of the dead and dying overboard as a typhoon approaches, the title is offensive.
I could go on in this vein, but I think you get the idea.
Blessedly, the battle to desecrate the Stone Mountain carving won’t be easily won:
Removing the faces of … Davis, … Lee and … Jackson would take a monster of a sandblaster and require a change in state law. The Georgia code has a clear mandate for the memorial, saying it should be “preserved and protected for all time as a tribute to the bravery and heroism of the citizens of this state who suffered and died in their cause.”
If the work is destroyed, can Mt. Rushmore be far behind?