Nearly 20 years ago, the Taliban insurgent rulers of Afghanistan set about destroying ancient Buddhist statues. The Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar said, ''These idols have been gods of the infidels,'' as he issued an edict for the statues’ destruction.
Americans and Europeans freaked out. Money was offered by aid groups to secure the preservation of the 1,500 year old works of art and global heritage, but this angered the leaders and caused them to become more insistent on their vandalization.
The New York Times was aghast at seeing these statues turned to rubble. They noted that no Islamic scholars had come out in favour of the demolition, that the UN was trying to stop it, and that world leaders were protesting the desecration to no avail.
The same media that upholds and revels in the destruction of American history, wept and gnashed teeth when mobs took down public art in other nations.
The Times breathlessly wrote about the statues having survived the terrible wrath of Genghis Khan only to be torn down by inches with the small tools of the small minded Taliban, with hammers, pick axes, and fingers doing the work.
The abolishment of these statues, of public art that had survived centuries, that gave insight into our past as a global human race, was an abomination. No matter what the reasons leaders turned vandals had for destroying the statues—and it appears it had something to do with how much the west wanted them to remain standing—that kind of legacy should be let to tell its story.
The New York Times thought so too, as did so many journalistic outlets, as did the liberal left who felt strongly that this removal was unadulterated destruction of human history, of beauty, and a silencing of our ancients.
When the statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down in Baghdad in 2003, The New York Times’ main interest was to point out that while Iraqi’s were celebrating both the toppling of the statue and the demise of Hussein’s regime, it was US troops that pulled the public propaganda down. In a sense, this take was meant to undermine the otherwise gleeful reaction had by many in the mainstream press at the time, and by the George W. Bush administration.
Bush had initiated a war in Iraq earlier that year, in reaction to the bombing of the World Trade Centers in New York in 2001. The toppling of Hussein and his government created a power vacuum, and a lack of any kind of clear authority. Many who had been involved in government were murdered for their participation. The removal of statues was a precursor to the removal of individuals, not by US troops, but by Iraqi vigilantes.
Now, when it comes to statues that give voice to America’s history of exploration, war, violence, and unity, the mainstream media gives much more credibility to the removal of this public art, and advocates or applauds its removal. The idea is that while other cultures and histories are worthy of preservation, American history and culture is not.
The conversation and controversy surrounding the removal of confederate statues has been raging in the US for years. While those who would leave them up often cite the importance of remembering history, both that which reflects favourably on our nation and that which does not, proponents for their removal note that many of the statues were erected during or after the Reconstruction period.
Statues raised by the Daughters of the Confederacy, for example, such as monuments to the ‘lost cause’ of the Civil War, have been called propagandists, a romanticization of those who fought to retain slavery in the south. In 2017 many statues came down, at the direction of lawmakers, driven by a mob mentality.
Now the removal of statues has gone beyond those that were installed as a remembrance of those who fought on the losing side of the Civil War. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant, are all on the guillotine. It seems that anyone who came before deserves our wrath. That these men are a mythologized part of America’s past, that they led the country to greater freedom, equality, and liberty, is meaningless, because for the mob, whatever their sins outweigh their merits.
The mob always thinks it is on the side of justice. The mob always believes in the righteousness of their actions. It is what spurs them on to accelerate their movement. But the mob doesn’t think, it cannot reason, it cannot consider, it can only act, with more and more brutal results.
The cause for justice in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd has been perhaps more virulent than the worldwide coronavirus contagion that was declared a global pandemic in late February of this year. A man was killed, brutally and unjustly, and no one in any level of leadership denies that. The man who killed him has been arrested and charged. Those men who were with him have been charged as accomplices.
The movement to adjust and change police tactics has made its way across the country and into the White House. Yet the mob will not rest, they don’t want to, and they don't want to go home—which is basically the only other place anyone is allowed to be as coronavirus restrictions in many North American cities has not been lifted.
This, however, will still not be enough to get the mob to stand down. A mob is fueled by its own power. This mob that claims to stand for justice and equality stands, like any mob, for its own power and relevance. This mob is no different.
Every time they get what they want, they make more demands, and when those are not met, they topple the culture that has made space for protest possible, and replace it with a mentality that denies liberty, revels in injustice, and demands adherence to a set of values that has no basis in reason and no care for individual rights.
If the mob has its way, America will be cancelled for its past transgressions. But in destroying any mention of our faults, any good we have done will be erased, too. We can't exist without knowledge of our past, and without forgiving our sins. The world is better off with America in it, with her spotty past, and with what can be her glorious future.